Android bug playing Russian Roulette with text messages

Android users are fuming over a bug in Google's mobile OS that causes SMS messages to be sent to contacts other than the one chosen, or even to an entirely random contact.

To make matters worse, a bug report on the Android developer's forum shows that Google has been aware of the bug - for some reason rated as medium priority - since late June last year. In their original issue posting, developer d...@rx7.co.nz gives a summary of the problem:

Messaging.
- Send SMS message to RecipientA.
- Message appears to be successfully sent to RecipientA.
- RecipientX receives message.
- 'View Message Details' in RecipientA thread, shows 'To' field as being RecipientX's MSISDN (phone number).

The glitch appears to be impacting at least devices running Android 2.1 (Eclair) and 2.2 (Froyo), with some users claiming the bug still exists in the recently-released Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Model of phone does not appear to make a difference and there appears to be no reliable workaround at this point.

Where the SMS message ends up also appears to be a game of Russian Roulette, with some users reporting their texts ended up with a contact they had previously sent messages to, while others reported messages being sent to contacts they had never been in touch with before.

With the latest statistics from Google showing that some 83 per cent of Android devices are running either version 2.1 or 2.2, the bug could potentially be impacting the majority of Android users.

Furious developers have questioned why Google is seemingly ignoring such a critical flaw, with one accusing the company of forgetting that ''Android phones need to be phones''.

''That sounds unlikely right?  I mean you pay upwards of $200 for a smart phone, and next to making phone calls, sending SMS text messages is probably the most used feature of the phone.  But it’s true, and if you don’t believe me just type “android SMS wrong contact” into Google’s search engine and see how many hits you get.  It’s astounding.  It’s happening. And Google seems to be ignoring it altogether,'' authorwjf wrote on December 23.

The severity of the problem is leading some to abandon their Android phones completely until Google issues a fix.

''Text messages to my girlfriend getting sent to my mom is NOT cool. I'm now carrying my old iPhone 3G while the Captivate sits on my desk, SIM-less, collecting dust. And my bank account is gearing up for an iPhone 5 purchase upon upgrade eligibility, unless this kind of crap is fixed,'' daniel.gleckler wrote earlier today.

Some users are also reporting that although SMS messages are being sent to the correct recipient, they are appearing in the wrong thread in the phone's messaging app.

Image Credit: d...@rx7.co.nz

Update: The bug has now been marked ''critical''. Credit to various commenters below for keeping an eye on the bug thread.

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Running 2.2 HTC Desire here and not encountered the problem as yet, not that I know of anyway.

But then I don't understand why people are still "oooo - Android is the best". Don't get me wrong, I am no way a lover of Apple, but Android hasn't exactly wowed me to the extent it has been portrayed online

I remember having this issue with my old G1 phone, but I did have a custom 2.1 rom. I just assumed it was problem with the custom rom and not android it self.

Your texting wrong , that would suck sending a message to someone you have on the side and your gf actually receiving the message, couldn't people sue over this?

pretty weird! how come some of them have this problem and some dont? o_O
i've a Desire with 2.2, and i never had this problem

sykez said,
pretty weird! how come some of them have this problem and some dont? o_O
i've a Desire with 2.2, and i never had this problem

That has already been explained in some of these comments. It only happens with the stock Messaging app. The HTC Desire uses HTC's messaging app

From the actual bug report:

Interestingly, has never occured on my other Nexus running the same FRF50 build.

I wonder how this is possible. Could this somehow possibly be related to defective hardware, or perhaps a bug at a much lower level than android itself?

I've known a lot of people with Android phones and i've not seen anyone complain or experience this issue.
I don't think it's as widespread as some people think.

Let's wait and see what Google has to say about it?

I have been using Handcent SMS on HTC Hero (Sense UI 2.1) and as far as I am aware, it hasn't happened to me. I checked the message details of a few messages I sent and didn't notice any issues but I have different issues with my phone. Many times, I am unable to make a call. I select a contact (via the dial pad), tap on it and nothing happens, tap again and again and again but nothing. Dial the number manually, the "dialing" screen appears as if it was dialing but nothing happens. It just shows the number "Dialing" but it doesn't do anything, it just stays there. I have also noticed if the receiver's phone is turned off, it doesn't give you any indication the phone is off, it just hangs....Dialing the same number from a different phone gives you a voice prompt (the recipient's network).

