Print 26 comment(s) - last by Trisped.. on May 30 at 8:31 PM

Big bug creates a world of woe for some Android users

Despite tremendous promise, near field communications are starting to look like "not [ready] for consumption" in their current form.  Despite NFC being successfully used throughout Japan for years now, America's try at NFC courtesy of Google Inc. (GOOG) has been met with mixed results.

I. Google Wallets Getting Bricked

Security concerns have just been the tip of the iceberg.  Now users are reporting a vast ubiquitous issue in Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which "bricks" Google Wallet if you perform a factory reset on your device.

Curiously, Google, according to a Phandroid report, is saying this is a feature, not a bug, and suggesting users warranty their devices.  It explains that the "secure element" in the NFC firmware is designed to permanently lock users out of using Google Wallet, if the device is reset, damaged, or otherwise tampered with.  

NFC Payment
Google Wallet -- not so robust [Image Source: Boy Genius Report]

To be clear, this reset not only locks out your current on-phone account, it prevents you from performing some sort of information refresh in order to use the device for wireless payments.

II. There is a Solution -- it Just Isn't Very Practical

So far just a handful of flagship handsets such as HTC Corp.'s (TPE:2498) Evo 4G LTE and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) Nexus LTE have received Ice Cream Sandwich, and fewer still customers have used the new NFC features, despite wireless payment sensors popping up across the country at gas stations, supermarkets, and other brick and mortar retail shops.

Perhaps that's why this major inconvenience in the system was overlooked.

Ice Cream Sandwich
Google Wallet works great, until you have to reset your device. [Image Source: sweetsntreats]

For the tinkerers out there, you can back up your device's ROM and re-flash it post reset, and then reset Google Wallet from within the device settings in order to enjoy NFC goodness once more.  Of course, this requires you to have the foresight to perform a backup and requires your backup to be in a good working state, or at least a state where you can live with the problems.

As resets are typically due to abrupt problems with vendor-centric firmware such as HTC's Sense UI, most users won't have these backups and won't be able to make a working backup when the bug lands.

For heavy users, the best advice at this point is to make such a precautionary backup.

III. NFC -- Not Ready? 

But when Google's "solution" for broken NFCs is to ship the device back to the manufacturer for a new one, perhaps it's a sign that NFC isn't quite ready for prime time, yet.  

shipping phone
Google's solution to broken NFC?  Ship your phone back. [Image Source: The Consumerist]

Google -- the world's largest smartphone operating system maker -- is also the biggest smartphone OS maker to support NFC to date.  Other NFC compatible devices include a handful of Symbian smartphones from Nokia Oyj. (OMX:NOK1V) and certain BlackBerry smartphones from Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM).  NFC is supported in Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone 7.5, but no major Windows Phone handsets have hardware support for the tech yet.  Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone 4S notably lacks NFC support.

If Google's NFC is deemed unfit, that's a huge blow for NFC efforts, given that Apple has thus far shown no interest in the fledgling technology.  With not many BlackBerries, Symbians, and Windows Phones selling these days, Google has to get NFC right or NFC is out of the game for now.  And to most customers "ship it back to us" won't qualify as "getting it right".

Source: PhandDroid

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By elleehswon on 5/29/2012 1:08:15 PM , Rating: 3
NFC is a bad idea. So are RFID chips.

RE: first!
By nolisi on 5/29/12, Rating: -1
RE: first!
By euler007 on 5/29/2012 2:19:05 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget fire. It's a terrible invention that kills thousands every year.

RE: first!
By quiksilvr on 5/29/2012 2:20:26 PM , Rating: 2
Don't even get me started on water...

RE: first!
By Ramtech on 5/29/2012 2:17:27 PM , Rating: 2
Since when is water invention?

RE: first!
By V-Money on 5/29/2012 3:38:37 PM , Rating: 5
Since I applied for a patent on it...once it goes through I will devote my life and every resource I have to bring down you dirty thieves.

RE: first!
By foolsgambit11 on 5/29/2012 9:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
Not if Bodai has anything to say about it....

RE: first!
By Apone on 5/29/2012 4:09:52 PM , Rating: 3
LOL yes I also know about the dihydrogen monoxide danger that's affecting our environment!

RE: first!
By Samus on 5/29/2012 8:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
everything that has ever drank water has died. it kills more than war and cancer combined.

screw you water!

RE: first!
By bupkus on 5/30/2012 11:59:58 AM , Rating: 2
screw you water!

Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the water. I'm going to to get my engineers to invent combustible water that burns your house down!

RE: first!
By elleehswon on 5/29/2012 7:08:54 PM , Rating: 2
You don't find something inherently unsafe about NFC? granted, it's near field, but even still.

