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Cellphones Bug

The Verizon Wireless HTC Eris 'Silent Call Bug' 274

Posted by kdawson
from the no-i-can't-hear-you-now dept.
Hall writes "In the last few months some users of Verizon Wireless HTC Eris phone models have encountered what's being called the 'silent call bug' with their phones. What has happened since the update to Android 2.1 is that some phones get dead silence (can't hear the person they call nor can the other end hear you). The only solution is to reboot the phone, though the problem will re-appear after some time. VZW tech support for a while was simply swapping out Eris phones in hopes that the replacement didn't have the same issue. Too many were, though, and now some users have been told they're not swapping anymore. A couple of days ago, a user witnessed a car accident and was unable to call 911. Well, at least not until after rebooting the phone."
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The Verizon Wireless HTC Eris 'Silent Call Bug'

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  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Sunday July 11, 2010 @02:52PM (#32868570) Homepage

    What good is a phonecall if you cannot speak?

    • Well, merely making a call can be enough to signal something. For example, a buddy and I want to get on the same bus, I call him when I'm near his stop and he doesn't have to pick up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851)
      In this day and age, chances are if you can call 911, even if you don't say anything, that they can use the devices GPS to find you. They do it precisely because they don't have any way of knowing whether or not you're dying in a ditch. That was the primary reason why GPS technology found its way into cell phones well before they gave people access to it.
      • by PitaBred (632671) <(slashdot) (at) (pitabred.dyndns.org)> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:12PM (#32868728) Homepage

        You're completely mistaken. Cell phones got GPS well after consumer units had appeared, because there were no small GPS chips that would easily be powered by a cell phone battery until relatively recently.

        The reason they could find your location before GPS was a thing called triangulation. They could (and still can on phones without GPS) check your signal strength to various towers to figure out where you are because they know the geographic location of all the towers.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          The Eris has GPS. No triangulation needed.
          • by Z00L00K (682162)

            But the phone company doesn't read the GPS - it's not in the phone network data. The GPS is a completely separate unit and is usually offline to save power.

            So the phone company still relies on triangulation and estimation of where you are using signal strength and cell data.

            • by tomhudson (43916)
              The phone company doesn't operate the 911 service - that's a private contractor.
              • by Z00L00K (682162)

                But the 911 service do get the data from the phone company. Cell Location Service is what the phone company provides using triangulation through cell lobe data and signal strength. It's an estimation of location so the precision may vary depending on terrain.

                • by tomhudson (43916)

                  ... and one of the things that they get is the caller number - even from a cell phone or VoIP call. And the operators have to deal with people who are unable to talk, possibly because they're injured. And if you hang up without saying anything, they'll call back, and if you don't answer, the police are sent.

                  The problem here is that the call never got made - the Eris "silent bug" is worse than making a call and not being able to be heard. If it were only that, 911 would have called back. They didn't. So at

                • by rhook (943951)

                  And one of the things the phone company provides is the gpsOne data, see my above post.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by rhook (943951)

              Yes they do, the phone reports GPS data to the gpsOne server that the provider operates. This data is mostly used by many applications and the E911 service.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GpsOne [wikipedia.org]

        • Let me give you some translations to help unwhoosh you.

          I had a Verizon phone with GPS but I could not get the data out, or you could say that I had no access to it.

          Also, some cell companies (such as AT&T) use the technology you mention, others do not have the capacity and instead use GPS. They were given the option, and they went various ways. Both have drawbacks: what if GPS doesn't have a signal? OR: What if you can only see one or two towers?

        • by Tintivilus (88810) <tintivilus@noSPAm.tintivilus.org> on Monday July 12, 2010 @12:04AM (#32871690)

          The reason they could find your location before GPS was a thing called triangulation. They could (and still can on phones without GPS) check your signal strength to various towers to figure out where you are because they know the geographic location of all the towers.