Because of these issues, I am now considering another phone and I bought mine outright, contract free so I paid big money. I like Android but due to this, I don't know if my next phone will be Android as I don't know if this is a HTC software bug, HTC Hardware bug or Android related.

Running a Droid X and haven't had an issue from this. As it is I rarely use the text function, usually I use the Yahoo Messenger App (Ironic I know) to send all my texts, or my email account.

Never seen this issue since taking a HTC Desire, have sent thousands of texts from it and not had a text go to the wrong person.

PaulK_CMF said,
Never seen this issue since taking a HTC Desire, have sent thousands of texts from it and not had a text go to the wrong person.

All HTC Android handsets use HTCs own messaging app, this relates to the stock Google messaging app.

neo158 said,

Did you even read the article?

It's not an issue with the UI, it ACTUALLY sends the text message to another random contact instead of the intended one.

Next time, read before commenting.

Yes I did. Now read my link: "Besides the few obvious trolling attempts, you see reports claiming this bug sends SMS messages to people you know, but aren't in your contacts list, or people claiming that the phone number is correct, but the app sent it based on the MEID to the wrong person. Plain and simple -- these types of issues aren't happening, and only cloud the real issue."

Shadrack said,
Hopefully the negative publicity will put Google on the spot to fix the issue.

Well they haven't fixed it yet!!!!

I have never ran into this issue ever myself. I believe this issue is in the stock Android text message app. I have used a lot of HTC Android devices and they use their own HTC messaging texting app, so that is why most of us have never seen this issue.

This happened to me once.

The one time I used "babe" in a text and it got sent to my line manager and not the intended person. Extremely embarrassing

When this started? Android devices are with us for some good months, and only now people are noticing the bug?

I am an EVO user and I am actually one of those who has had this problem. Fortunately when it happens to me it still sends to the correct person, and only shows it under the wrong one. It has only happened a few times but I definitely get furious when it does.

No **** talking over text I guess.
Running on the MyTouch4G, I really like this phone, it's quick, and Android is more of a geek's phone OS than anything else and I love it.

this is dispicable on googles part because of how selfish and immature they are being to this critical flaw in the android os. This is a flaw that effects so many android users and I have a good friend off mine who owns a galaxy s and loves it but will be having problems with it at a serious level. But the common factor between google, apple, and microsoft. The second they get so big in the market they lose interest in the consumer and care only about the revenue brought in by the public. No end user should have to deal with this or anything like this in a product from such a big and powerful company, this is like windows mobile all over again.

It's unbelievable that Google would consider this Medium Priority and would rather add new features, give the marketplace and the complete Android UI a graphical overhaul instead of fixing this CRITICAL issue.

neo158 said,
It's unbelievable that Google would consider this Medium Priority and would rather add new features, give the marketplace and the complete Android UI a graphical overhaul instead of fixing this CRITICAL issue.
It is critical now. Check the bug report.

wow. this is indeed a real security concern. so far for me everything looked to work fine but you never know. but pretty shocking to know such things could happen. i sms also a lot with my work place company and now if they got some private sms i think my job will be gone immediately.
scary idea.
now im jealous on the iphone owners whose biggest problem seem to be if a clock bell rings or not.

mclaren2 said,
wow. this is indeed a real security concern. so far for me everything looked to work fine but you never know. but pretty shocking to know such things could happen. i sms also a lot with my work place company and now if they got some private sms i think my job will be gone immediately.
scary idea.
now im jealous on the iphone owners whose biggest problem seem to be if a clock bell rings or not.

Not waking up for work will get you fired too.

andrewbares said,

Not waking up for work will get you fired too.

Technically, not that many people will be working on the days when the alarm bug occurs.

Manish said,

Technically, not that many people will be working on the days when the alarm bug occurs.


Well not everyone encounter the messaging bug too...

