December 18, 2014

The "Android SMS Bug" Does Not Exist [Updated]

Update: I was wrong. See this new post for new information about the specific conditions that cause the bug. -CF

Let me tell you all a story of my youth. I was in high school, driving around in my first car, a 1976 Mercury Monarch. Approaching an intersection, I saw the stop sign too late; I was going to run right into the guy coming the other way. Last ditch effort, I slammed on the brakes and, inexplicably, the car lurched forward into the intersection. What the eff? The other car swerved, ended up just running into the Monarch’s trunk, took off the back bumper. It was my first accident and my first ticket (for blowing that stop sign). But I couldn’t understand, what was wrong with the car that made it accelerate when I slammed on the brakes?

That’s right, folks, I had slammed on the gas, not the brakes. Nothing was wrong with the car. But it took a while to get that through my head.

Over the past week, a supposed Android bug has gotten a lot of press, both on Android-related sites and mainstream tech sites. A bug report claims that SMS messages intended for one person are getting sent to a different, unintended recipient. Worrisome to be sure, but why has Google taken no action on it, leaving it at medium priority until all the bad press this week?

My guess is that they have been unable to reproduce it. It’s certainly never happened to me, nor to the large majority of Android users. As I write, about 4,500 people have starred the issue on Google Code. Sounds like a lot until you remember that’s 1.5% of the number of Android phones being activated every day. And, reading through the comments, you’ll see that most of those 4,500 have not experienced the issue. They’re starring it because they read about it somewhere.

There are a few reports from people who say they have personally been affected by the issue. Many say it happens when they are rapidly switching between multiple conversations. Others offer magical thinking like “it seems like deleting all my texts fixes the issue for a while” and “it got a little better with the 2.2.1 update.” Sounds like user error to me. Just like when I slammed on the gas, absolutely sure it was the brakes, I’m sure they honestly believe they are not at fault.

Are there other possibilities? Sure:

  • It could be a user interface issue that makes users susceptible to errors, especially when they are trying to switch quickly.
  • It could be hardware issues with specific phones or specific models of phones, maybe touchscreen issues?
  • It could be a real bug.

My guess is that it’s user error, perhaps exacerbated by some user interface feature that makes the error more likely than in third party apps.

Today, Google upped the priority to critical, which some took as confirmation that the bug is real. But at the same time, a Google representative noted that “this is a very difficult to reproduce bug.” It seems clear the priority was upped due to all the bad press, despite their never being able to reproduce the issue internally.

Could I be wrong? Sure, it happens now and then. But the burden of proof is on those claiming a bug exists. I will gladly and loudly raise the alert if someone can produce a reliable way for anyone to reproduce the issue and/or logs of the issue occuring. The steps I’ve seen to reproduce the issue involve switching rapidly between multiple conversations, which, again, is a good way to create user error.

this is a very difficult to reproduce bug.this is a very difficult to reproduce bug.

  • HuhWhat?

    I wasn’t going to bother commenting, but your headline and attitude in this post is really pretty ignorant. It’s obviously a legit OS issue that deserves attention – even though you haven’t experienced it. Either your interest in being pro-Android for the sake of this site is obscuring that, or you’re just trying to game traffic and pageviews by being a troll. Which is it?

  • Flashben

    Someone else may have said this already. But after reading this news, there may have other cause, the third party app could be bug instead of android bug….. or even some server issue due to high usage during this festive session….

  • Randy

    Its happened to me a few times (maybe 10) in the few years that ive used the Android OS. The first few times I thought it might have been me. I’ve since come to realize that it’s definitely not me. There is definitely an obscure bug somewhere. Its pretty annoying sending a text to the wrong person. Luckily, it hasn’t gotten me in any trouble yet.

  • Darren

    Here is a bug that I know personally has affected me that could lead to this appearing to happen as reported. What has happened to me (at least a couple times a day) is that I select a conversation with one person, and instead get the conversation for someone else.

    I’ve never sent a text to the wrong person, but I can see where if I weren’t paying attention that it picked the wrong conversation and just texted, it would happen, and I wouldn’t know why.

    In short, I’ver never seen a bug where I’ve sent a text to the wrong person, but I HAVE seen one where the wrong conversation is selected, and I have to back and reselect. And this is definately not user error, it has picked conversations that aren’t even on the screen at the time.

