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Samsung's Latest Note 7 Battery Fix Violates Android Compatibility Docs (arstechnica.com) 117

Over the past few days, we have extensively talked about the Galaxy Note 7 -- and its faulty battery. Amid announcements of a global recall, Samsung noted that it is rolling out a firmware update to let users know if their device is affected by the faulty battery. If the battery icon on the device turns green, it means the device is safe to use. The problem is that according to Google's Android Compatibility Definition Document, a set of guidelines that Google imposes on every OEM that opts for Google Mobile Services-enabled Android aren't supposed to tinker with things like battery icon. ArsTechnica reports:In the CDD, Google also defines some of the interface design -- usually the parts apps need to interact with, like the System UI and shared theme assets. This includes mandating the color of the status bar icons, which seems to throw a wrench in Samsung's publicized plans. The section titled "3.8.6. Themes" reads: "Android device implementations MUST use white for system status icons (such as signal strength and battery level) and notifications issued by the system, unless the icon is indicating a problematic status or an app requests a light status bar using the SYSTEM_UI_FLAG_LIGHT_STATUS_BAR flag." Google spells it out pretty clearly: status bar icons have to be white. They aren't allowed to be green, which is the color Samsung plans to use in a future update.
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Samsung's Latest Note 7 Battery Fix Violates Android Compatibility Docs

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So what?

  • No, it's fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 19, 2016 @02:36PM (#52918831)

    unless the icon is indicating a problematic status

    Right. The icon *is* indicating a problematic status: The device is using a battery which might explode.

    • The device is using a battery which might explode.

      That describes every electronic device made today. Except some explode more often than others.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      No its not indicating a problem status.

      Its green if the device is safe. Effectively and everything is ok alarm.

      Why they would not make the update show the battery icon as red or have a ! accross it or something if the device has one of the faulty batteries escapes me. That would both comply with Googles license and probably make people with the faulty batteries take more notice.

  • Android usage terms and conditions probably need updating to allow changes which are necessary to ensure product safety. It has been shown that Note 7 devices with a white power icon may be unsafe whilst replacements with the green icon are safe to use. The ball is in Googles court.

    • Not really. Google will probably go, "Welp, we're not telling you not to prevent people from blowing up their pants."
    • Android usage terms and conditions probably need updating to allow changes which are necessary to ensure product safety.

      Changing the system tray icon color might be the best way to indicate safety to the user, but it's hardly the only way to do it. Therefore, you can't really claim the changes are "necessary," which means Google doesn't "need" to do anything.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @03:40PM (#52919347)

      The problem is that according to Google's Android Compatibility Definition Document, a set of guidelines that Google imposes on every OEM that opts for Google Mobile Services-enabled Android aren't supposed to tinker with things like battery icon.

      I agree that, under normal circumstances, Samsung should get dinged for something like this. But the problem is Samsung's copy of this document got destroyed in a fire.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh boy, and I thought this world has important problems to solve

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Oh boy, and I thought this world has important problems to solve

      When why are you wasting time complaining on Slashdot instead of going out to solve those problems?

  • Seriously, if they're going to push out an alert, it needs to go to the people with explodey batteries, and leave people with OK batteries out of it. A nice big popup reading "This device has been recalled due to exploding. Please return it to the store you purchased it from" that cycles through a few dozen languages and cannot be dismissed except to use the phone.

    • How do you know if you have a safe phone or just haven't gotten the notification?
      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        How do you know if you have an unsafe phone if you don't read slashdot and don't know your battery indicator is supposed to turn green if you're OK?

        • This.
          I think a popup is the way to go.
          If you need some indicator to show other people, put it in the settings menu.
          A tiny thing like the battery changing green could mean that the battery is fully charged or something.
          Red could be interpreted as it needs charging.
          This is probably why google doesn't want companies messing with the battery indicator.
        • At that point it doesn't much matter. Indicator turned green for unknown reason.

          What if you know the phone might be bad, and the indicator doesn't indicate that it's validated it's a safe phone? Is it safe? Did the roll-out miss you? You need some kind of visual confirmation that the test has been done and came back clean, or else you're still in an unknown and unsafe state.

  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @02:42PM (#52918871)
    THOSE DIRTY BASTARDS!!! They had the temerity to violate a minor rule in an unenforceable voluntary standard to fix an actual operator safety issue! What gall.

    Really though, nobody should care one bit about this. The violation is that the icon is green under normal conditions. Turning red when unsafe is standards-compliant, but the green normal state isn't. The problem is that a white normal state provides no confirmation to the user that the battery status has been checked at all. Turning green confirms that the check has been performed and the result was acceptable. Could they have used some other method of indicating this? Sure, but it would have been more intrusive and less clear to the user. This is simple and elegant, and addresses a problem that the standards writers certainly never anticipated. It's a great solution, really. Why would anyone object?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's a great solution, really. Why would anyone object?

      Because this is Ars Technica we're talking about. Mental flexibility isn't one of their strengths.

    • by Balial ( 39889 )

      Changing the icon is a great solution to what, exactly?

      It doesn't prevent customer phones from blowing up. It might imply that any phone that doesn't have the special colored icon is liable to explode, something I'm sure competitors would rather not have happen.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why would anyone object?

