Volumegate: the Galaxy Nexus first bug

While we’ve learned today that Canadians will get the Galaxy Nexus on December 8th today, we still don’t when when the USA will see the device and on which carriers (so far only Verizon). News trickling out about the Galaxy Nexus has been mostly positive but today we learned the first real set back for the Android 4.0 flagship device, what can only be fairly dubbed as Volumegate.

Just as Apple had its ‘Antennagate’ with the iPhone 4, the Galaxy Nexus has an interesting hardware bug. Here’s a picture of the bug occurring and an explanation will follow.

The bug, as investigated and confirmed at the XDA Developers forums, found that the Galaxy Nexus will change its volume erratically in response to a 900MHz frequency signal, or that used by 2G in GSM antennae. The video above shows the Galaxy Nexus volume turning all the way down while it is in airplane mode as a 2G call is made from a nearby secondary phone.

Before you go, “who cares, I’ll never have a second phone that close to mine”. The problem is that the Galaxy Nexus is able to trigger the problem itself as it accesses the network. Some report it as causing the erratic volume problem while texting or emailing and possibly causing a severe slowdown from keyboard input and worsening battery life. It also occurs in the middle of calls, causing the device to cut out and mute the person on the other end of the line.

Well, here’s a test for anyone with a Galaxy Nexus (especially with that problem) that still owns his older Android phone:

Put your SIM card back into the old phone, configure it to GSM only, put the Nexus in Airplane mode (to disable everything, including emergency mode (I think)) then put the old phone with its ass close or next to the volume rocker of the Nexus. Maybe even overlap the phones, to have the antenna on top of it. GSM antennas are required to be at the bottom of the phone. Fiddle with the old phone to generate some radio traffic.

If you can manage to cause the volume drop that way, it’s definitely RF.

–edit: I guess given that the wavelength of 900MHz is around 33cm, you don’t need to be too exact with the placement, but right on top hammers the most power into it.

Here’s a video of the issue being caused while a Galaxy Nexus is in the bootloader screen, eliminating Android as the cause of the bug and narrowing it down to a hardware fault:

As the problem seems isolated to 2G connections in the 900MHz range, one workaround is to use only a 3G connection. From user CJSnet on the XDA Developers forum, they provide these steps to take to negate connecting to a 2G network:

  • In the dialer type *#*#4636#*#*
  • Click “Phone information”
  • Tap “GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)” [or whatever is just above the "Turn off radio" button]
  • Select “WCDMA only”
  • Tap Home and you’re done!
How will Samsung respond? Will there be a recall or just a gentle swap out with new batches? At least from a US perspective, it’s not like the Galaxy Nexus has had a perfectly graceful launch as it is. Samsung and Google might as well ensure that their phone is the best it can be.

Categories : Featured, Hardware
Posted by Jason Hamilton | November 21, 2011  |  No Comment

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