OnePlus Explain The Emergency Calling Bug
In mid-July 2017, stories started appearing around the Internet carrying the disturbing headline that OnePlus 5 customers were unable to call the emergency services. As it happens, a OnePlus 5 customer spotted a fire in Seattle and tried to call 911. However, rather than connect the call his device rebooted. Soon, other Android smartphone users were reporting the same issue across the world, with devices failing to call the American emergency number (911), the British number (999) and the European number (112, also used in Britain). What was going on?
The issue appeared to be related to the cleverness that happens when we dial the emergency services from our smartphone. Did you know the emergency services can be given location information about our handset when we contact them? Customers of other devices also reported issues, but OnePlus caught the most negative attention. Critics saw this as another way to bash… even though OnePlus fixed the issue in a two days and started rolling out the software patch to resolve the issue. Let me say in the same paragraph that it took Samsung almost six months to release a software fix designed to cure the Samsung Galaxy S8’s interface lag, which is amusing as Samsung Touchwiz has lagged for years now.
Let’s get back to OnePlus and the 911 issue. OnePlus explained the issue causing the problem, and why it only impacted some customers and not others. The problem was caused by the Qualcomm modem when placing a call using VoLTE technology. That’s short for “Voice Over LTE,” which is a way of handling voice calls over the LTE data network. Some operators use the OTDOA protocol as part of establishing where the device is, it’s short for “Observed Time Difference Of Arrival,” and is a part of some LTE specifications. Not all carriers implement the OTDOA protocol, and not all carriers provide VoLTE services, or have it available where customers had been trying to call the emergency services. Under the right – or wrong – set of circumstances, the OnePlus 5 rebooted because of the modem memory error. It’s great that OnePlus and Qualcomm moved quickly to isolate and fix the issue… and we have to wonder what other device manufacturers have also resolved the issue?
If you are wondering if your own Android smartphone can call the emergency services – don’t try it without either checking in with the local control centre! You can be fined for improper use of the emergency call system.