      The red-green blind would object.. :)

  • Why use the battery icon anyway? Seems to me that I'm less likely to be looking at that icon when the phone is in my pocket, which just so happens to be the time that really want it to not explode. If there were a loud siren when it started getting to hot, or whatever signals the icon reacts to, that'd be much better. Or maybe just turn the thing off? But an ICON???
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Why use the battery icon anyway? Seems to me that I'm less likely to be looking at that icon when the phone is in my pocket, which just so happens to be the time that really want it to not explode. If there were a loud siren when it started getting to hot, or whatever signals the icon reacts to, that'd be much better. Or maybe just turn the thing off? But an ICON???

      It's not meant to be a warning that the battery is actively failing, it's to indicate whether or not your device has the faulty battery so you know if you need to get it replaced -- or keep it out of your pocket.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why would Samsung care? They have never used Google's interface for any of their phones. Who cares if they violet Google's UI color rules when they reskin everything anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    i got cancer reading this. people are dying in other countries.

  • Priorities? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jetkust ( 596906 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @02:46PM (#52918897)
    So changing the color of the icon violates the policy but blowing up the phone doesn't?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The color of smoke emitted by the exploding phones meets the specs, so it's okay.

    • Lawyers can't think of everything.
      That will be covered in the next version.

    • I wish I still had mod points. Most insightful comment in the thread. Actually if we just edit the summary to include your comment at the end, then no one else would need to comment at all. Props.
  • ... if it is does not pass. Then the fact that they changed its color is indicative of a real problem, and thus not breaking the standard.
    • No. You're not thinking here. The turning red would be great, so just go back in time and make it work that way. There's no way to get that update on all the phones that may explode this late in the game. You need a positive confirmation, not an unachievable negative confirmation.
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        There's no way to get an update on all the phones that won't explode either. An app could be used to provide positive confirmation if that is needed.
        • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

          And 3 seconds later there'd be 50 more apps just like it. Prank your friends with an alert that the phone is going to explode! Use your phone on an airplane with this app that claims the battery is fine!

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )
            The app wouldn't change the color of the battery icon... that would be done by the update, if it were to get installed. The app could just provide confirmation that the update was installed and everything is performing as expected as a positive affirmation if that is required. Meanwhile, people who have vulnerable phones that have installed the update have a visible cue that they need to get theirs replaced.
  • Sorry, maintaining full android "compatibility" on a product you are recalling anyway is not more important than safety.

    • But Google may want to separate itself from Samsung shame. Being that Samsung has typically been Googles main device having thier flagship OS being part of the exploding phones, Google may be ready to nitpick on details to show that Samsung wasn't using the Real Android but an unsupported hack.

      There was an issue a while back with iPhones exploding because of 3rd party chargers, being that these were unapproved chargers Apple was able to distance itself from the problems.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Why don't they just lock the phone up for all but emergency calling instead of playing with the battery icon color?

  • Would you be able to tell if the icon is green instead of white?

    I'm not color blind, but depending on the saturation of the green and the viewing conditions I don't think I'd be able to reliably determine the color of a small green icon versus a small white icon.

    • Are you sure you're not partially color blind? Green looks very little like white. And they're trying to be noticed (to prove you've received the "safe or not" update), so I doubt they're going for subtle.

      • Yes, I'm certain, I've been tested.

        I also work with displays for mobile devices professionally and operate them under more extreme scenarios that most end users.

  • Set a permanent notification on phones that says the phone has the newer, safer battery. I have a couple of notifications that are always there when I swipe down to view them. If someone needs to prove they have an the new battery they can show the notification. Then when there's an update to a newer OS version is installed the notification can be removed, or not. Oh, wait, when will Samsung update the OS?
  • by fwc ( 168330 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @03:30PM (#52919263)
    So, they can't change the icon color. So, instead, they should just include a flaming phone icon. That should convey it perfectly.
    • Honestly it should just shutoff. The thing is a fire hazard, and if the system knows this and persists in operating without user intervention I can imagine a lawsuit painting Samsung liable for damages. We don't know how long an interval would be between a bad battery icon and an exploding battery. It could be days, hours, minutes...
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission did a mandatory recall, right?

    • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @04:25PM (#52919661) Journal

      A mandatory recall means the seller must ask the buyer to return them. It's still up to the buyer to do so. It's not mandatory in the sense that jackbooted thugs come to your house, take your phone, and hand you a check from Samsung in the middle of the night.

      • Just to further clarify:

        For consumer products, recall participation by consumers is often as low as 10%, for cars the numbers are 15-70%, depending how much publicity the issue has received.

        For instance, for the GM ignition switch recall that was all over the news for a LONG time, GM has been touting a 70% participation rate. That means 30% of the cars which could lock your steering wheel at speed and kill you are still on the road in that state in spite of a free fix from the manufacturer.

        I bet Samsung's r

  • I guess blue is okay because that's the color the signal strength icons (wifi and cell) on my official Galaxy Nexus turn to with an internet connection, which just happens to be very convenient.


  • "Beleaguered" used to be a word I reserved for Blackberry/RIM.
    Now I can use it for Samsung.
  • Problem: Phone catches on fire and explodes.

    Solution: Added new "Battery on fire" battery icon status.

    Problem solved!

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