Earlier this month, reports emerged that a simple nature wallpaper had the power to brick Android devices running a certain version of the operating system. After the bug was pointed out, several users experimented using the wallpaper and found that their devices had indeed been bricked.
On Wednesday, the creator of the wallpaper, an amateur photographer living in San Diego, told BBC that he did not do it unintentionally.
"I didn't do anything intentionally," said Gaurav Agarwal. "I'm sad that people ended up having issues."
Agarwal said that he took the photo after a “magical evening” at the St Mary Lake in the Glacier National Park in Montana in August 2019. He took the photo with a Nikon camera and later edited it in Adobe Lightroom. There, he appears have picked a particular colour-mode option while exporting the photo—resulting in the glitch that broke some Android phones.
He later shared the image on Flickr, from where it was picked up by some users and eventually led to the discovery that it could cause devices to enter a bootloop.
“I'm going to use another format from now on,” he said.
The wallpaper was referred to as the “cursed” wallpaper on Android forums, and affected Android devices running Android 10 or older, which would convert all images to the sRGB colour space unless specified otherwise. According to an explanation posted on the XDA forum, “In Android versions 10 and older, all images are converted to sRGB unless otherwise specified by the developers. There’s a rare bug that can occur when converting the image to sRGB, wherein the code that calculates the ‘luminance’ value of each pixel manages to exceed the maximum limit of 255.”
In the case of Agarwal’s image, this led to the value being calculated as 257—exceeding the maximum value and causing the Android SystemUI to crash.
A Google Android Toolkit team member’s input was later added to the post, stating that the crash was the result of just one of the pixels in the image. While Google is exploring an official fix, Android Central identified the following techniques to fix your phone if you did install the wallpaper:
1- Boot into safe mode and quickly change the wallpaper
2 – If you have a custom ROM, use the custom recovery app to purge the wallpaper data
3 – Factory reset the phone from the Android bootloader—but this will cost you your data.