What's really going on with the Galaxy Nexus volume bug

By now if you've been following the European Galaxy Nexus launch, you'll be aware of the infamous volume bug that results in volume levels spiking all over the place when the phone (or something else nearby) is in 2G mode on a 900MHz network. This morning Google and Samsung confirmed that they're aware of the problem and have a software fix ready to go. However that hasn't stopped the cries from across the blogosphere (and beyond) that the root cause is a hardware fault, and that Google is papering over the cracks by fixing it with software. Some have even called for Samsung to issue a recall of all Nexuses sold over the past week.

Enter systems engineer, app developer and all-round voice of reason Lee Johnston (known here on AC as britishturbo). He posted the following explanation in our comments section, and again on his Google+ page. For us mere mortals, it does a great job of explaining what's really going on, why it's a common issue with complex electronic devices like cellphones, and why we don't need to worry.

I'm a Systems Engineer and also a Developer. I deal with things like this every day. What we have here is indeed a hardware issue, in that the radio interference is coming in through the radio hardware. However things like this can be fix fairly easily in software. It's called debounce.When you monitor an electronic input like the buttons on a phone there is always noise and flutter even when you just press the button. If testing by Google has shown that they just need to turn up the debounce time (the time which an input must exceed for it to be determined to be a genuine press) then it will more than likely just work and no one will ever see it again.Like I said I deal with this kind of thing every day, it's not a big deal as long as your debounce time is not excessive. But noise happens down on the order of 1 to 40 ms, real inputs when you press a button last from 100 or 200ms if you tap the button, up to seconds if you hold it down.This is nothing like Apple and the iPhone 4 antennae problems that could not be fixed in software. I'm sure everyone will see in due time, the problem will be fixed, and the dust will blow over.And people will be saying "wow, I was wrong, Google rocks!"

Over on Google+, Google engineer Dan Morrill reshared the post, saying Lee's post was "completely accurate" description of a "very common phenomenon", with the increase in debounce time being the "classic fix". So that's that.

Our own Jerry Hildenbrand had similar things to say when this first cropped up a few days ago -- it's impossible to completely protect a complex device like a smartphone from all RF interference, and some of it has to be managed with code. As such, something like the Nexus volume bug can absolutely be remedied with a software update, just as Lee Johnston explains above.