          Your description is correct, but that's not triangulation, it's trilateration. From signal strength one can derive a distance but not a direction. The technique is drawing circles of to see where they meet, rather than drawing lines to see where they cross.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anachragnome (1008495)

        "In this day and age, chances are if you can call 911, even if you don't say anything, that they can use the devices GPS to find you."

        Did the 911 call center actually get GPS coordinates though? I'd be interested in knowing how this looked from the their end. Did it look like a hang-up with no GPS data sent? Isn't the GPS data sent over the same data channel?

        • by icebike (68054) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:38PM (#32868938)

          Depends on the 911 system used. Some small departments don't have the money to upgrade their equipment. Really rural counties out west are simply using telephones with recorders attached.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mutube (981006)

          Did the 911 call center actually get GPS coordinates though? I'd be interested in knowing how this looked from the their end. Did it look like a hang-up with no GPS data sent? Isn't the GPS data sent over the same data channel?

          I used to work in an ambulance control in the UK and we received mobile phone location information through the same mechanism that gave lookups from phone numbers to street addresses. At the time I don't think GPS in phones was widely available, instead information was passed using a

      • by bdsesq (515351)

        In this day and age, chances are if you can call 911, even if you don't say anything, that they can use the devices GPS to find you. ....

        Yes but what if they send the police or a fire engine instead of an ambulance?
        Someone could die because the phone didn't work properly.

        This needs to be fixed.

      • by Atryn (528846)

        In this day and age, chances are if you can call 911, even if you don't say anything, that they can use the devices GPS to find you. They do it precisely because they don't have any way of knowing whether or not you're dying in a ditch.

        I'm not sure this is accurate, do you have a source? My understanding is that they use location (GPS or triangulation) only when they know the subject matter of the call. I very much doubt they will trace location and dispatch anyone with just dead silence on the line. D

    • ET [no] phone home.
  • Hail Eris (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 11, 2010 @02:54PM (#32868578)

    Calling a phone Eris is sort of asking for it..

  • by BitZtream (692029)

    Remember back when you had to find a land line to call for help?

    Now we're up in arms because a wireless device is not 100% reliable and it became very clear in an emergency situation.

    Does the public really expect their cell phones to flawlessly or have I been using smartphones so long that I just accept wireless devices suck still?

    • by erroneus (253617)

      That's an interesting question, but I will refer you to the laws Federal, State and Local to answer what peoples expectations should be.

      In any case, what we should expect, as consumers, for VZW to get serious about issuing fixes to issues they identified long ago. Swapping out phones is not the answer when it is a software problem and even BAD technicians know this much. VZW would rather waste the time and energy of its customers than spend money to fix a problem.

      • by tsotha (720379)
        They may not have known it was a software problem, though. Somebody comes in with a phone that doesn't work, you give them another and everything's fine. Sounds like a hardware problem.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Icebreaker (174863)
        I work for verizon wireless and yes verizon is wanting to fix this problem asap. the real problem though its not a network issue its a device issue and htc has their heads stuck up their ass and is not fixing it. Verizon cannot fix the issue since its a software issue and we don't make the software htc does. So blame htc and their shitty programming and poor quality control. So basically verizon is getting upset customers but has no resolution other than waiting for HTC to fix it.
    • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:24PM (#32868826) Journal

      Remember back when you had to find a land line to call for help?

      Now we're up in arms because a wireless device is not 100% reliable and it became very clear in an emergency situation.

      ... and those hard-wired phones would have been just as useless in this case - a car accident.

      ... and good luck calling 911 from outside your house to report that your house is on fire.

      Better to have something that works 99.999% of the time pretty much everywhere, than 99.999999% of the time in only one scenario.

      • by Fumus (1258966)

        ... and those hard-wired phones would have been just as useless in this case - a car accident.

        ... and good luck calling 911 from outside your house to report that your house is on fire.

