Critical RF interference bug effectively renders European model useless.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus hit by hardware flaw

The newly released European version of the first Android 4.0 device, Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, suffers from a universal hardware flaw that results in erratic volume control behavior.

Officially released last Friday, the latest Nexus-branded Android super phone began shipping Monday and was immediately greeted by a chorus of complaints of widely varying volume control during calls.

Samsung has so far failed to respond to the issue although one anecdotal report on the smartphone enthusiast forum XDA Dev suggested that Samsung UK’s retail support team were telling British retailers that the flaw was likely Google’s fault and that the company was waiting for a response.

However collaborative testing on Android forums by new Galaxy Nexus owners has since revealed the scale of the problem. It now seems likely that every Galaxy Nexus is affected and that the flaw is most likely hardware related. Evidence for that comes from the observation that the Galaxy Nexus exhibits the same fault even in bootloader mode, before Google’s brand new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has even loaded.

Galaxy Nexus owners further narrowed down the fault to the use of 900MHz 2G networks with the devices essentially operating trouble free if connected to 3G or using a different frequency. However another phone operating on the 900MHz band in close proximity to the Galaxy Nexus has also been shown to make the phone exhibit the same fault.

The Galaxy Nexus version in the US, armed with the 4G LTE mobile standard and twice the memory, apparently does not suffer from the flaw suggesting that Samsung’s redesign of the model by the European GSM/HSPA+ market has introduced the bug.

Possible causes include interference to the GPIO circuitry connected to the volume control buttons or interference with a noise cancellation systems. While it’s not impossible that a firmware fix might resolve the issue, susceptibility to external 900MHz transmissions is sadly cause to be pessimistic in that regard.

At least one major online retailer has stopped shipping the smartphones to customers. Handtec announced the firm was putting shipments on hold although they also claimed that not all stock was affected by the flaw.

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