Source: AC Comments, Google+

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

  • ya well we wouldnt know because we dont have the phone YET!!!
  • Not only that.....sounds like a simple fix where is the update? A quick OTA update could fix the issue quickly and be done with it. As for the iPhone Antenna problem, what problem? Most phones have the issue if you grab the phone with your hand, my Droid Incredible does it.
  • I am a customer looking for the best experience from any company I am filled up with Apple blogs saying Apple rocks and Android blogs saying Google rocks I preordered this phone from UK a month ago and i still do not have it because of the stupid strategy google and samsung have Honestly speaking, this is my first android phone after Apple iphones and it will be the last. I had so much of hassle and disappointment and I am not at all eager to buy another Android phone in the future from google as it seems immature in the industry
  • Stupid strategy? Meaning shortages of stock? Yeah, that's clearly what Google and Samsung have in mind. Anyone knows that with a pre-order there is a possibility for delays. Calm down, chill out and you'll get it in no time.
  • Very immature indeed that they can't magically produce masses of product with a snap of a finger. Can't believe companies these days that don't use magic!
  • That's is what i said previously I am not in love with Apple products I just dumbed an iphone 4 for Nexus Google does NOT know how to launch a product You know deep in your heart that they ruined their best chance to win mobile market with a phone brand "NEXUS"
  • Yeah... god knows Apple never has shortages in stock... If you are ready to give up on Android just because there has been delays before you get your hands on your phone, you clearly are not giving Android any chance of winning you over... You gave up before you even started... So getting another apple product is probably the best thing to do, cause clearly if your phone doesn't have an apple logo on it, you'll never be happy.
  • There are shortages in the Galaxy Nexus before it is even being sold?
  • It's not being sold in the US, it is elsewhere.
  • Who wants to bet that after actually USING the Galaxy Nexus, he becomes an android fan?
  • by all means get to kicking rocks and head on over to Apple.
  • by all means get to kicking rocks and head on over to Apple.
  • Right... it took my friend about 3 Weeks to get his hands on an iPhone 4s. I'm not the biggest Samsung fan, but you need to chill. Just be glad hp isn't in charge of this one!
  • I guess Lee Johnston has never heard of the Nexus S issues. He may be optimistic, but anyone who has used a Nexus S from Samsung in Canada is laughing at him saying 'Google Rocks'. Google has been claiming the Nexus S search bug (which is almost identical to this issue) could be fixed in software and a year later they still haven't fixed it. The only true way to fix it on the NS is to replace the screen. There's no way I would buy a Galaxy Nexus until Google can prove it is fixed.
  • Was the NS search issue only tied to 2G operation? I could be wrong, but I didn't think it was... This issue (the random volume of the GN) does appear to be an interference issue of some kind with 2G signals. (I'd imagine like the noise that nearby speakers pick up when a 2G call is coming in) That is a pretty significant difference between the two issues and cannot be compared.
  • The NS bug was tied to having a low 3G signal. But since it doesn't affect the 3G bands used in the US, no one pays attention. Basically it is the exact same issue as the Galaxy Nexus but a different band. I almost hope the bug occurs in the US this time so Google and Samsung will finally have to answer for producing 2 straight defective Nexus phones.
  • What are you talking about? a) The Nexus S "voice search" bug only affected the I9020A from Rogers, Bell and Telus. So anyone with the European/AWS model (I9020T) were completely fine. So for us, yes Google still rocks. b) the voice search bug was fixed in September when Google released the Android 2.3.6 (build GRK39F) Since Google released GRK39F, I haven't heard anyone complaining about the "voice search" bug.
  • Or, you know, possibly just latching the inputs to ground with a resistor, could help solve the problem, instead of relying on software, but, hey, that's okay, too.
  • I'd prefer opening up and messing with my internals too instead of a simple software fix. Totally makes sense.
  • They can't put a resistor in your phone with an OTA....
  • i had the exact same thought the first time i saw what was going on - someone forgot a pulldown.
  • Seems logical to me. You ever notice all that noise in nearby speakers when a 2G signal is coming into a nearby phone? Could be the holdup with the Verizon phone, too, I suppose. Yes, Verizon does not use 2G GSM signals, but if you're sat by someone with an older 2G phone on AT&T or T-Mo, the interference could have an effect. Just thinking out loud. I'm not a SE or developer. :-)
  • Even if the problem is in the hardware Google is wise to take on the fix themselves. Relying on Samsung to fix it would take weeks/months longer if they would even do anything about it.
  • Rf leaks are rf leaks and speak to poor design and poorer build quality. The fact that they found a duct tape solution to save a recall is nothing to crow about. Shame on both of them. There is no engineering excuse for this getting into the wild.
  • If everything was built to "engineer specs" the phone would end up being four inches thick and weighing five pounds, most likely. You know, double- and triple-redundancy, superior stress points, solid copper wiring, impact resistance, etc... lol
  • I am VERY impressed that this was discovered, acknowledged, addressed, and nearly fixed within a week. Apple has yet to address or fix the antenna issue of the iP4 or the battery issue with the iP4S. Impressive. Most impressive.
  • I had to read that last line in Darth Vader's voice.
  • Google promised a quick fix for the Nexus S bug like this one almost 6 months ago. Those users are still waiting for a fix that actually works. So I wouldn't be that impressed considering this looks like the same type of issue.
  • This is a high correlation between ignorance and whining. That is what we have here. If people have a problem with the fix, they are free to return their phones.
  • or sell it to me... I'll be all too happy to get the OTA patch and enjoy my new phone.
  • Anyone that buys a galaxy nexus is a sucker! the nexus name isn't the same since the nexus 1... Samsung screwed that up and Shane on google for letting it happen! Samsung needs to stick to TV's and let real OEM's make high end phones to hold the nexus name
  • Yeah, its not like the nexus 1 never had any hardware issues too. Oh wait... It does. Ever heard if the multi touch screen bug? When you touch two parts of the screen, it bugs out. That is a hardware issue.