I like the people saying that they've never had this issue. Like you'd know unless the person replied.

Nashy said,
I like the people saying that they've never had this issue. Like you'd know unless the person replied.

Those that use delivery reports would know when it reached the correct recipient or not.

Nashy said,
I like the people saying that they've never had this issue. Like you'd know unless the person replied.
Look at the bug report:
'View Message Details' in RecipientA thread, shows 'To' field as being RecipientX's MSISDN (phone number).

An easy way to tell, no?

Nashy said,
I like the people saying that they've never had this issue. Like you'd know unless the person replied.

If I got a random message from one of my friends then i would reply, cant think of anyone I know that wouldn't.

Nashy said,
I like the people saying that they've never had this issue. Like you'd know unless the person replied.

I send thousands of text messages every month. I'm sure that if some of them went to the wrong person at least ONE person would reply.

Seems like this may only affect the stock Android app considering people say that Handcent doesn't have this issue as well as Desire and Desire HD users.

I never had this problem, the only time this happened to me was when I had the iPhone and it wasn't cause of some bug it was cause I was receiving too many text at the same time

Just looked through a few of my more recent texts, no issues, they were all sent to the proper phone number.

But I have always used 3rd party SMS apps (Handcent currently), so maybe the problem is only with the stock SMS app?

I have used 2 Android phones over the past 2 years, I send over 700 texts each month. I have several friends using Android phones extensively. And yet, I have never heard of this issue. Not once. I'm not saying the problem doesn't exist, but the dramatics illustrated by this article read like an Apple propaganda piece. OK, so Apple is finally feeling threatened by Android and now comes all the FUD. I smell a Fail Whale from Cupertino.

fuzi0719 said,
I have used 2 Android phones over the past 2 years, I send over 700 texts each month. I have several friends using Android phones extensively. And yet, I have never heard of this issue. Not once. I'm not saying the problem doesn't exist, but the dramatics illustrated by this article read like an Apple propaganda piece. OK, so Apple is finally feeling threatened by Android and now comes all the FUD. I smell a Fail Whale from Cupertino.

Coincidently, about 30 minutes ago, I was trying to recreate the antenna issue on my co-workers iphone 4 (to show him), and could only get it to drop 2 bars. I think everything is over-sensationalized anymore.

brominated said,

Coincidently, about 30 minutes ago, I was trying to recreate the antenna issue on my co-workers iphone 4 (to show him), and could only get it to drop 2 bars. I think everything is over-sensationalized anymore.

You demonstrated the antenna problem very well. If you have a great signal, dropping 2 bars isn't going to be that much of a problem for you. But what if you're in an area where you only get 2 bars? You hold the phone wrong and you're dropped. That's the antenna issue.

''Text messages to my girlfriend getting sent to my mom is NOT cool. " ROFL! EPIC FAIL!
I guess every company has its own dark side. Apple has issues with the clock on new year and Google sms!

I have used many different ROM's on my HD2, and never come across this... And hopefully I won't in future, as i've just started using HandcentSMS.

Capric0rn said,

It's because that doesn't use the stock messaging service.

And do you know for sure it's the stock messaging app or the Android engine which Handecent uses too?

When this happened to me (has happened one time as I know of) the following occurred:
1. I got a message from a colleague which i did not have in my contact list
2. I replied his message
3. The message ended up in the correct conversation, so it looked like my colleague got it, but instead it was delivered to another contact I had.

I first thought this had to do with CyanogenMod 6.1.1 (nexus one) but I guess not after I read this. Haven't heard of anybody else experiencing this though.

I have recently purchased the HTC Desire HD and haven't experienced anything of that sort yet. Got a system update on Thursday 30th, I believe, and I hope Google addressed the issue with that patch.

I wouldn't want to leave that phone on my desk un-used, un-touched and picking up dust. Will be my worst nightmare.

TheRr3alDoc said,
I have recently purchased the HTC Desire HD and haven't experienced anything of that sort yet. Got a system update on Thursday 30th, I believe, and I hope Google addressed the issue with that patch.

I wouldn't want to leave that phone on my desk un-used, un-touched and picking up dust. Will be my worst nightmare.


