Android Bug Reports, Songs, Rovers

The following is a partial list of bugs in Android (or associated software) which have impacted my actual life in some way.  Some may have been fixed since I last encountered them.

  • When navigation is muted, but you hit volume down just to be safe, it unmutes and starts blaring, waking other passengers on the bus.
  • Sometimes the GPS stops getting locks on satellites until the phone is rebooted.  (This may be related to the GPSStatus app, installed to avoid this kind of thing.)  To be fair, satellites are very small and far away, so you can hardly blame it for having trouble.
  • You can say “Call <contact name>”, and contact names+addresses show up in the navigation search with “navigate to” options, but you can’t say “Navgiate to <contact name>” like you can with all other major actions.  This means you have to type their full address to find out which exit to take from the traffic circle, and it’s really hard to type while holding the wheel steadily to the left like that.
  • Sometimes, when arranging home screen icons, you feel sad and you’re not sure why.
  • If you follow Google’s guidelines and have your own Jabber DNS records set up in a particular way on your Google Apps server, it screws up Google Talk’s ability to authenticate, which in turn (for some bizarre reason) causes all app downloads to hang midway through.  This is rare enough that the error messages are not Googleable.  But don’t worry, it’s easy to figure out as long as you’ve read all of the source code to Android and to Google’s servers, which is good practice when you get any product.
  • Sometimes the home screen icons all disappear.  The only thing which fixes this is a restart, going through five menus to kill the “Home screen” process, or crying quietly for hours until the icons start to feel sorry for you and come back.
  • Occasionally, when swiping the lock sideways to unlock the phone, the lock button images are rotated by 90 degrees.  This is probably connected to your Jabber server somehow.
  • Sometimes an Android user will think they hear someone say their name, but they’re not sure, so they say ‘Yes?’, but then it turns out it was something else.
  • Maps Navigation doesn’t cache your route, so if you drive through an area with bad cell coverage, it may silently stop notifying you of upcoming turns, and you won’t realize anything’s wrong until you discover you’ve taken NH Route 2 all the way to the White Mountains, which are very cold.
  • Latitude doesn’t update well on either end.  Often times, it will tell you someone was in a particular place “5 minutes ago”, and then 10 minutes later — after multiple restarts — it will still say it got that last update from them “5 minutes ago” even if they’re actively using Maps, so you have no idea whether they’ve left.  This can continue for hours as you slowly run out of air in the closet.
  • The phone occasionally locks on full brightness and turns off the keyboard backlight, which is fixed by un-checking and then re-checking the “automatic brightness” checkbox, also about five menus deep, which is hard to see when you’re squinting because the screen is so bright.  Fortunately, it never gets very dark where I live in Boston.  Unfortunately, it’s extremely dark at night in the White Mountains.
  • Navigation instructions silence things like podcasts players, but don’t pause them.  Thus, to hear that missing sentence or two, you have to switch over to the podcast app and hit ‘back’ several times, then swerve your car to avoid the stupid stop sign that shouldn’t be in the middle of the sidewalk to begin with.
  • Google Voice doesn’t do push notifications, so you often get voicemails quite some time after the caller leaves them, sometimes after you’ve already called them back.  This can make you call your doctor back again and have a really confusing conversation where you accidentally get a second prescription. Which you can then get filled and sell on the street. Come to think of it, this bug might be a feature.
  • If you stop for gas, sometimes navigation suspends, but doesn’t resume when you start driving again (or just disappears without notifying you), so you miss the upcoming turn and think you’re already on I-95, and by the time you discover your mistake and turn around you’ve lost enough time that you totally get to the conference too late to catch Richard Stallman doing his acapella Bad Romance cover which is the whole reason you paid the entry fee in the first place.
  • If you have several Google accounts, there’s no way to select which one to use for Google Checkout purchases.  It just picks whichever one it notices first, even if it’s one from an old Google account tied to your mom’s credit card, so now she might know that you bought the app to turn the phone into a vibrator.  (The app doesn’t really work since the vibrate motor is too weak, but the reviews by people who don’t understand its purpose are hilarious.)
  • If you have a secondary account that it’s decided to use for Checkout, and you want to delete it so the phone will use your primary one, you can’t.  Why?  Because that account is used for an essential service and so can’t be deleted.  As far as I can guess, that service is Google Checkout.  This bug report is dedicated to Joseph Heller.
  • Google Chrome in OS X follows the Apple guidelines concerning the green “+” button, and has it make the window no bigger than it deems necessary to fit the current page’s contents.  This annoys a lot of people. Since there are no OS X Chrome extensions, the best workaround seems to be registering maximizechrome.com and putting a giant <div> there.  Whenever you need to maximize, you load that page before hitting the green button.  (This bug is not, technically, related to Android in any way.)
  • There’s a Fantastic Contraption app on iPhone, but not Android. This is probably a feature rather than a bug, since it means Android users can spend time on things other than playing Fantastic Contraption.