        I didn't care to look it up, but if it happened on a highway, there are phone booths for emergency calls every kilometre or so.
        In case of a fire - that's what neighbours are for. They will call 911 unless they want their house to burn down next.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          I didn't care to look it up, but if it happened on a highway, there are phone booths for emergency calls every kilometre or so.

          That's not going to help if you're stuck in your car.

          In case of a fire - that's what neighbours are for. They will call 911 unless they want their house to burn down next.

          Or they're not home, or they're asleep, etc.

          Landlines are a dying breed. Only old folks and Koreans have them - and not so much the Koreans ...

        • ... and those hard-wired phones would have been just as useless in this case - a car accident.

          ... and good luck calling 911 from outside your house to report that your house is on fire.

          I didn't care to look it up, but if it happened on a highway, there are phone booths for emergency calls every kilometre or so. In case of a fire - that's what neighbours are for. They will call 911 unless they want their house to burn down next.

          No, no there are not. It depends on the highway and area. It is not a given (at least in the US). For instance, in NY, on I87 (the Northway, above Albany - not the NY Throughway south of Albany), emergency phones dont start until roughly exit 23 (or 45 miles north of Albany) - at which point, they are two miles away (or, inotherwords, if you pick the correct direction to walk, less than a mile - incorrect direction means up to two miles).

          Anyway, the point being, like I87 (in New York alone) with over 200

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Your use of 'kilometre' suggests you are not familiar with the dearth of payphones in the United States. A handful of highways here and there have emergency call boxes, but they are rare. (Former OTR truck driver, I've seen more US highways than 99.999% of Slashdot readers.)

      • by cynyr (703126)
        good thing in most urban areas, there are places with phones overlooking the accident, and you usually have neighbors taht will let you use their phone at 3AM if your house is one fire next to theirs.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:33PM (#32868898)

      Flawless, no. But it's a reasonable expectation that your phone should have a failure rate comparable to other phones on the market. It's also reasonable that if a problem exists that puts the failure rate of your device well outside industry norms (think xbox360) the device will be repaired or fixed both for free and in a reasonable timeframe.

      In canada for example we have laws that require cell phones, even ones not attached to a plan, and with no carrier, can connect to 911. It's a nightmare for 911 if they call and cannot give a location, but if I buy a cellphone in canada I can expect that it will connect to 911. I don't know if we have rules about downtime, dropped calls or silent calls, but I'm sure there are large tomes of requirements that all the companies have to comply to for all sorts of stuff. I can expect that those will be followed, or the CRTC/FCC will send in the lawyers.

      Cars get recalled for defects/repairs, so do drinking glasses from MacDonalds and children's toys, my cell phone falls somewhere between those points on a spectrum of cost and utility, and yes, your life can depend on it, just because we 'got by' with landline phones doesn't mean they didn't cost lives, there just wasn't anything you could do about it.

      I took my battle.net authenticator off my iPhone and got a physical one precisely because as you say, smartphones fail a lot, I've had to reinstall the OS 3 or 4 times so far (iPhone 3g) and it spent 14 hours updating to iOS4. Not exactly my idea of a reliable device. But my GF has a nokia dumbphone, which has never had an OS update, and never needed a reboot, so maybe since my phone cost 10x as much as hers, (+ data plan) I can expect better reliability, and won't be looking to apple to replace my smartphone. People don't buy a Lexus rather than a regular old toyota for the fun of it, premium markets (which I count smart phones as part of) do still have problems, but you're paying for more functionality, not less, and a phone that can't make calls is by definition less functional.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MartinSchou (1360093)

        but you're paying for more functionality, not less, and a phone that can't make calls is by definition less functional.

        I hate to tell you this, mate, but a phone that can't make phone calls is, by definition, not a phone.

        • but you're paying for more functionality, not less, and a phone that can't make calls is by definition less functional.

          I hate to tell you this, mate, but a phone that can't make phone calls is, by definition, not a phone.