You would leave it "un-used, un-touched and picking up dust" for this bug?

Unacceptable for a smartphone.

Also, considering that this is an out-of-nowhere story, as the bug appears to have been around for quite a while and just now is it being reported, it wouldn't kill to cite the source:
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hard...es-to-random-contacts/10796

Zdnet thanks someone on twitter for the heads up, and other sites echoing the news also add a source. It's not cool for neowin to jack someone else's news like that. Linking the bug report like you somehow just caught wind of it, is just not right.

"Andoid, if you're cheating on your wife we're not the phone for you."

But seriously, as much as I am really happy with my Android phone I have noticed this happen a couple of time, it's just fortuitous that nothing untoward was said in the messages that went to the wrong person.

tanjiajun_34 said,
I don't understand why this problem is like so long already. And until now its posted as a news?

Because Google has sat on it for 6 months and only classify it as medium severity. This is an attempt to light a fire under Google's ass (or generate page hits, whichever comes first. Not meaning here, rather in the way other sites are reporting it).

brominated said,

Because Google has sat on it for 6 months and only classify it as medium severity.

Which is exactly what it is. A 6 month old bug that's not serious. How many people have complained vs the actual userbase of Android phones? You'd be surprised to find it's not as bad as people are claiming, i'm sure.

Know a lot of Droid users and not a single one has mentioned anything like this. And neither have I experienced it. I need to listen more... not convinced yet.

Jaco2k said,
Know a lot of Droid users and not a single one has mentioned anything like this. And neither have I experienced it. I need to listen more... not convinced yet.

Customised versions of android just might not be affected. This only affects the stock SMS app. Maybe OEM ROM's have a custom app for this, and most people tend to just use handcent or chompSMS.

Julius Caro said,

Customised versions of android just might not be affected. This only affects the stock SMS app. Maybe OEM ROM's have a custom app for this, and most people tend to just use handcent or chompSMS.

I had a different problem with edited details such as phone, etc., not showing by the contacts and I got a Verizon update that fixed it, so I can see an OEM update possibly fixing that also.

HTC Desire HD, and the only problem I'm having with SMS is that the app crashes constantly. And occasionally it wipes all of my messages (including unread received ones). Have had to install a messaging backup app so that it does nightly backups.

mcbazza said,
HTC Desire HD, and the only problem I'm having with SMS is that the app crashes constantly. And occasionally it wipes all of my messages (including unread received ones). Have had to install a messaging backup app so that it does nightly backups.

have you ever considered using handcent sms?

morphen said,

have you ever considered using handcent sms?

People are reporting it happens regardless of what app is used, which would denote a core Android problem somewhere.

brominated said,

People are reporting it happens regardless of what app is used, which would denote a core Android problem somewhere.


I know quite a few Android users and none of them have reported this issue, so perhaps there's more to it?

This is a huge FAIL for Google and Android, you need to be able to trust that your message goes to the right person.

derekaw said,
This is a huge FAIL for Google and Android, you need to be able to trust that your message goes to the right person.

Not even close. There's a handful of people reporting it. Because like, 5 people TOTALLY represent all of Google's userbase.

Raa said,

Not even close. There's a handful of people reporting it. Because like, 5 people TOTALLY represent all of Google's userbase.

Reporting is far from occurring. I was talking about this just yesterday and my sister thinks it may have happened to her, she has no idea about how or where to report this. I expect people think that they made the mistake and have moved on. You don't expect your phone to send a message to the wrong person. Let's see what happens when this hits the MSM.

Android users are fuming over a bug in Google's mobile OS that causes SMS messages to be sent to contacts other than the one chosen, or even to an entirely random contact.

We are?

tomjol said,

We are?


I did even know there is such a bug until today i read the comments in the Engadget article about the iOS 2011 alarm bug.

tomjol said,

We are?

It's not talking about every Android user, and if this bug did affect you, I'm pretty sure you'd be very annoyed (even more so if Google considered this a "medium" priority). This bug needs rectifying immediately.