RE: first!
By Ramtech on 5/29/2012 2:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
Its not bad idea but it is extremely vulnerable by design just like any other wireless tech

By nafhan on 5/29/2012 1:56:04 PM , Rating: 5
I think the term came about because electronics are often roughly brick shaped, and if it won't power on... it's literally as useful as a brick. While it's clearly slang, I've never seen it used in reference to a problem disabling a single function of a device.

Also "bricking" generally implies a permanently unrecoverable error, if backing up and restoring from your OWN backup can fix the problem, this is very likely something that the OEM's/Google can fix via software update (note: COULD, they may decide it's not worth doing on first gen. NFC devices).

Not trying to downplay the actual problem, just saying that your usage of the term "bricked" may be a little confusing. ...This scenario also a good example of why it can suck to be an early adopter.

RE: Bricked?
By nolisi on 5/29/12, Rating: 0
RE: Bricked?
By sprockkets on 5/29/2012 3:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
Usually the term comes up after a failed firmware or nand flash. Most phones can be put into a recovery mode via a combination of keys held down so as to come back from such a disaster.

RE: Bricked?
By nafhan on 5/29/2012 3:42:49 PM , Rating: 2
A minor annoyance of mine is that the terms "firmware", "ROM", and others have gotten a bit muddled lately. It seems to be to the point where you almost need to define what you mean by firmware when you use the word. There's not really a great definition of some of these terms, either.

With Android for instance, I would consider the radio and the bootloader to be "firmware", but not the OS image or the UI (although, some people call all this stuff firmware, or even worse "ROMS"). Difference being: if you mess up the radio or the bootloader, you're probably screwed :), but if you just load up a bad OS image, you can usually recover from that without much trouble (i.e. holding down some buttons).

RE: Bricked?
By sprockkets on 5/29/2012 7:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, that is true. Updating the radio or hboot is very risky. Then again even an RUU can update all in one. I watched an htc sensation go from 2.3 to 4, and it rebooted with an update logo. Everything was up to date in like 10 min.

RE: Bricked?
By Trisped on 5/30/2012 8:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the term first gained popularity when jail broken iPods which were updated resulted in the phone not being usable. The term implies that the square heavy thing is only usable as a brick. This is similar to an existing saying about old laptop being a "nice, heavy paperweight".

While bricking your iPhone was original permanent, processes were developed which allowed users to backup the state of the iPhone before jail braking it, so they could restore it to its normal state and get updates.

Personally I agree, the NFC break does not brick the feature, since the feature is not a heavy brick shaped device. I do not know of a word that describes the situation better then break or lock. I also think it is wise to lock the NFC chip if the phone is tampered with, to protect the virtual wallet, though there needs to be a system where the user can unlock it.

French court absolves Youtube of piracy guilt
By sarfralogy on 5/29/12, Rating: 0
By sprockkets on 5/29/2012 3:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
The article fails to mention that while yes, they should warn you before reseting the device to do this, you can go into Google Wallet and then do the removal of your account and reset so that when you do a complete reset, it will be ready to go.

RE: French court absolves Youtube of piracy guilt
By ritualm on 5/29/2012 6:09:30 PM , Rating: 3
You got trolled by a DT spambot.

By sprockkets on 5/29/2012 7:50:42 PM , Rating: 2
Posting external links to your site isn't trolling; it is more like piggybanking. Please, let's not lose the meaning to words by misusing them.

By ritualm on 5/30/2012 4:17:08 AM , Rating: 3
Proof that it's a spambot:

Its comments do not have to necessarily make sense with the topic at hand, and it always ends with a URL leading to its own site for pageviews. It NEVER replies to anyone.

Hence you got trolled.

What the hell happened...
By 1ceTr0n on 5/29/2012 2:56:57 PM , Rating: 2
To just paying for shit with just plain old, non negotiable, totally paperless and untrackable green and soft cash?

Seriously, how farking lazy has our country become when we don't even wanna open up or damn wallets due to its "inconvienence"?

RE: What the hell happened...
By WeaselITB on 5/29/2012 3:15:25 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I like the fact that I don't need to carry around hundreds of dollars every day. I like the fact that I don't need to withdraw money on a daily basis, or keep a large stockpile in a "secure" location in my house. I like the fact that if I get mugged or lose my wallet, I'm only out a few bucks plus some inconvenience, since I can call my bank and they can deactivate my card. I like the fact that I can manage and track my expenses online in a near-real-time basis and via monthly statements, or that both the wife and I can keep tabs on our joint account. Etc.

There's a lot more to electronic transactions (including NFC) than just "too lazy to open my wallet."

By Arsynic on 5/29/2012 3:46:46 PM , Rating: 2
What about that?

Also, this is a big problem for Android phones since resetting the phone is a part of Android routine maintenance...

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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