A 'cursed' wallpaper could crash your phone with its color profile [Update: A fix has been found]

It's not cursed, it's just broken
It's not cursed, it's just broken (Image credit: Twitter / @UniverseIce)

What you need to know

  • There's a photo of a sunset making the rounds because when set as a wallpaper, it will brick some Android phones.
  • The image has an improperly coded Google color profile, which causes the Android System UI to crash from an out of bounds error.
  • For some phones, you can reboot into safe mode and reset the wallpaper to something else, but for others, you'll have to go into the bootloader and completely factory reset the phone.

Today in "2020 is just the weirdest timeline", there's a cursed wallpaper making the rounds and crashing the Android phones of fools idiotic enough to not heed the warnings that accompany the image, seen to the right. It's a pretty sunset on a lake surrounded by mountains and forest, right? Well, hidden in the coding for this image is apparently an improperly coded color profile — and a Google color profile, at that — and when you set it as a wallpaper on an Android phone, it will cause the Android System UI to crash.

The image has been making the rounds across social media — because we Android nerds are a curious lot and when we hear something will mess up our phones, we apparently take that as a personal challenge — and has been wrecking havoc on phones of the idiots stupid enough to set the original image as their wallpaper. If you screenshot the image or edit the image in an way, it strips out and overwrites the problematic color profile data, so once you tamper with it, it becomes harmless, but to save all the curious cats out there:

  • Yes, this image can crash your phone.
  • Yes, it goes beyond Samsung phones. Even Android emulators are not immune from the out of bounds error that improperly coded color profile causes.
  • No, don't try it unless you just like completely factory resetting phones, you idiot.

If you already set the wallpaper, your phone is probably either stuck in a bootloop or will kick back to the bootloader. In this case you have a few ways of potentially fixing your phone:

  • Solution #1: If your phone will boot into safe mode, you may have just enough time to set the wallpaper back to something normal and safe.
  • Solution #2: if your phone won't boot to safe mode but you have a phone that has a custom recovery on it — not something most folks have, but if you use a custom ROM or root your phone, you probably have one installed — go into your custom recovery app and purge the wallpaper data to reset the wallpaper back to its default.
  • Solution #3: If all else fails, go into the bootloader and factory reset your phone. Hope you had everything backed up!

As a small reminder, folks, when someone warns you not to do something to your phone, then you probably shouldn't do it, but at least unlike catastrophic bugs like Telugu text messages crashing iPhones, someone has to intentionally set this as their wallpaper. And if you were that dumb, you deserve to blow a weekend setting your phone back up.

Update 5/4/20: Google is testing a fix internally

A Google rep named Romain Guy commented on Twitter about the issue, saying that "the real problem is the way luminance is computed." Google and Samsung are both actively working on a fix for the issue. It's not clear when this fix will roll out, but it's likely to be with the next security release in July.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.