Friday, July 19, 2013

Twitter Bug Blew Up Android Phones

A recent Twitter for Android update may have been the cause of android phones heating up, batteries draining and some exploding in people's pockets.

As a techie, it is imperative to keep my technology up to date. As such, the latest Twitter for Android app seemed to have some great features which induced an immediate update on my phone.

Direct message sync, mobile search improvements and more
For all of these platforms, you’ll now be able to sync direct messages (DM) across all your devices and Twitter accounts. When you read a DM on your Android phone or iPhone, it will be marked as read in your browser, your desktop apps, or your tablet. And vice versa. Please note that syncing will roll out gradually: you’ll need to get the latest version of each app to ensure it works on all of your devices. 
More info on the Vine update.

After the Twitter for Android Update on July 8 my Android phone began heating up and the battery drained quickly. The logical assumption was that my lithium-ion battery had gone bad. However, the phone was getting so hot, I feared a battery explosion and began popping out the battery.

Removing the battery is something Apple iPhone users cannot do. Apple phones automatically turn off at a certain temperature. So, if this problem had occurred on an iPhone, my clients would not have been able to contact me. So, at least I was comforted in knowing that my aversion to iPhone worship allowed me to continue my business until a new battery could be purchased.

My assumption of a bad battery was thrown on its ear when my wife's Galaxy S III began running low on power and warming. We had not put the causality together, but in retrospect this also occurred after her Twitter for Android Update.

Regardless of the battery issue, I happened to be deciding between the new Galaxy S IV and a Galaxy S III phone upgrade. Maybe the "bad" battery was a biased excuse to get a better toy, but I began searching the Samsung Galaxy News. The following story caught my attention:

Melted Samsung Galaxy S III
Samsung Galaxy S III Explodes In User’s Pants, Burns Leg
An 18-year-old girl's Samsung Galaxy S III exploded in her pants when she was at work and what was once a usable phone became a mangled, warped slate of fire that severely burned her leg. It's insane to think that the phone you're either using right now (or maybe just put down 5 minutes ago), can become a burning a bomb. The girl whose phone exploded actually had to have her pants ripped off in order to prevent further injury.
And the burn was bad. Real bad. 
 Here is the result of the explosion to the woman's leg.

Woman's Legged Burned by Phone Explosion

OK, something was fishy.

The first thing I did was go into my Android Settings App and investigate what was draining all my power. The path About Phone > Battery Use normally shows Display takes about 85% of my battery life. At that time Twitter for Android was taking 60% and Display was 30%. YIKES!

Knee jerk Jedi style Force Stop was used on the Twitter app. The searching began for ways to reduce the app's power usage in its settings. Notifications for my account were turned off and in retrospect I should have turned off Sync Data. Sync Data was set to 30 minutes so it didn't seem to be a likely problem, but the phone heating was not fixed.

The battery drain began to affect my business. At one point, my phone remained charging in my car while an important work related call was missed. Luckily, the person making the call stumbled upon me in person and we had a discussion before tragedy struck.

Being a blogger, my inclination was to take my evidence and let the world know of the danger to their beloved Smart Phones. Being a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (programmer) and Microsoft Silver Partner for Small Business here is what must have happened.

Twitter, in a rush to address complaints that Vine Twitter had more features than other Twitter apps, pushed a buggy update. The code must have contained an infinite loop. My assumption is that the loop was in the Sync Data code. This loop drained batteries and heated phones by running the devices processor at near maximum. Phones do not have CPU cooling fans so depending upon the situation, the battery may completely drain before anything dangerous occurs or the heating might boil the lithium-ion battery and cause a battery explosion.

On July 17th I checked the Google Play Store before blogging in order to be sure that the problem had not been addressed. The review led me to a new update in which Twitter fixed the problem.

Twitter for Android update brings in-line replies, sharing through direct messages.

Of course the public relations department spun the emergency update as "improvements." At least my phone has stopped heating up and my battery life is restored.  There will be no blogging war path for me, but the truth does matter and now you know.

Note

SLOBS author KT Cat published a story about Twerking using Storify.com and this was originally written there as a test, but the site stopped working and I can't log back on.

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