Bug in Android SMS system sending messages to random contacts

Well, well, well… this is certainly interesting. According to the Android developers forum, there is a bug in the Android SMS system that may end up sending your text messages to random contacts in your address book. The issue, apparently, has been ongoing for the past 6 months or so, and is being listed by the development team as a “priority: medium” issue. It looks like the issue, specifically, is that you compose a message, and tell Android to send it to contact A, but the system will send it instead to a random contact.

Be sure to hit the break for a log of these issues. Have you had any problems like this? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

Jun 28, 2010:

Device: Nexus One. One day old. Updated to 2.2 FRF50

Default Android Messaging Application.
No apps installed.

– 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).

Has occurred multiple times on this device now.

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

Jul 09, 2010:

This just occurred again on FRF91. Suck.

SMS was sent to recipient who there had been no contact with and no threads in messaging.

Sep 13, 2010:

This issue is way more widespread than what is respresented here, please review the comments at this page, where users are very detailed in reporting the issues they are experiencing.


My personal experiences:

Text being sent to unintended recipient, when responding to an existing conversation(text). Unintended recipient is NOT someone I have ever sent a text to previously. The 2 contacts in question do not have any similarities in the digits of their numbers, other than the area code.

I have 763 messages in my inbox, 782 in the outbox

Galaxy S 2.1-update 1

Sep 15, 2010:

Cross posting with my post from the Google Help Forums:

My steps to replicate are as below.
Seems to be pretty consistent that the message sent in step 09 will go to a random contact; in my limited testing, it usually goes to the number involved at steps 05 and 06.
01) Stop Messaging App.
02) Clear Messaging App data
03) Access messaging app, send messages.
04) Establish messages were sent to correct addresses.
05) Send message to a number not in your contacts.
06) Reply from the number not in your contacts (I haven’t established if this is a required step yet)
07) Read reply, don’t delete thread.
08) Send SMS to your device, from another device that is in your contacts.
09) Reply to SMS.
10) Check message details of your sent message.
11) Repeat steps 08-10 a couple of times.
A factor in this, is I think it might only be short numbers that cause this issue.
I’m using my banks automated SMS service (880).

This would explain why it happens when people have facebook/twitter SMS notifications enabled.

I’ll debug it all properly on the weekend when I have some time.

Oct 05, 2010:

This issue is listed as “Priority-Medium”, I think this is totally wrong. For a phone send messages to the wrong person may be very harmful to the user as a human. This just means the phone cannot be trusted anymore. How to bump up the priority?

Oct 05, 2010:

I have experienced this problem a few times. And I do not have facebook or twitter on my phone either. It’s actually a relatively new phone (Samsung Vibrant). To list this issue as “medium” is a gross understatement. This is much worse than iphone’s drop call problem. And there is no pattern in picking the wrong recipient. I actually think it’s an OS lag issue. Last time it happened I caught it before it sent the SMS (because in my SMS window I saw the wrong recipient showing on top, while I was in a thread window with someone else) and I let the phone sit for a few minutes. When I went back to my thread window, the correct recipient name was at the top once again.

Dec 23, 2010:

Android Phones Play “Chat-Roulette” With Your Text Messages I have always been a big fan of Google Android phones. Sure the user interface may not be as polished as the iPhone. I admit the Exchange support might not be as tightly integrated as it is on the Blackberry. But, I’m a geek and I’m willing to put up with some annoyances as a trade-off for speed and flexibility and customization. And I’m not alone. Market researchers Canalys and NPD Group both recently published reports stating Android was running on > 40% of all smart phones in the United States. It would seem Android is destined for dominance. Except somewhere along the way, Google seems to have forgotten first and foremost Android phones need to be phones. And that is why I’m seriously considering making the move to Blackberry or Windows Phone 7. For the last six months now I’ve been dealing with a huge flaw that makes my phone unusable for SMS texting. From what I’ve been able to tell using analytics provided by Google’s developer site, as many as 77% of Android phone users are at risk of having their text messages sent to a random contact. 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. The first time I responded to a text message from recipient A, and it went to recipient B, I just wrote it off to user error. I was in a hurry. I fat fingered it. Who knows, right? In time though I’ve begun to qualify and quantify this serious bug and disaster waiting to happen. The worst part is you don’t even know your text message went to the wrong person until you get a call or new message from someone in your contact list asking “what was that last message all about?” On the sender’s phone, the text message actually shows as sent to the correct recipient, yet I’ve been able to get all three parties with their phones to sit down in one room and verify that in fact the intended recipient did not receive my text, and a random contact did. I will put up with a lot of minor issues for a cool phone, but having my privacy threatened is not one of them. What irks me the most is that owners of these phones, me included, have no recourse. The bug is part of the core operating system, and has been since Android 2.1, (though it seems worse with 2.2). Phone model doesn’t matter. Using a third-party SMS application won’t help. Contact your phone carrier and you will be told to do a factory reset then call the phone manufacturer. Contact the manufacturer and you will be told to do a factory reset then get in touch with your carrier. This is a flaw with Google’s code so how is it they managed to slip out of the support loop altogether? Ah, I think now we have reached the heart of the problem haven’t we? By making it an open source solution, Google isn’t really accountable. Or are they? I guess that depends on you and me. Google has a vested interest in fixing any flaws that are impacting their continued effort for world smart phone dominance. If those of us who have made this platform so successful for them draw a line in the sand perhaps someone at Google will take notice. The issue at hand has been logged in the Google forums for some time now. Sadly, it’s rated as only having a priority of “medium” and I’ve yet to see anyone from Google comment on the current state. I would urge any of you who have Android phones to log into the Google forum and star the issue. The link is here: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=9392. In the mean time, I’m going to continue evaluating some of the new Windows phone offerings. Just in case Google decides new UI bounce effects on widgets are more important than where my SMS text messages end up.

[via zdnet / android]

  • http://www.facebook.com/bdotwest Bryan West

    I see many divorces coming from this! Lol

  • Martin Rodriguez

    Ha ha …, that is like the worst bug that could possibly happen!!!

  • JW

    I have been having alot of issues with the messaging on my OG Droid in the past couple of months. Various things from:
    1.Messages being sent but not recieved by the person and that persons messages also not being recieved.
    2. Messages will delete themselves and as it did today th phone will delete all of my messages on its own.(Mind you none of the limits I set have been reached yeat either)

    Is anyone else having this happen?
    It is getting annoying in my opinion but I love android and my droid I just put up with it.

  • JLRivers

    I have noticed since I got my HTC EVO 4G this past summer that when opening a text message, sometimes already read or not, it would open a completely random message instead.
    The issue seems to be native to Android (as opposed to the SMS application) because ot would happen even after installing another SMS application.

  • Ancanus

    This was fixed and released on Jan 22.

  • Magiccow