Lemma: When observed reality doesn’t yield to conventional explanation, there exists a conspiracy theory that can tie it all together nicely.
My Snapchat started crashing and taking my device down with it on August 5, 2013 — the day my Google Nexus 4 phone updated itself to the Android 4.3 operating system (OS). Multiple OS and Snapchat application updates (and nearly five months) later, the phenomenon continues. Occasionally — seemingly randomly — Snapchat causes the device to crash and reboot.
I have written several blogposts about this. What boggles the mind isn’t the inconvenience of the situation. It is the totally inexplicable indifference towards the issue by Google — the maker of Android and of my Google Nexus 4 phone. Why doesn’t Google seem to care that a legit application can take down its operating system at will? Or is there more to the story?
What if Snapchat has found a security hole in the Android operating system that Google can’t patch? What if Snapchat (which ) knows that it’s sitting on a gold mine? What if Snapchat is trying to extort from Google a lot more? What if there are other players involved? What if Snapchat is talking to other “buyers”? I can think of a few who would pay billions for the ability to crash any mobile device at will.
Just some food for thought during the holidays. I am tagging this with “humor” because, you know…
[UPDATE October 10, 2014] It turns out Snapchat messages don’t self destruct, after all.
Hackers have warned that thousands of nude images sent via the mobile-messaging service Snapchat, many of which users believed self-destructed after being sent, are to be released online in a searchable database.
Messaging boards on the notorious website 4chan have been filling up with news of the imminent leak, already being referred to as “The Snappening”. –
I found out about this story from (via ). Cuban’s startup develops and markets the Snapchat competitor .
[UPDATE August 02, 2014] I have replaced Snapchat* with — the product of Marc Cuban’s latest startup. I thank my friend for the suggestion.
Described as “WhatsApp meets Snapchat,” texts sent via Cyber Dust automatically disappear 24 seconds after being read. Importantly, these messages cannot be traced and are not stored anywhere – not even on Cyber Dust’s servers – assuring all users a high level of privacy and security. –
*As I was sending a final Snapchat message to my contacts, Snapchat crashed and rebooted my device, as if to eliminate any doubt about the appropriateness of my decision.
[UPDATE August 01, 2014] Crash. Reboot. Been happening on my Google Nexus 4 since August 5, 2013. #WTF. Read below for detailed account of year-long experience and fixes attempts. (SPOILERS: There are no fixes, unfortunately.)
[UPDATE July 02, 2014] Snapchat just crashed and rebooted my Google Nexus 4 phone (now running Android 4.4.4). Which means that my previous conclusion that Android 4.4.3 had fixed the problem was wrong. Or that Android 4.4.4 reintroduced the problem (the device never crashed under 4.4.3).
Whatever the cause, and whatever the solution, this saga is a sad testament to how buggy all software is.
[UPDATE June 21, 2014] In the twelve days since my Google Nexus 4 device updated itself to Android 4.4.3, Snapchat has not crashed once. I received a report from another Google Nexus 4 user that Snapchat crashed once on his device, but unlike before, it DID NOT TAKE DOWN THE DEVICE with it.
There is little doubt in my mind that Android 4.3 introduced a security vulnerability, which Android 4.4.3 patched 308 (!) days and 4 OS updates later. Many questions remain, some of which will be addressed in a future post. This is the final update to this post.
[UPDATE June 10, 2014] I got the Android 4.4.3 update last night. Waiting for Snapchat to crash. It hasn’t yet. I hope it won’t. We all know what it means if it does not, right?
I will report here in a few days.
[UPDATE June 06, 2014] I got a Snapchat update overnight, and now in addition to crashing (which it just did), Snapchat does not let me send snaps. The “Send” button just doesn’t work. Does nothing.
For the record, a new Android version (4.4.3) was released yesterday, which I didn’t yet get. I’m willing to give Snapchat and Google the benefit of the doubt and assume that yesterday’s Snapchat update was meant to work with 4.4.3. I’ll report here after I get 4.4.3, which I expect to happen in the next few days.
[UPDATE June 06, 2014] The crashes continue. Who do you think is at fault — Snapchat or Google? Vote in this quick poll.
[UPDATE June 06, 2014] Snapchat just crashed and rebooted my Google Nexus 4 for the umpteenth time. This has been going on for 305 days and counting. Running all latest software versions, applying all patches as soon as they are released. Still crashing. Shame on you, Google and Snapchat, for not being able (or not willing) to work together to fix this!
[UPDATE February 7, 2014] Snapchat crashed and rebooted my Google Nexus 4 twice yesterday. This has been going on for OVER SIX MONTHS, and apparently neither Google nor Snapchat can or would do anything about it. Legitimizes my conspiracy theory perhaps?
[UPDATE December 21, 2013] Snapchat update this morning. Will this stop the Snapchat/Android phone crashes/reboots? And if it does, does that mean that this has been Snapchat’s fault all along? Come back in a few days to read my report.
[UPDATE December 23, 2013] Snapchat just crashed and rebooted my device.
[UPDATE December 24, 2013] Another Snapchat update. This doesn’t make any sense any more. Or does it… New blog post to follow. [UPDATE: Published.]
Android 4.4.2 does NOT fix Snapchat crash bug
[UPDATE December 18, 2013] Snapchat just crashed and rebooted my Google Nexus 4 running Android KitKat 4.4.2. So it is still happening. Quite disconcerting that Google hasn’t squashed that Android bug. This is undoubtedly Google’s fault, not Snapchat’s. The OS should not crash due to a “misbehaving” app.
No word from Google on when (or how) they plan to address this issue.
Android 4.4.2 is here
[UPDATE December 12, 2013] Last night my Google Nexus 4 updated itself to Android 4.4.2 (strangely skipping 4.4.1). Will this stop the Snapchat crashes? Come back in a few days to read my report.
Android 4.4 KitKat does not fix Snapchat crash bug
[UPDATE December 09, 2013] After a relatively smooth (no crashes) period, last night Snapchat crashed/rebooted my device again. It is disturbing that Android — after three updates — still allows itself to be taken down by a legit application that was already on the 4.2 device and operating smoothly until 4.3 came out and the crashes began. Imagine what a rogue, malicious app could do.
[UPDATE October 14, 2013] Android still allows itself to be taken down by Snapchat. This began on August 5, 2013 with the release of Android 4.3, and continues to this day. Just how secure is Android?
With a message to users delivered with their most recent Android update, Snapchat goes on the record to say that the Nexus 4 device restarts, seemingly caused by Snapchat, are due to a bug in the Nexus 4 Android 4.3 operating system — an issue that is out of Snapchat’s control.
Some history: As soon as my Nexus 4 phone updated itself to Android 4.3, Snapchat started crashing. And not just crashing the app itself — it took the device down with it. This was annoying, but also troubling. Why would an OS upgrade allow a previously-installed app to crash the device? Subsequent updates to Android 4.3 (this is not a typo — Android 4.3 updated itself to Android 4.3) did not fix the problem.
I was not alone in this experience, which generated . I maintained that a robust OS shouldn’t allow an app — rogue or legit — to take down the device. I was in the minority. Many were quick to blame Snapchat, because this can’t be Google’s fault, right? Wrong!
Below is a screenshot of the Snapchat message to users, and a full transcript. I hope Google fixes the bug soon, and goes on the record to explain what had happened.
Dear Nexus 4 user,
Recently, you may have experienced device restarts while using Snapchat. Unfortunately, this behavior is caused by a bug in the Nexus 4 Android 4.3 operating system and is out of Snapchat’s control. If you would like to let Google know that this issue is important to you, please visit Nexus 4 support. Thank you for your patience.