          While I understand your sentiment, you are incorrect, just as back in the day when people used to buy hardwired phones for their house, they were phones from the time they were built right up until they were brought home and plugged in. They didnt magically become phones only after Ma Bell managed to bring service to the house and the owner plugged in the phone.

          Before that or after that (working phone line, or signal in the case of cell), they were useless phones (at least for making calls), but phones no

      • by mgblst (80109)

        In canada for example we have laws that require cell phones, even ones not attached to a plan, and with no carrier, can connect to 911.

        Can you really be so ignorant to think this is only in Canada, and not enforced in the entire planet? Every single cell phone has to be able to call the emergency number (911, 112) even without a sim card.

    • by icebike (68054) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:42PM (#32868958)

      Remember back when you had to find a land line to call for help?

      Now we're up in arms because a wireless device is not 100% reliable and it became very clear in an emergency situation.

      Does the public really expect their cell phones to flawlessly or have I been using smartphones so long that I just accept wireless devices suck still?

      We expect phones to work for their intended purpose.

      Being able to make a call and then not hear anything isn't acceptable. Occasionally you can't call due to reception problems, everybody understands that. But being able to complete a call and not hear is clearly a warranty issue.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @04:17PM (#32869194)

        I think part of the problem is too many people view phones as toys first and phones second. People get extremely bitchy if they can't have games and cameras and all that other shit on their phones. The market for "Just a phone" phones has nearly completely disappeared, nobody wants to buy them even if they cost less.

        Way too many people I encounter buy phones based on their shiny features, and never consider call quality. Ex-roommate of mine was completely unintelligible on his phone. The thing had a totally crap microphone and looking online, that was a common problem with the phone. He just texted all the time. My though it "Why the fuck would you get it?"

        Personally I've become a real fan of my Curve 8330 because of this. It is a smart phone, but the phone features seem to work no matter what and are not interfered with by anything else. Had good call quality and a decent antenna too (as well as being nice and cheap). Not the shiniest toy around, I don't have an ultra high rez touch screen, but I can pick up the phone and make a damn call when I want to.

        I'm certainly not opposed to smart phones, obviously I have one, but I think consumers need to spend a little more time looking at the phone side of things and less time worrying about the shiny. If consumers start caring more about the phone, so will the manufacturers.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Exactly so.

          I happen to know the CEO of a regional carrier.

          His opinion was that the load up features on these phones in the hope that people will not notice the horrible call quality and high call failure rate.

          On the other hand....
          Its still amazing that they work at all when you get right down to it. A largely self managed radio in your hand, serviced by towers handling hundreds of thousands of phones with th vast majority of calls completed successfully.

        • by Derosian (943622)
          Not everyone has 100 dollars of disposable income they can drop on a low level smart phone.
          • $30 was the cost, in fact (well $30 and change). Also if you have the disposable income to buy a high end, shiny smartphone like the iPhone or whatnot you for sure have the money to buy a Curve instead.

            As for regular phones, I don't know, I haven't looked at them but I bet you can find one that makes good calls. Probably doesn't have so many shiny features as its similar competitors. More money probalby went in to the antenna and less to the Brew games, but I bet it is out there. More would be out there if

      • We expect phones to work for their intended purpose.

        Being able to make a call and then not hear anything isn't acceptable. Occasionally you can't call due to reception problems, everybody understands that. But being able to complete a call and not hear is clearly a warranty issue.

        Weren't you paying attention? Phones are software now. That means there's no implied warranty of fitness for a particular purchase -- it's in the click-through you agree to when you first boot up your phone.

        I don't know if that's actually true or not - but I wouldn't be surprised to find that it is; or will soon become so. There's presumably no flaw in the hardware in this situation, which would put the bug firmly in the realm of software...

    • by bonch (38532) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:46PM (#32868986)

      Well, yeah. If you pay for a cell phone, you have a reasonable expectation that it's going to work. Your argument is like saying we shouldn't care about leaks in the roofs of our houses because our ancestors used to live outside.

