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Amateur photographer: Android-bricking wallpaper was “not intentional”

Recently, the internet exploded with news that a wallpaper was making the rounds, one that bricked certain smartphones running on Android 10. The wallpaper was unconvered by serial leakster Ice Universe, with users adding that phones from Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and especially Samsung were affected. When the image is set as a wallpaper, your phone then goes into a soft-bricked mode, and repetitively turns on and off.

Now, the photographer behind the wallpaper image has spoken to the BBC, saying that the bricking-nature of the image wasn’t intentional. The photo was taken at St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana in August 2019, with the result then shared over photo-hosting platform Flickr. Gaurav Agrawal, a scientist and amateur photographer from the San Diego area in the U.S., revealed that the image was captured on his third visit to the lake:

“It was a magical evening. It was gloomy and cloudy, and we thought there wasn’t going to be a great sunset. We were about to leave when things started to change.”

The Huawei P40 Pro isn’t affected by the bug.

Agrawal wasn’t aware about the glitch associated with his photo until the internet starting exploding with news, with the amateur photographer saying that he usually uses a photo of his wife as the wallpaper on his iPhone (wise choice). In fact, he has over 10,000 followers on his Flickr account, with other accomplishments including the use of his photos in National Geographic magazines.

However, the issue was caused by Agrawal’s edits of the photo on popular software, Lightroom. There are three colour-mode options that users can choose from when exporting an image after editing it, with the option chosen by Agrawal causing the soft-bricking nature of the wallpaper. Thankfully, he promises to use another format from now on, in case his next photograph gains popularity as a mobile wallpaper again.

“I hoped my photograph would have gone ‘viral’ for a good reason, but maybe that’s for another time.”

The bug is caused by the use of images that aren’t in the standard RGB format, with the colour gamut used part of the cause of the bricking. When an RGB image is set as a wallpaper, certain mobile phones try to display the image as sRGB (standard), and this causes the phone to crash, and to consequently be soft-bricked. As mentioned before, something similar to this was reported back in 2018 for the Google Pixel, and manufacturers like Samsung have already resolved the issue.

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However, it’s still wise to avoid using the image as your wallpaper. As it stands, always be careful when you are using images or other forms of media from unknown sources—because something as simple as a wallpaper could brick your phone.


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