“How my photo ended up breaking Android phones”


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Gaurav Agrawal, a scientist and amateur photographer living in San Diego, couldn’t believe it when he suddenly started seeing a photo he took last summer appearing in the news.

He took it to Lake St Mary in Glacier National Park, Montana, a “magic evening” in August 2019.

He shared the snapshot on the Flickr photo platform and never thought about it again.

However, a problem means that when the image was set as the wallpaper, some Android phones failed.

The handsets turned on and off repeatedly, requiring a factory reset, which meant that all of the data on them was erased.

Last week, a tweet about the bug went viral – and Mr. Agrawal contacted me.

“I did nothing intentionally,” he said. “I’m sad that people ended up having problems. “

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Gaurav Agrawal


“It was a magical evening,” Agrawal told the BBC the night he took the photo.

This seems to happen on some but not all brands of phones running version 10 of the Android operating system. It is not advisable to test it.

“It was a magical evening,” Agrawal told the BBC the night he took the photo in the park with his wife. It was their third trip there, looking for the perfect picture.

“It was dark and cloudy, and we thought there would not be a big sunset. We were about to leave when things started to change. ”

He captured the photo on his Nikon camera and then edited it using the Lightroom editing software.

And this is where the bug crept in.

Lightroom offers two color mode options for exporting the end result – and the one it chose is the one that seems to confuse some Android handsets.

He was unaware of the problem because he had never tried it.

“I didn’t know the format would do this,” he said. “I have an iPhone and my wallpaper is always a picture of my wife. ”

Mr. Agrawal has more than 10,000 subscribers on the Flickr photography platform and has had his work published by National Geographic magazine.

“I was hoping my photo would have gone” viral “for a good reason, but it may be for another time,” he said.

“I will now use the other format. ”

For those who do not know the context, Ken Munro and Dave Lodge of the security company Pen Test Partners have an explanation of what did not work:

“As digital photographs have improved in quality, phones need to check what is” color space “in the image to know how to display it correctly.

“This is how a phone can display exactly the right shade of green, for example.

“There are different ways to define the color space. Some spaces have specialized graphic design uses, so sometimes you will see images that are not in the usual “standard RGB” format. It is also possible to deliberately create images that have more color information than some devices can handle.

“What has happened here is that the way some phones handle these cases has gone wrong.

“The phone hangs because it doesn’t know how to handle it properly, and the software developers probably hadn’t thought it could happen. “


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