A bug that prevented a small number of Android users from calling emergency services if they had Microsoft Teams installed and were not signed in has been fixed in the latest version of the app.
Google on Friday confirmed the bug after an investigation and said it had been able to replicate the problem “under a limited set of circumstances.” The company determined that the issue had been caused by an unintended reaction between the Microsoft Teams app and the Android operating system. Both Google and Microsoft had prioritised the issue, Google said, and advanced that there would an update to Teams to address it.
On its side, Google said it would be rolling out an update to Android on Jan. 4. The company said it was only aware of one user that had been affected by the bug, but nonetheless encouraged users with Teams installed on any device running Android 10 and above to update the app as soon as possible. (Before Microsoft updated the app, Google was advising users to uninstall and reinstall Teams to fix the problem in the interim).
The bug was originally flagged by a user on Reddit with a Pixel 3 running Android 11. In late November, they had to contact emergency services to request an ambulance because they believed their grandmother was having a stroke. According to the user’s account, their phone froze after one ring even though it appeared to have a call running in the background. While the user said the Pixel informed them that their location had been sent to emergency services, they were unable to speak to an emergency services operator.
After trying again to no avail, the user decided to call emergency services on their grandmother’s landline. They noted that they do not have a landline at home and needed to be able to trust that their phone was going to be able to make emergency phone calls.
“I’ll let you know from experience that the last thing you want to go wrong during an actual emergency is your phone to mess up,” the user wrote. “Especially when time is of the essence, and the faster you get emergency services to your door, the more likely it is that you will survive.”
I totally agree with the Reddit user here. I also don’t have a landline at home and would be at a loss at how to get in touch with emergency services in this situation. I would probably knock on all my neighbours’ doors until I found a phone that worked, which is added stress you don’t need in an emergency.
Thankfully, the bug seems to have only affected one user who managed to find a solution, but the idea of this being a problem on a massive scale is truly frightening. It’s also a reminder of how much humanity has come to rely on technology and how helpless we can be when it fails.
“You know it’s amazing how a phone can bring feelings of safety, and how shockingly unsafe one feels when they know their phone is royally effed,” the user wrote in an update to their Reddit post after Google responded to the issue.