If You Set This Photo as Your Wallpaper, It Can Brick Your Android Phone

It might sound like an April Fools joke, but it’s not. There is a photo making the rounds on social media that can literally send your Android phone into an infinite crash loop if you set it as the wallpaper. The issue, apparently, is the photo’s unusual color space.

The issue was first discovered and shared over Twitter by the Chinese account Ice universe, which posted the following warning:

Unfortunately, not everyone took it seriously. Some apparently thought it was a joke, downloaded the image, and then got caught in the crash loop that you see in the video above. For some, they could solve the issue by changing the wallpaper back in the interval between crashes… most aren’t that lucky, and had to do a full factory reset, losing any data that isn’t backed up.

At first, people had no idea what was going on, knowing only that it had something to do with the colors. When uploaded to some social networks, the colors change, rendering the photo harmless. But on Twitter, the photo remains the same, and remains dangerous:

As you might have guessed, the issue is the photo’s color space. If you pull up the file info on your computer it just says “RGB” under color space, and the “Color Profile” is listed as a long string that looks like this: Google/Skia/E3CADAB7BD3DE5E3436874D2A9DEE126

As Bogdan Petrovan at Android Authority explains here, that is the issue. Android phones can only use sRGB for wallpapers, and while an AdobeRGB or ProPhoto RGB image would simply look “wrong” if used, this messed up color space causes a problem because it indicates more than 255 RGB values.

The default Android 10 build doesn’t have any built-in “check” to ensure a photo is compatible and convert it if it’s not, so when it runs into a photo with more RGB values than the histogram max of 256, it causes a “fatal” system error that sends your phone into an infinite crash loop.

That missing “check” is exactly what 9to5Google‘s Dylan Roussel found and shared on his Twitter—it’s why his Pixel 3 XL crashed, but his Pixel 4 XL didn’t:

Though not all devices have the issue, and Android 11 will supposedly solve this problem across the whole ecosystem, phones from Google, Samsung, OnePlus, Nokia, and Xiaomi are still reportedly affected as of this writing. And now that the vulnerability is public, it’s possible bad actors will try to take advantage and wreak havoc until it’s resolved.

For now, let’s just say you should be very careful before you set any new photo as the wallpaper of your Android phone, especially if you didn’t take or export the image.

To find out more about this, or dive into the technical details more deeply, head over to this in-depth explanation of the issue on Android Authority. But whatever you do, do not download the image and try this at home—it’s not a joke, and it could legitimately brick your phone, requiring a factory reset to get things working again.

(via Android Authority via DIY Photography)

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