This story was originally published and last updated .
Over the last week, a photo has been making the rounds at venues like Reddit and Twitter. It's an attractive mountain lake with the sun rising (or setting) through the dense clouds. Perfect for a phone's wallpaper, right? Not unless you like bootloops. Certain aspects of the image trigger an inescapable, repeating crash in Android's system UI, and most recent Android phones are likely susceptible, including Samsung phones and Google's Pixels. Thankfully, both Samsung and Google are aware of the issue and looking into a fix.
If this sounds familiar, it's because just last month, the Google Wallpapers app was distributing images that caused a similar crash. The technical details behind that particular issue, which stretched back to 2018, weren't ultimately divulged by Google, but the causes and symptoms were similar, so they may be related. It was marked as fixed two weeks ago with a solution coming in a future Android release.
Never set this picture as wallpaper, especially for Samsung mobile phone users!
It will cause your phone to crash!
Don't try it!
If someone sends you this picture, please ignore it. pic.twitter.com/rVbozJdhkL
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) May 31, 2020
More is known about this most recent issue. Previously, some thought that the issue had to do with the image's color space, which was incorrectly encoded. But, according to Google's Romain Guy (who is an expert on the subject of how Android handles images and color), the cause is likely much more simple and has to do with the way luminance for the image in grayscale is being calculated. In specific cases, grayscale values can exceed what should be a maximum number due to a rounding error in the calculation it uses, and the System UI subsequently freaks out at the too-big number and crashes — apparently further resulting in a reboot. Since the image is set as your background, this error will just keep happening, even in safe mode, and you'll end up with a bootlooping, soft-bricked phone.
The easiest fix if you end up affected is a factory reset, which you can thankfully do via recovery, though your phone gets wiped clean. One of our readers was also able to fix the issue on a Samsung device without wiping it, but you've got to be quick.
As spotted by XDA Developers, A simple fix was submitted to Google's AOSP (Android's base software) by ROM developer Davide Bianco, though another more complex and potentially more sophisticated solution has also been described by the folks at LineageOS. Google has since said in a changelog for the initially submitted fix that it has a separate internal solution under review.
Not all Android devices or versions of Android are affected by this issue. 9to5Google notes that Android 11 devices don't crash from setting this specific image as wallpaper because of something about how they convert the color space (even though that's not the actual cause of the issue, according to Google). Huawei devices may also not be affected, and some more heavily-tweaked skins may also be immune.
While this particular wallpaper is easily recognizable, making it simple to avoid, other images could be similarly modified to present this issue. In the meantime, be careful with what images you set as your background. SamMobile's sources claim that Samsung is also close to releasing an OTA fix for the issue. Let's hope a fix for this issue rolls out soon, even though not all phones will get it too promptly (if they get it at all).
Better explanation, Samsung and Google are both working on a fix
Google's Romain Guy believes the issue has nothing to do with color space, and has corroborated a different explanation regarding how luminance is calculated by Android. Both Google and Samsung are aware of the issue and seemingly testing their own fixes.
Our coverage has been updated with these details.
- and everyone that sent this in