    • Jason Harris

      @Darren: I have this happen to me and it happens often. I am running stock Froyo and when I punch on a message in the notifications window, I am taken to a completely different convo. It stands to reason if I wasn’t paying attention I could send a message to the wrong person.

      Also, that bug happens to me just about every day or two.

  • Tai-Pan

    Chuck… remind me not to go driving with you, or take any of your text messages too seriously!

    • Juergel

      well spoken!

  • Tom

    This has happened to me numerous times. But I found out what was at fault. Handcent SMS pop up alert feature. if you have more than one new message and send on from the pop-up it is likely to reply to the wrong message.

  • Android Guru

    I have never seen this bug personally & I am on my 4th Android device. What I have seen though is sometimes when I select a messages to read/reply to, it will display a completely different message than the one I selected. Maybe that is the real issue?

  • Tim

    Here is what I’ve noticed. I see an SMS message come into the notification area at the top of the screen. It has the sender’s name and the first line or two of the text. The name next to the sms icon says the text is from person ‘A’ but looking at the text I can tell that the message is from person ‘B’. When I open the text message the correct sender’s name is attached to the text. This happens inconsistently and is very sporadic. I believe it happens most when the phone’s CPU and perhaps memory is near capacity doing GPS navigation, playing music and I’m searching, etc. I hope they get this fixed soon. My device is the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant from T-Mobile. Overall it is a great phone. The GPS issue is better but not completely resolved. My device still freezes and reboots itself sometimes when I start the GPS. This feature is not available when I actually need it and that is NOT good. Also I wish Samsung would upgrade the OS to 2.3 if it will make my device run better and freeze up less. Plus there are applications and functionality that us 2.1 users can’t use because it is only available on Froyo or above. PLEASE SAMSUNG UPGRADE GALAXY S TO 2.3, NOW!!

  • Casavapiece

    I have a Fascinate, and this glitch appears everyday when texting between multiple recipients at the same time… When a response shows up in my notification bar, I pull down to read and respond, the recipient’s name shown (just for this example I will use 1, 2, and 3 as my recipients) will be #1, BUT when I tap and open the text in this field, it shows up as #3 response under #3’s message bubble. Sometimes if I get multiple response at the same time, when I drag down the notification bar, the three responses will list as all from #2, but when I tap on the notification, then it will show that there is a response from all three of my recipients. Now, if I never took the time to open the response from the pull down tab and just cleared it, I would respond to the wrong sender, and there is where the issue may be coming from. I am a “fairly heavy” texter, and this happens EVERY DAY on my phone since I got it, but since I take the time to open the responses from the pull down tab, and not clear them with intent to respond later, I have never replied to, or sent the wrong message to the wrong person. Now if anyone wants to record this, you can make multiple conversations with 2 or 3 persons from your contact list, and pull the notification bar down to see the responses. They may reflect all from one contact or from the first person to be sent a message, but open the responses from the tab itself and you may very well see what the “bug” is. Like I said, this happens to me EVERYDAY, but I figured out how to deal with it. If the powers that be want to contact me about this, my email is attached.

  • Brad

    As mentioned above I think this bug is inherent in the Galaxy S line of phones as I’ve never encountered it until running the Vibrant S on the stock 2.1 android. I’ve had it happen to me continuously when my memory was low on the device. Never happened again once I installed the NeroV3 ROM.

  • Michelle Zhang

    If I may weigh in on this issue, I’ve never had the report bug happen to me. HOWEVER, I do noticed that sometimes when I select someone’s name in my text message list that sometimes it opens a thread of messages for a different person. Even happens when I go to open a text message notification. It will instead open a text message thread from someone else. This has happened to me at least once a day.

    Maybe this is what’s happening with people?

  • SBI

    It’s rumor I think.

  • SBI

    This sms bug is old now

  • Your name required

    “The “Android SMS Bug” Does Not Exist”


  • Mister Snitch

    “Update: I was wrong.”

    Well, at least now we know where to get reliable information:
    Somewhere else.

  • Steven Klein

    In fairness to Mr. Falzone, he did say in his original post, “It could be a real bug,” and “Could I be wrong? Sure, it happens now and then.”