    • Remember back when you had to physically visit a police station to get help?

      Now we're up in arms because an electro-magnetic device device is not 100% reliable and it became very clear in an emergency situation.

      Does the public really expect their telephones to flawlessly[sic] or have I been using landlines so long that I just accept electrical devices suck still?

      Cell phones are mature technology. They're no longer rocket surgery. We expect consumer wireless phones to offer basic connectivity 99+% of the time, because this is well within the realm of feasibility.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      I would expect my cell phone to work flawless for it's main function, making phone calls, provided there's no hardware defect, it has power, a working tower is in reach, and the network is not overloaded. I accept that non-core functionality may fail. I won't accept if the one defining functionality, which is making phone calls, doesn't work due to design or implementation defects. That's a proven technology, it's no rocket science, and it should be tested like hell.

    • by vtcodger (957785)

      ***Does the public really expect their cell phones to flawlessly or have I been using smartphones so long that I just accept wireless devices suck still?***

      I don't suppose that the fact the phone doesn't work for non-emergency calls either would have any affect on your opinion? I submit that just maybe, possibly, at times, this particular phone model actually does suck a bit.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Remember back when you had to find a land line to call for help?

      Remember back when land lines were on almost every street corner?

      Now we're up in arms because a wireless device is not 100% reliable and it became very clear in an emergency situation.

      Because the telephone companies have removed almost all of the payphones?

    • by reub2000 (705806)
      I expect them to work with a reasonable level or reliability, but so far I've been sorely disappointed. Currently I have a Sony W518 that will just randomly become unresponsive for 30-60 seconds. Before that I had a Nokia 6555 that would randomly claim that there was no SIM card in the phone, requiring a reboot. The thought that my life could depend on these devices is a very scary thought indeed.
  • ha (Score:3, Funny)

    by papasui (567265) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:00PM (#32868636) Homepage
    Steve Jobs is a moron for making such a shitty phone! Oh wait...
    • One minor difference is of course - the Eris is free with the contract :).

      Still no excuse, but it sounds like a software problem and not a hardware design flaw.

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      ...well, everybody has access to the source code; just fix it yourself already!

  • payback (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:01PM (#32868650) Homepage Journal
    I recall many were saying that the problem with iPhone was that it was too hard to use as a phone. Well, at least, if you went through all the hoops, the iPhone actually works. The biggest issue is dropped calls, in which case you just call the person back.

    A reboot indicates something like a memory leak. Hardware problems would not be reliably fixed. This is certainly some brain dead software error, a case of development focusing on the bells and whistle, and not core functionality. Everyone is so wrapped up in the tethering and Apps, that they forgot they were building a phone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Tethering is an almost effortless addition to a phone that already uses the internet. Apps are for the most part developed by 3rd party members that never even contributed to the core functionality of the phone to begin with.

      To blame this problem on the development of apps and tethering is silly, and I think the only reason you mentioned tethering was because that's one thing the iPhone lacks.

      • by papasui (567265)
        Iphone has had tethering for at least a year in the native software, but feel free to carry on with your uniformed opinions.
    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      By coincidence, a friend of mine had his iPhone crash when calling 911 last week. It was admittedly one he found on the ground beside a sidewalk, but seemed to be in decent shape. I think it will take a few years before everybody gets all the bugs worked out of the underlying operating systems.
    • This is certainly some brain dead software error, a case of development focusing on the bells and whistle, and not core functionality.