These issues aside, I’m really happy with my Droid.  The screen is incredible, it’s much faster and easier to use than the G1, and I wouldn’t trade away the physical keyboard and persistent SSH for anything.


I just about fell out of my chair when I saw this.  Thank you to everyone who appeared in it, and to Olga and Elaine for doing whatever black magic they did to get them all together. <3. (Side note: I met Neil Gaiman once, back when I was in college, when his book tour came near my town. At the signing afterward, I talked awkwardly to him for what seemed like several minutes while he signed stuff for our group. Later, my friends pointed out that I was speaking too quietly for him to hear—or, in fact, to notice that I was standing there at all. I’ve been quietly embarrassed about that ever since and this video makes me feel better.)


If anyone is still sad about my Spirit comic, maybe this person’s rewrite – author unknown, found on a random image page – might provide some comfort.  Also, I got a couple of nice letters from members of the Spirit/Opportunity teams, and it’s very clear how proud they are of these little rovers. Next, Europa!

169 replies on “Android Bug Reports, Songs, Rovers”

  1. Maybe it has a few bugs but I assume it’s better than having to use iTunes to update…

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  2. Seconded on the “Navigate to ”

    yes on the google voice problem too, especially when trying to use sms.

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  3. I don’t have a Droid, but it sounds like finding things in the nested preferences is just as challenging as Fantastic Contraption. I know it is in the Blackberrys I have used.

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  4. I assume you already know this, but it’s possible to put shortcuts to specific Settings panels on the home screen (long tap -> Shortcuts -> Settings), which may help if you are constantly twiddling the same setting.

    Of course, it would be better if the bugs were fixed so that you didn’t have to be constantly twiddling the same setting in the first place.

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  5. I haven’t had the home-screen icons disappearing issue (yet?). I wonder if that’s because I’m using Home++ instead of the default app.

    The GPS-lost-signal-reboot-to-fix bug is annoying, and something that I remember sometimes having to do with my old WinMo phone.

    The Google Voice non-push issue is the single most annoying thing about GV as far as I’m concerned. I basically now open and hit “Refresh” on GV any time I miss a call.

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  6. I’m fascinated by how much product instability someone is willing to put up with to use it on a day to day basis. Is it one reboots a day? Two reboots? One reboots a week? One application crash a day? What metrics does one use before the gadget is thrown in the chipper?

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  7. even maximizechrome.com doesn’t seem to fully maximize my chrome window.
    extensions work quite well in google chrome for the mac!
    I’ve been using the dev-channel for some time.
    I don’t know if there is a maximize window extension, though.

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  8. Also, while the voice Navigate to doesn’t work, you can simply start typing a person’s name in the destination field of the map app, and it will navigate there.

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  9. Home screen icon arrangement IS indeed a sad prospect. Especially since it’s like playing a 15 puzzle, or that game Rush Hour, because unlike iDevice OS, it doesn’t automatically rearrange stuff. Also, not knowing what size a widget is going to be until you delete enough icons to make it fit is a total bitch…
    Have you noticed that even on vibrate, it mutes the music when a notification comes in?
    Google Talk is a bit of a trainwreck… it has a habit of, occasionally, when the stars are aligned just right and the cloud cover is exactly 60%, disconnecting and reconnecting every 10 seconds or so. This has the effect of making people hate you, and losing many friends, because they are continuously getting status notifications from their Jabber client.
    Google Voice’s lack of push is exactly what’s keeping me paying $15 a month for a “real” SMS plan, rather than just switching to Voice for everything. Fun fact: for $15, I get to send something like 1500 140-byte messages. That’s 210 kilobytes. For $15. For $30, from the same company, I get 5 gigabytes of data. Fuck you, Verizon?