    I’d rather get information from a source who is willing to admit mistakes and post corrections.

  • Dugo

    We are indeed fortunate that you are not in a role holding sway over anything important.

    The post was not entitled “probably does not exist” – it was simply “does not exist”.

    Talk about conceit…

  • Sung Karen

    A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.

  • Health Matters

    Sweet web site , super design , rattling clean and utilise friendly .

  • josh blomfield

    I havnt read many of the comments on this but this happened to me today. I received a message, i read it and immediately knew who sent it without looking at the thread. I replied and when I looked at the top I noticed it had sent to someone else. It was 6am so at first I thought it was me but after looking again i saw that the message I received was in the wrong thread. In the details, it says it is from one person but is in the thread for another. This may be a freak occasion but there is definitely something wrong here. I have the galaxy tab.

  • Biffy

    This has happened to me about 5 times in three months now, with HTC Desire messaging app and handcent.
    Basically, the last time it happened, I was texting a friend, replying back and forth, and 1 text in the middle of the rest went to someone else, and was in the thread, looking at message details it had different number in.

    This is very random, but serious.

    • Ganooba

      Yesterday I had a text go to the intended recipient, but it also went to an exgirlfriend whom I had deleted out of my phone six hours earlier. Both parties got the text. Her response showed up with her name on it at first and then,changed to her phone number

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  • Sh4kil

    What the users have reported is true and your assumption it is a user error is incorrect.

    Typically, few (or a lot of) text messages in your inbox with some having a lot of threads. You open a text message from person A and type reply and hit send.

    The text ends up with person B.

    You go in and check the threads and it will be filed under person A, but opeing the text up shows it has been sent to person B.

    Orange have suggested it is corrupt contact list, but hmmm… my old Nokia didn’t have the same problem.

  • 甘青淞
  • Lukasb

    The bug is very real.
    My gf tried to send a text to a friend, but I got it instead.
    I checked her phone, and I could see the message was actually in the thread it was supposed to be – with her friend. But when I checked the details of the message, it had my number in it.

    • Zoe

      Same thing happened to me today. Right thread, wrong number.

  • Info Tijdelijk

    Normally I wouldn’t be commenting on this.  
    Normally I wouldn’t even be on this page.Normally, that is: if I hadn’t encountered the exact same problem as described here.  So sad that the non-believers keep saying “it’s a user error”…Let me describe what I did with my HTC wildfire: I sent an text message to my wife.  She received that message correctly from me. Looking at all messages I notice that my sent message is added to the tread of another contact.  Date and time stamp are correct, and in the details of the message the receivers number is not that of the other contact, but my wife’s. 
    The reason why I’m on this page, is because I was looking for: 1) an explanation, 2) a solution to somehow re-initiate the message app so that maybe the corrupted situation could be corrected.
    So far, I’ve tried a few things like switching of completely, deleting a couple of messages, etc… You know, similar to the standard trial and error things you’d do on a windows PC that’s behaving mysteriously :-)

  • Info Tijdelijk

    Normally I wouldn’t be commenting on this.  
    Normally I wouldn’t even be on this page.Normally, that is: if I hadn’t encountered the exact same problem as described here.  So sad that the non-believers keep saying “it’s a user error”…Let me describe what I did with my HTC wildfire: I sent an text message to my wife.  She received that message correctly from me. Looking at all messages I notice that my sent message is added to the tread of another contact.  Date and time stamp are correct, and in the details of the message the receivers number is not that of the other contact, but my wife’s. 
    The reason why I’m on this page, is because I was looking for: 1) an explanation, 2) a solution to somehow re-initiate the message app so that maybe the corrupted situation could be corrected.
    So far, I’ve tried a few things like switching of completely, deleting a couple of messages, etc… You know, similar to the standard trial and error things you’d do on a windows PC that’s behaving mysteriously :-)

  • genivan

     tenho um celular samsug e so aparece erro ao emviaar sms com posso fazer para voltara a emviar

  • Tadpole33

    Same thing happened to me.  I wasn’t switching different conversations at the time.  For some reason my message was sent to my mother rather than my sister in law.  Msg showed up in the right thread, never appeared in my mothers thread and if my mum hadn’t replied i would never have known it was sent to the wrong person.  When checking the details of the msg (in the correct thread)  it showed my mothers number instead of sister inlaws.  They don’t have similar names or numbers and i hadn’t been texting them on the same day, so go figure?!  I too was reading this article in the hope for a solution.  It’s certainly reminded me to be careful not to write anything personal in text msg’s :)

  • Poop

    This bug is real. Even better, is when numbers and contact names got scrambled. But texts to my girlfriend went to my mother… awkward! Not user error at all, their latest update has gotten rid of the issue for me.