      That kind of reminds me of a mobile phone ad I saw in the EU a while back. The basic gist was about all of these features the phone had, camera, video, etc. At the end they asked "But can you make a phone call with it?" I think that seems to be lost on many smart phones. They can do all this crap, but miss that the fundamental use of a phone is to make calls. I've seen several phones that had awful call quality, or required way too many steps to actually make a call. I would think that the telephone part wo

    • Re:payback (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @05:12PM (#32869556)

      When all the 39 different Android phone models are having the same issue, then may be you'd have a point, but the thing is the Droid Eris is only one phone, and a low end one at that (low resolution, low 5 MP camera, no 4G, slow CPU from an older architecture, no physical keyboard, very cheap price).

      Gloating about the problems of the Droid Eris would be like an Apple-hater gloating about the fact that the iPod Shuffle is a piece of crap. That very well may be true, but it's not very relevant to the users that only buy the higher end flagship devices for themselves (and would only give the cheaper iPod Shuffles to their six year old kids anyway).

      • by Lifyre (960576)

        It's actually not JUST the Eris, it's most prominent in the Eris. There have been reports on many of the HTC phones including the Nexus One and the Hero. I own an Eris and love the thing. I'd love it more if I hadn't screwed my chances at root up with the 2.1 leak. Oh and I don't have the silent call issue as far as I know.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        low resolution, low 5 MP camera,

        Since when was 5 megapixels "low resolution"? With this type of phone camera, that's pretty much beyond what the optical system of the tiny lens can resolve. And on a proper camera with decent optics, 5MP is enough to create great results.

    • I never heard about or experienced any of those call problems, but then I've been using the iPhone 2G in Australia for the last 3 years. Maybe it's a carrier-related problem?

  • Obvious... (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:16PM (#32868768) Homepage Journal

    You're dialing it wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:27PM (#32868856)
    Heck, I have been rebooting my Windows Mobile phones for years to make calls. The competitors are only now catching up?
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:39PM (#32868948)

    ...what about an Eris owner trying to call a left-handed iPhone 4 owning friend who just happens to be holding his iPhone 4 by the wrong corner at that particular moment - they have *NO* hope of talking to each other.

  • Nexus One (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nrgy (835451) * on Sunday July 11, 2010 @03:48PM (#32868996) Homepage
    I had this very same problem with my Nexus One. Even worse rebooting did not always solve the issue.

    I bought my Nexus at launch and while I was happy with it at first, the past few months it just started acting crazy. Icons on the desktop would open a different application, the issue from the article, the keyboard opening when a phone call was coming in "you couldnt slide to answer because it was ontop".

    After all that and more, once the lock button on my Nexus started to give out I just went back to my iPhone.
  • Maybe all of those Android fans of Verizon shouldn't have been making fun of the iPhone. Payback is a bitch.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mmcxii (1707574)
      More like being a fanboi makes you a bitch.

      Every product has defects, every product has failures. Its a fact. Creating great expectations from any product or brand is setting oneself up for disappointment.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      What percentage of new Android phone models have issues compared to 100% of the new iPhone models?

      Regardless, the lesson is the same. Dont buy unreviewed hardware.
  • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @04:08PM (#32869104)
    Can you hear me now?
    ...
    ....
    *bzzzzzzzz*
  • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @04:55PM (#32869446)
    At the ripe old age of 24, even I find this ridiculous. If cell phone programmers designed commercial autopilots, no one in their right mind would fly. If they designed ECU software for Toyotas, oh wait.
  • I've had this problem with every phone I've owned since 2003.

    I'll be someplace where I know there is a strong signal. I'll try and try and try to either (a) dial or (b) connect to some site. After 3-6 tries with no luck I reboot the phone and it immediately works.

    This was true for me with a Sharp phone, 2 Casio phones, a Sony Ericsson phone, an Apple iPhone 3G and my Nexus One.

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @06:00PM (#32869878) Journal
    Were they holding it wrong?
  • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @06:13PM (#32869958)

    Someone has officially outdone the iPhone 4. Apple is going to have to work hard to compete with this one. Perhaps hiding the phone dialer entirely until a reboot?

  • I'd call it silent but deadly.

If it's worth hacking on well, it's worth hacking on for money.

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