An image of a seemingly innocent natural landscape has been reported to render Android smartphones unusable if saved as a wallpaper.
The so-called ‘cursed image’ of a pretty lake surrounded by mountains and trees affects a number of Android devices including those made by OnePlus, Google Pixels and especially Samsung Galaxy devices.
If the image is downloaded and saved as a wallpaper, it apparently activates a bug in the device's Android software that ‘bricks’ the phone, which means the handset cant be switched on or used at all. In some cases it seems the phone ends up being 'soft-bricked'. This means that while it looks like you can still use your phone, it will repeatedly crash, display an error screen and pretty much be unusable.
This bizarre bug was first reported on Twitter by ‘Ice Universe’, a user famed for leaks and inside info.
Soon many other Android users with various different devices replied to the tweet and confirmed the problem.
It seems that the cursed photo affects devices running the Android 10 operating system.
But what causes the problem in the first place? How can a simple photo of a lake render a phone unusable?
According to the Android Authourity website, this particular photo’s RGB colour spacing can't be processed by Android’s software, so as it keeps trying, and falling, to process the image it eventually just crashes into its ‘brick’ state.
The worry now is that since the cursed photo is out in circulation, malicious pranksters will use it to trick people into downloading the image and unwittingly bricking their phones. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a fix for the bug yet either.
However, Google is aware of the issue so it will surely rectify the problem with an update soon.
That said, Samsung blog SamMobile suggests that editing the image even slightly should make it safe as long as you do it before you set it as your wallpaper. Apparently, some Android users affected by the bug have also safely got out of ‘soft bricking’ by launching their device in Safe Mode and setting the wallpaper with a default option.
Of course, the easy way of avoiding the problem is to simply avoid the cursed photo all together - whatever you do, do not download it and set it as your wallpaper. You have been warned.
In another twist of the tale of the cursed photograph, the BBC has tracked down the man responsible for the image. It was taken by one Gaurav Agrawal, an amateur photographer and scientist from San Diego.
Guarav originally uploaded the image on the website Flickr, where he has 10,000 followers. Of course, he had no idea the image could cause so much chaos and told the BBC "I didn't do anything intentionally, I'm sad that people ended up having issues. I didn't know the format would do this, I have an iPhone. I hoped my photograph would have gone 'viral' for a good reason, but maybe that's for another time."