  • Joeyf

    Actually this bug is real and has been significantly affecting my life for the past 4 months!! I have an HTC thunderbolt and this happens to me 5-10+ everyday! The only way I hsve found around it is to type a message, press the home button, which will save it as a draft and then send the draft!! I know it is not a user error for a fact because I’ve been paying very close attention to it since the Verizon tech team tried convincing me it was!! My problem is I open a text message thread to let’s say my friend bill. I type the message and press send and after I press send, I watch my phone randomly open any other text message thread it decides to choose(let’s say karissa), which will appear for maybe a second and then send it to karissa instead of bill who it was intended for!!! I’ve made sure so many times I wasn’t accidentally choosing the wrong thread and not paying attention so I know that I’m not making a user mistake!

  • jerome

    mine only allows me to send texts when im on the phone?

  • Double Trouble

    Well this issue is Real, and was definitely happening with my HTC Thunderbolt A LOT.. I wasn’t me doing it by accident. I would be in a particular message, know I’m in that message type my response and the phone would switch to a totally different message in my box and send it to that person instead of the person I intended it to go to (got me in trouble too).. took the phone to the vzw store and the tech said the same thing was happening to his TB spoke to a rep on the phone and they dint kno wat to do either.. This has been happening since July on my phone everyday and my friends are tired of getting the wrong messages..

    It NEEDS to be fixed.. I’m hoping that since the new gingerbread update I won’t have this problem

  • OO

    Very real issue!

    I was in the MIDDLE of what I call a “textversation” with someone, and somewhere, somehow, the messages started going to another person. I never left the text thread screen. But when I let my phone go black, and came back to it when I heard responses coming in, the last several messages of our textversation went to someone else entirely.

    This happens to me ALL THE TIME.

  • Jcf196

    Yup – happened to me – the message shows in the conversation thread on my phone with one person, but they didn’t receive it, and another friend did – and showed me. Suspect it’s an issue with the messaging app – it’s always been the most flakey bit of the phone (freezing, opening wrong thread, etc)…

  • convert flv to avi

    See, that’s why I prefer to call :) Ok, now seriously – it’s easier to blame someone than yourself… But in this case seems like some people really had this kind of problem, so it has to be considered i think. Though neither me nor any of my friends ever experienced anything like that. Good for us :)

  • Beautifulchaos Mm

    Sent a text to my kids dad…it ended up on facebook. Sent text to my daughter it went ti a friend…I was texting only those people at the time.

  • jo321

    I keep having the same problem too and find that emptying my inbox now and then is the only way of stopping it. I also recieve texts with a different name and picture than it should be! This has been an ongoing problem which causes alot of confusion. I’ve bern convincing all my friends to use whatsapp messenger instead so that I know my messages wont get mixed up! This problem certainly is not a user error!

  • Vonargylle

    This bug happened to me today on my new Galaxy.  Was minding my own business and received text messages from three different individuals all from South Carolina (I’m in KY), none of these messages were intended from me, and when questioning the people who sent them, all reported the phone numbers of the intended recipients were no where close to mine (not even similar area codes).  Very odd.

  • Lopezk97

    Pffft it’s kind of frustrating to read that the user’s are being blamed. I have the galaxy s2 and I do not receive messages properly. My friends text me and it turns out that someone in Louisiana has been receiving them, but they receive my messages fine. Once in a while i will receive one text or every other text. This person has actually tried to contact me. My friends don’t have the wrong number. It’s a bug, and it’s very annoying.

  • Owen O’Neill

    I send a message to one thread, my friend Jeff, and it shows up in that thread on my phone, but the message is received by my friend Mark. Samsung Galaxy S. WTF kind of crap programming is required for an error like this? I know giant corporations cut corners like no other, but damn.