A bizarre bug prevented a woman from calling 911 on her Pixel smartphone when she thought her grandma was having a stroke.
She told El Reg that on 26th November, after she dialed the number using her phone, she waited five minutes only to realize her call wasn’t going through. Luckily, there was a landline telephone at hand, and she managed to get through to emergency services and take her grandma to the hospital.
A day later, she filed an issue with Google support online. When she didn’t hear anything back for a couple of days, she decided to post on Reddit in the hopes of grabbing Google’s attention.
“I'm hoping that someone from Google can let me know that you're solving this problem, 'Cause let's be real, as someone without a landline, I sure as hell don't want a phone that freaks out when I try to call 911 in the middle of a life threatening emergency,” she wrote.
"I'm supposed to trust that a phone will do the main thing is built for, and place the call, and let me speak to the human on the other end."
Within four hours, when her post had been upvoted thousands of times in the r/GooglePixel subreddit, somebody from the company reached out to her privately. She was asked to submit a bug report, and sent along a video showing that the bug could be replicated on her Pixel 3 handset.
In the clip viewed by The Register, she demonstrated her phone had no problem calling her contacts. But when she dialed 911, her phone didn't make any sounds to show it was ringing and she had difficulties trying to end the call. When she looked at the list of numbers she had dialed, 911 was not listed.
Google confirmed there was, indeed, a software issue that affects devices running on Android 10 and above from reaching 911. It appears to only affect emergency calls; other phone numbers are fine. The glitch seems to stem from the Microsoft Teams app, according to a response posted on Reddit from an official Google account.
“Based on our investigation we have been able to reproduce the issue under a limited set of circumstances. We believe the issue is only present on a small number of devices with the Microsoft Teams app installed when the user is not logged in, and we are currently only aware of one user report related to the occurrence of this bug,” the comment read.
“We determined that the issue was being caused by unintended interaction between the Microsoft Teams app and the underlying Android operating system. Because this issue impacts emergency calling, both Google and Microsoft are heavily prioritizing the issue, and we expect a Microsoft Teams app update to be rolled out soon – as always we suggest users keep an eye out for app updates to ensure they are running the latest version. We will also be providing an Android platform update to the Android ecosystem on January 4.”
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Google advises users with Android smartphones running on Android 10 and above to just uninstall the Microsoft Teams app and reinstall and wait for a patch If you're already signed in to Teams Google says "you are not impacted by this issue, and we suggest you remain signed in until you’ve received the Microsoft Teams app update."
The Reddit user affected by the mysterious bug told The Register she thought it was strange that the Microsoft Teams app could impact emergency calls. Since her post, another netizen messaged to her to say they had also experienced the same issue and couldn't reach emergency services to report a fire and after a car crash.
Google and Microsoft are currently working to fix the bug.
"We are aware of Google's plans to roll-out an Android platform update in January,” a Microsoft spokesperson told us.
"We are working on an update to our own application to avoid triggering the underlying Android operating system issue. We are collaborating closely with Google to resolve this unintended interaction." ®
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