Samsung Galaxy Nexus volume bug tested in video

Having returned our Galaxy Nexus and got a new one that also suffers from the volume drop bug, we do some testing to find out the cause.

Our two-star review of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus ruffled a few feathers among disappointed Android fans after an annoying volume bug meant we couldn't recommend it, a decision we explained here .

Today, Google acknowledged the bug and promised a fix -- when it appears, we'll alter the review accordingly. To prove what we experienced wasn't a one-off fault, we've done some additional research.

Firstly, we returned the phone to the store it was bought from (we didn't get a review unit from Samsung) and grabbed a replacement. This second Nexus also exhibited the same fault, which rules out the possibility of our original phone being a unique case -- the hundreds of people that have also reported the issue directly to Google and independent retailer Handtec confirming that it found the fault in the devices it has in stock backs it up as well.

Although our replacement phone suggests the problem is widespread, no one seems to be totally sure what is actually causing it. So we decided to do a little experiment of our own, based on findings submitted by users on the XDA Developers forum, and made a video to show you what we did.

Looking through user reports and other evidence, it seems the volume issue is caused by the 900MHz 2G frequency, which is used in the UK and other parts of the world. Not all networks use this frequency, which may account for why some Galaxy Nexus owners haven't encountered the bug. The networks that do use it are O2 and Vodafone. Orange and T-Mobile use the 1,800MHz 2G frequency and Three uses 2,100MHz, and evidence suggests they're unaffected.

While two networks out of five is bad enough, bear in mind that O2 and Vodafone allow other operators -- such as Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Asda Mobile and BT Mobile -- to use their masts, so these will also be affected.

To test this theory, we used a selection of SIM cards in our Galaxy Nexus to see which ones triggered the issue. You can see the results in the video we've compiled. We also tested a Virgin Mobile SIM, not shown in the video, and that didn't cause an issue -- which again backs up the 900MHz theory, as Virgin uses T-Mobile's masts.

There's been much debate as to whether or not this is a software or hardware problem, and our research seems to point to the latter. We tested this by switching the Galaxy Nexus to airplane mode (which means network connectivity is disabled) and placing another phone on a 900MHz frequency next to it. Amazingly, the volume goes haywire -- which to us looks like conclusive proof that the problem is caused by that 2G signal.

So what's next? "We are aware of the volume issue and have developed a fix," a Google spokesperson said . "We will update devices as soon as possible."

Samsung's UK tech support team has gotten in touch and has confirmed that they are looking into the problem too. 

Still, we're not entirely convinced that a software solution will totally remove the problem. From our research it's apparent that the volume rocker is being triggered by the 900MHz signal, and even if the phone itself is patched up, another device in close proximity could cause the issue to reappear.

Whatever happens, you can be sure we'll let you know. In the meantime, it pains us to recommend you give the Galaxy Nexus a wide berth.

Update 2 December: Google has pushed out an official update that fixes the bug, and we've amended our Samsung Galaxy Nexus review to reflect this.  

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About the author

    Damien McFerran has more than a decade of experience in the interactive entertainment and technology sectors. He is also the Editorial Director of Nintendo Life and co-director of Nlife Ltd. Damien is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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