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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



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

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...




"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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