Manish said,

It's not talking about every Android user, and if this bug did affect you, I'm pretty sure you'd be very annoyed (even more so if Google considered this a "medium" priority). This bug needs rectifying immediately.


It definately does explain the random text I got from someone a while back.

Edited by TheExperiment, Jan 1 2011, 2:52pm :

Manish said,

It's not talking about every Android user, and if this bug did affect you, I'm pretty sure you'd be very annoyed (even more so if Google considered this a "medium" priority). This bug needs rectifying immediately.

I would actually just text with Google Voice

There's an app for that, just FYI.

randomevent said,

It definately does explain the random text I got from someone a while back.

Does it?
I get random texts on the odd occasion not from Android users. There are MANY explanations to why people send/get random texts.

Neowin - could you officially ask Google for a comment on this matter?

This is not a "medium" priority bug, it is "critical" in my opinion. This is same as - let's say - picking a random person from my contact list whenever I want to make a call. And it's not for Google to decide whether texting itself is important or not.

Never had any problem when I had my old Magic on 2.1/2.2 (custom, of course). "Or so I think", as Auzeras replied to somewone above my post.

That's nice, just wanted to buy a Desire HD! I guess I'll have to wait for this problem to be solved or clarified, as I'm a text guy.

I haven't seen this issue on my HTC Desire either. Checked the info of several sent messages and all "To:" addresses where to the correct person.

I've run all versions of Android over the past 2 years, various handsets and yet to experience that problem, I don't think it's a widespread problem.

This bug sucks. I wasn't aware of it until my wife's sister called and told me I had sent a weird message to her. Originally addressed to a colleague so luckily nothing embarrassing .

This needs to be fixed asap!

Never heard of this happening and I have lots of long term Android friends. By the sounds of it a work around would be a 3rd party SMS app like Handicent.

Nashy said,
Matthew. Your screen shots just prove that no one cares enough about NZ.... ;-)

from NZ and havent seen this issue, but i dont care im wainting for the iPhone5

lflashl said,

from NZ and havent seen this issue, but i dont care im wainting for the iPhone5

I'm an Australian and was attempting to give NZ ****. I'm hungover.... so... that's the best I have today.

Nashy said,

I'm hungover.... so... that's the best I have today.
No, that about as flat as most attempts Australians make to mock New Zealand.

Northgrove said,

Exactly. This is like a user running no antivirus saying he hasn't noticed any viruses.

Not quite.

For one thing, if a text message was sent to the wrong person I'm pretty sure you'd get a reply from the person it was sent to saying "what the hell?!" or something. Also, you would suspect a text hasn't been received by the intended recipient if you don't get a reply.

I have a Desire running Froyo and have never suffered from this bug.

Northgrove said,

Exactly. This is like a user running no antivirus saying he hasn't noticed any viruses.

Not even close. A quick check in the message details would show whether it went to the right person or not. That, plus the fact someone else would message back with a confused expression.

Also on your invalid point : I know when a virus is on a computer without it needing an A/V on it.

Raa said,

Not even close. A quick check in the message details would show whether it went to the right person or not. That, plus the fact someone else would message back with a confused expression.

Also on your invalid point : I know when a virus is on a computer without it needing an A/V on it.


u didnt read the post now did u, it states that it appears to be successfully sent to recepientA while it went to receipientX

Hardcore Til I Die said,
For one thing, if a text message was sent to the wrong person I'm pretty sure you'd get a reply from the person it was sent to saying "what the hell?!" or something.

Hardcore Til I Die said,
Also, you would suspect a text hasn't been received by the intended recipient if you don't get a reply.

> Assuming everybody cares.
ಠ_ಠ

Shadowzz said,

u didnt read the post now did u, it states that it appears to be successfully sent to recepientA while it went to receipientX

You didn't read his reply, now did you? He states that he would get a confused response from a different person if that was the case.

Shadowzz said,

u didnt read the post now did u, it states that it appears to be successfully sent to recepientA while it went to receipientX

It's you who didn't read, as the article says that message details show the phone number where the message was actually sent, even if it's showing up in an incorrect thread (the thread for the contact you meant to send the message to).