Google Responds To Android SMS Bug: Fixes Are On The Way

Last week there was a flurry of reports about a serious bug affecting Android users: it seemed that some people who used the default SMS application were sometimes having their messages sent to the wrong person. Obviously that’s pretty alarming — especially since reports of this bug had apparently been around for months, but Google had yet to fix or even acknowledge it. After the press storm Google upgraded the status of the bug report to ‘Critical’, and now an Android team member has just posted an update on what’s going on.

The bottom line: Google identified not one but two bugs that are causing unintended behavior, but says that both are rare. One issue leads the wrong message to be displayed when you tap on it, the other actually sends the message to the wrong person. Fortunately fixes for both of these problems are on the way.

Here’s the update in the bug tracker:

Thanks to everyone for your patience while we’ve been investigating these reports. As it turns out, we believe there are two distinct situations being discussed on this issue chain. Fortunately, we have fixes for both of them.

When some users tap to open a message in the Messaging application, they’re seeing a different message appear instead. We don’t believe this issue is affecting many users, but we’ve developed a fix that we’re preparing to deploy. Of course, double-checking the displayed message before hitting “Send” will prevent any messages from being sent to the wrong recipients. We’ve found in testing this issue, it is more likely to occur if you tap on a message before the Messaging app is fully loaded, so we recommend waiting for all the elements to load before clicking on the message you want to display.

Separately, some users have reported that their SMS messages are being delivered to the wrong people. It took us some time to reproduce this issue, as it appears that it’s only occurring very rarely. Even so, we’ve now managed to both reproduce it and develop a fix that we will deploy.

While we don’t anticipate any persistent problems, we’ll continue to investigate in case we come up with additional ways to trigger these bugs. Thanks again for helping us improve Android.

Google will likely distribute the fixes over the air to the Nexus One and Nexus S, and users of other devices will have to wait for their manufacturer to release an update (which they’ll hopefully do quickly). In the mean time, you may want to check out another SMS app if you’re concerned about this — Handcent SMS is quite popular, and I’ve been a big fan of Google Voice (which has its own SMS feature built-in).