    Another fun one: If you forget your unlock pattern, you THEORETICALLY can unlock the phone with your Google account. This works for about 80% of people. The other 20%, including me, will have to hard-reset the thing when inevitably they forget the pattern.

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  10. Thanks for this rewrite! Your version does have more charm, but it did cause an “Aww, poor puppy!”-face that lasted for days. I still have that tab open – you outdid yourself on that one! Especially the sixth panel, “It’s okay, I’ll do the next one better.” Cue the tear ducts!

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  11. for fullscreen apps you may want to look into SizeUp. it’s a window manager for OS X.

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  12. For a G1 owner, the saddest thing about reading this list is that the disappearing home screen issue still hasn’t been fixed in 2.x.

    FWIW I’ve found that killing running apps (rather than the home screen process) often fixes this, and sometimes it will come back on its own after a huge delay (this is in 1.6).

    The oddest part of the lost icons thing is the disconnect: the home app isn’t hung, it appears to have just ‘lost’ its icons: you can still move between screens, pull up the apps tab, etc. Meaning you can start putting new icons down, and when the old ones come back there are 2 in the same place, one ‘on top’ of the other.

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  13. Let me add another one for you… Plugging something into the headphone jack and taking it out will sometimes cause the earpiece to not output audio anymore. Speakerphone works fine. I usually don’t notice this for quite a while because out of all the things I do with this phone, actually talking to people with it just about near the bottom of the list, so by the time I answer the phone and start saying “Hello? Hello? Uhhh, hello?” I’ve forgotten that 3 days ago I used it to stream Pandora Radio into the sound system at the music venue where I mix live sound.

    Still, the fact that while I am streaming Pandora Radio, I can still text, IM and surf the intertubes makes this phone blow iPhone out of the water. Yeah, there’s an app for that… As long as you don’t need to do anything else at the same time.

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  14. I’ve become fond of showing folks the Droid’s “unlocked lock” icon, asking: “What does this do if I swipe it?”

    The typical response: “It locks the Droid?” “No, sorry, it _unlocks_ the Droid.” “Oh! Of course.”

    Then I move on to the “muted speaker” icon. “Now … what do you think THIS does?” “Ah-ha! It mutes the Droid.”

    “No, sorry, it _unmutes_ it.”

    … followed by the back of their hand meeting up with the back of my head …

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  15. You should be happy you haven’t tried setting screen unlock pattern and then giving your friend to somebody to try and guess it. After 5 wrong guesses it asks you to enter your Google account credentials to unlock it, but it doesn’t actually work. So you end up doing factory reset (or, if you have rooted your phone, go through hours of googling and changing stuff in sqlite databases. Recomended to be done when drunk). First hand experience with HTC Hero, but I read that the bug is present in 2.0, so you should be able to experience the fun with your Droid, too.

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  16. When you check your gmail on the Droid, and then slide open the keyboard to reply, it often triggers the EXTREMELY poorly placed Archive button, necessitating loading the All Mail view to get back to your email, which then causes the phone to start groaning as it loads the 40,000 emails Gmail has convinced you it’s ok to save instead of deleting. This makes me grrrr.

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  17. if you shift+click the green button in Chrome, it does a real maximize. Cool site, though 🙂

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  18. Regarding Mac Chrome: Hold down the shift key, press the plus button. Voila – real uncrappy maximize.

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  19. A much better way to maximize Chrome is to shift-click the zoom button. That’s why we added it 🙂

    (A handful of complaints about a bug in the behavior of the maximize button in the Windows version is not the strongest evidence that lots of Mac users want non-standard behavior, by the way. And on the flip side, at the time Camino was finally fixed to have the standard zoom behavior rather than just maximizing, adding intelligent zoom support was easily one of most-voted-for Camino bugs.)

