This image is crashing Android phones — don't download it

Samsung Galaxy S20
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

An image of an idyllic lake is wreaking havoc on Android phones, causing some to get caught in crash cycles and become ‘soft-bricked.’ This is effectively forcing users to reset their smartphones. 

The issue was flagged by leaker Ice Universe, who noted that a simple image could cause some Android phones to continually turn the display on and off if the image is set as a wallpaper. Once in this loop, there’s no way to get out of it, even if the phone is rebooted. So whatever you do, don’t download and use the image on your phone. 

Once an Android phone is caught in the crashing loop, the only way to get out of this soft-bricked status is to reset the handset, which could cause a lot of data loss for some people who don’t back their phones up to cloud services. 

Not every phone is affected. OnePlus and Huawei handsets are seemingly immune, but Samsung Galaxy phones seem particularly prone to the crash-causing image.  

It’s not clear exactly what is causing this image to crash Android phones. But Ice Universe reckons it’s something to do with how the color space on the image is configured and how that color profile reacts with the Skia graphics engine Android uses. Effectively, metadata behind the image could be causing problems with Android. 

Ice Universe tweeted that when the image was uploaded to Weibo, the service altered the colors slightly, which then seemed to prevent the image from crashing a phone when used as a wallpaper. 9to5Google did some more digging and noted that the problem is down to the color space Android wants to display. 

Android phones tend to like the sRGB color space, but the image uses the RGB color space which Android 10 doesn’t play nice with. In Android 11, the color space is converted to sRGB so such crashes aren’t an issue, meaning if you have a Pixel 4 XL you should be pretty safe from the problem. 

There’s no word on where the image came from, with people avoiding posting links to it so as to curtail the spread of the damaging image. But suffice to say, if you see the image or you get sent it by someone, we very much suggest you avoid it. If you have already fallen foul to the image issue, then you’ll need to factory reset your phone to get rid of it. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.