Bug alert: emoji abuse can make the new Hangouts app temporarily unusable

by: Bogdan PetrovanNovember 11, 2013

hangouts app

Google’s Hangouts app for Android received a nice update in the days ahead of the KitKat launch, that brought the feature that we’ve all been clamoring for so long – SMS integration. But it looks like a curious little bug found its way in along the good stuff, one that could render the app at least temporarily unusable.

Discovered by redditor Recon0212 and his colleagues, the bug causes the Hangouts app to force close and then fail to restart when large numbers of emoji emoticons are sent in a group chat. Recon0212’s teammate supposedly sent over ten pages of emoji in a group chat that involved twelve people, which caused the app to crash on everyone’s Android devices. Worse, the Hangouts app then failed to log in properly, effectively becoming unusable.

There’s a solution though: Recon0212 was able to log in the web interface of Hangouts and leave the group chat that caused the crash. After that, he was able to restart normally. Clearing application data or restarting the device didn’t fix the problem. We weren’t able to reproduce the bug in a two-user chat, though the app became sluggish, so this may primarily affect group conversations.

This may not seem a major bug, but some less scrupulous users could use it on purpose to disable some other users’ app, at least temporarily. The problem is even more serious when you consider that Hangouts replaces the SMS app in KitKat.

There’s a fix coming: Googler and frequent Reddit user Dan Morrill spotted the thread and was able to reproduce it with the PM of the Hangouts app. A fix will probably come soon, but until then you should be aware that a solution exists in case you fall victim to a prank.

  • Brendan Higgins

    Another bug: I have the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and am running 4.1.2, I recently updated my hangouts app and it says that 4.0 and above will get SMS integration. I still do not have SMS integration and it is quite frankly, confusing me.

    • BTravis

      You might have to turn the feature on in the HangOuts app settings menu.
      When I installed HangOuts the feature needed to be enabled.

      • Brendan Higgins

        The problem is, there is no way to turn the feature on in the settings. I watched every single video possible on how to turn on the setting, and the setting that they are saying to turn on is simply not there.

        • Tehki1

          The new version might not have been rolled out to your phone. To check which version you have go in to the hangouts app, then press Menu > Settings > A bout hangouts. If you don’t have version 2.0.122 then you most likely have the old version 1.x.xxxx . only version 2+ supports SMS etc.

    • jimmy

      same story here. no new options either Have note 2 same android version updated hangouts and nothing. No sms options….

  • pjlk

    Time for them to fix this bug and add few features to be full fledged SMS app. Like:
    Lock screen notification (not just the icon at the notif. bar.)
    Colorz!! xD

  • utilitybelt

    I have a nexus 4 and had to update hangouts via the apk as opposed to using the play store. The play store said I had the new version but there was no SMS integration. When I used the apk it updated correctly.

  • gommer strike

    And they need to not separate the SMS thread. They should merely color SMS messages a slightly different color to denote that it’s an SMS message, and keep everything together.

    OH, and they need to enable per-contact SMS tones! This is crucial for those of us who are on-call 24/7 365 and need to be able to tell the difference between a text from a friend, and a text from work.