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  20. LUV that video! I just have to figure out who some of those people are 😀

    Heron: That video is on the net for some time now, xkcd has written he seen it somewhere already…

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  21. I hate waking other passengers on the bus. As a side note, I briefly considered doing an experiment for my senior project that involved finding out how many strangers would say ‘yes’ to flying a kite with a stranger. I am still considering it.

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  22. Holy crap only 9 comments… You may actually get to read this comment… excuse me while close my pron and savor this moment.

    And now I don’t know what to say 😦

    Oh well… thanks a bunch for inspiring me into computers, you rock.

    PS. if you’re droid gives you trouble just caress it a little, it’ll pretend it doesn’t like it, but it does. ;D

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  23. Holding down ‘shift’ when you press the green button in OS X will make Chrome maximise to the max.

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  24. Shift-click green + works on my recent nightly build of chromium, as does extensions.

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  25. I work in a space software company, right next to the robotics team, who are playing now with their own little rover (he runs around the office corridors!). There were nearly in tears with the Spirit comic, so I will pass the happier version on!

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  26. Believe it or not, this blog post has finally convinced me to get a Droid. If those are the most annoying things about it… well, click through to my website for my list of bugs in the HTC Diamond Touch, which has received 0 updates from HTC or Microsoft in the time I’ve had it. The thought of turning the phone on and off again just once (!!) to fix the GPS makes me feel giddy.

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  27. I also have the droid and have experienced some of the bugs you mention. Most annoying (to me) are the GPS bugs. I have trouble getting a GPS lock sometimes even when there are plenty of satellites in view (ie. in the middle of a field under a clear sky…. google sky app is addicting)

    That said, I agree with you 100%. it’s head-and-shoulders better than any other phone I’ve owned.

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  28. The Droid is amazing, so much so that I rarely have to touch my laptop anymore. (Except for Google Wave, which seems to hate the Android Browser..) I’m thinking of pairing it with a bluetooth keyboard when I start up school again.

    Hint: It’s even faster when you overclock the processor.

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  29. Ha! My favorite part: “Sometimes, when arranging home screen icons, you feel sad and you’re not sure why.”

    If that’s a bug, then I think my whole life needs debugging from time to time. 🙂

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  30. Thanks for the bug reports. I’ll make sure they’re in the system.

    I’ll have to double check but I think the “sadness when arranging home screen icons” and “home screen icons disappearing” bugs are related. There’s a fix in the works, hopefully in time for the next OTA.

    “Thinking you maybe heard someone else say your name when then didn’t” is a known issue. We’ve pretty much ruled out the speaker as a causative factor and the Bluetooth and WiFi guys are sure it’s not them. I’ll let you know what they come up with.

    I’m a Developer Advocate so I’ll look into fixing the “lack of Fantastic Contraption app” personally.

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  31. “Sometimes, when arranging home screen icons, you feel sad and you’re not sure why.”
    Confirmed on G1, seems to be more frequent when using PandaHome

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  32. Regarding the GPS issue, I have a G1 and it too sometimes fails to lock, but just turning GPS off and back on works for me (I use the widget but presumably the menu option works too) rather than a whole restart.

    Regarding the home screen icons disappearing, while they do it relatively regularly when the home app is (what seems to be, but can’t be as Android has no paging) ‘paged out’ I’ve found simply waiting for 5-10 seconds gets them back. However, I have on a few occasions pressed the screen standby button while the home app was in this limbo state and upon next wakeup the home icons are in this non-existent state. The menu button works for ‘settings’, etc., and I think the app drawer works too, but no icons without a restart or force closing the app. Having said that, I haven’t had this for some time.

    Also, I love the self deprecating ones – numbers 4 and 8!

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  33. Sometimes Android feels like an adorable puppy with a serious bladder control problem. Sure, it wee-ed in my pocket, but it’s so adorable when I use to to create SSH tunnels, and VNC into my linux box!

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