Google, Samsung and Sprint probe Nexus S problems

Users say photos are being deleted, but cause remains unclear

Sprint, Samsung and Google are investigating customer complaints about problems with Nexus S smartphone connections and the deletion of photos taken with the devices, a Sprint spokesman said.

"We are aware of the connectivity reports being brought forward by a small number of Nexus S 4G customers," a Sprint spokesman said via email late yesterday. "Google, Sprint and Samsung are examining these reports and though we have not yet been able to identify any specific causes, we are working to determine exactly what our customers are experiencing."

Sprint began selling the Nexus S 4G May 8, although the reported problems are not specific to Sprint alone. Nexus S smartphones can be bought unlocked from any carrier and are sold by carriers around the globe in slightly different configurations, depending on the network.

Nexus S is an Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device, and some customers have blamed upgrades of other smartphones to Android 2.3 for similar problems. Two other major U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, did not respond to requests to comment, nor did Samsung or Google. An AT&T spokeswoman said that AT&T has not seen the problems.

Users for months have reported that their photos are being deleted from the Nexus S phones, according to various online user forums. Some have linked the missing photo problem with connections to a network, although there doesn't seem to a consistent explanation.

One UK-based Nexus S user said via email that he bought his device unlocked through Carphonewarehouse without a SIM card, although he uses the Orange network for connectivity.

The UK user, Julian Bhardwaj, described his problem this way: "Photos are randomly deleted from the phone. There seems to be no apparent pattern or cause to what or when photos are deleted, only that anyone using the Nexus S or a phone which they have upgraded to Android 2.3 has this issue. This problem seems to be ongoing since around the beginning of the year, just after Android 2.3 and the Nexus S was released.

"The only word from Google on this issue so far seems to be that the problem is not 'reproducible' so they cannot investigate it. For myself and many other Nexus S users, this is extremely frustrating. This is a critical flaw with the phone/operating system...."

Google's own mobile help form has a thread with 49 comments on the problem dating back to Jan. 3.

One person, "droid_ns," reported having 500-plus photos disappear from the Nexus S Gallery, and said: "This is unacceptable!"

A Google employee on the forum identified only as "MrEvan" apologized for the deleted photos on April 19, but said he wasn't "seeing a ton of consistency in reports" and asked for detailed information. "I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles here," MrEvan said. "I know how important photos are!"

On May 3, MrEvan posted: "Thanks for the responses. Seems like you are all having slight different experiences, but I'll pass your reports along and see what we can find!"

Some of the users on the forum reported using Sprint or T-Mobile USA as their carrier, but most did not indicate a carrier and blamed the problem on a bug in the Nexus S or Android 2.3 or both.

A developer forum, Forum.xda, also has comments regarding the problem, but only from March 2.

One user on the NexusOneForum, "jwagner3," indicated there could be some problem with missing photos that is related to the strength of the network connection being used. The commenter said that over a weak cellular signal at work, pictures appear to be missing, but at home on Wi-Fi, the pictures are all there.

Wi-Fi usually offers greater bandwidth for data than 3G cellular, and greater bandwidth is important to the transmission of photos and videos.

The Sprint spokesman said the Nexus S is one of Sprint's best selling devices and most users are "very happy" with their experience with it.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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