Beware This Wallpaper That Soft-Bricks Android Smartphones

A scenic image that is making the rounds on social media soft-bricks some Android smartphones when it is set as the device’s wallpaper.

Choosing a smartphone’s background image is one of the most basic ways to customize a device. However, it is apparently no longer safe to pick just any picture you see online, according to a tweet by known leaker Ice Universe.

The image looks innocent enough, and with its serene view, it is the kind of picture that makes for a good smartphone wallpaper. However, as Ice Universe warns, setting it as your device’s background will cause it to crash.

Setting the image as a wallpaper causes the screens of some Android smartphones to continuously turn on and off. Rebooting the device does not fix the problem, which returns as soon as it turns back on. The soft-brick may be seen in a demonstration by 9to5Google.

The image does not cause any problems while in Google Photos, so it is not the kind of file that crashes smartphones just by sending it through messages or emails. Ice Universe, in a follow-up tweet, said that after uploading the image to Chinese social media website Weibo, the colors change and it no longer soft-bricks Android smartphones when set as a wallpaper.

9to5Google’s Dylan Roussel discovered that the image does not cause his Pixel 4 XL on Android 11 to crash, but a Pixel 3 XL on Android 10 was affected. Roussel was able to track the problem to the picture’s color space. Android 11 is capable of converting RGB to sRGB, which is what Android smartphones want to display. However, Android 10 is unable to do so, resulting in the soft-brick.

This means that the issue is not linked to this specific image, so people may encounter the problem if they download a random picture on the internet and set it as their wallpaper. If this happens, the only way through it is to either boot the Android smartphone into safe mode and change the wallpaper from there, or if that fails, access the device’s bootloader and perform a factory reset.

It is unclear if Android 11 will solve the problem for all makes and models of smartphones, but that will have to wait as the release of the operating system’s public beta has been pushed back.

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