Qualcomm’s Gimbal, which operate using iBeacon technology, has been found to give Android fits. While the actual iBeacon tech is iOS only, those with Android devices around Qualcomm’s Gimbal beacon hardware are being pinged to the point of device death. In the video below, you see a Gimbal trying to contact an Android device so much it actually kills Bluetooth, forcing a factory reset.
If you’re unfamiliar with iBeacon and Gimbal, it’s interesting technology that has a lot of interesting use cases. We’ve covered it several times, and find it one of the better future-tech platforms around. Using your proximity to the hardware, Gimbal can push necessary notifications, which can range from a coupon to emergency info. Perhaps because we’re in the early days of the beacon tech, it isn’t playing nice with Android.
The video is pretty straightforward, where a patron to Dodger Stadium finds a Gimbal beacon trying to feed his device info, but as he has a Galaxy S handset, it won’t work. Eventually, Bluetooth is killed entirely, with no hope of return. He also says a factory reset was in order to restore balance to his phone.
We reached out to Qualcomm, and their statement is below. It asks as many questions as it answers:
While the overall Gimbal context aware platform supports iOS and Android, Gimbal proximity beacons today only support iOS. We are aware of an issue within Android and have been working with Google to address in their next software release. We look forward to Gimbal proximity beacons being supported by Android in the near future.
Of course, the easy thing to do is turn Bluetooth off while near Gimbal devices, but that’s not desirable. If you use a bluetooth headset at the park, this may end up disrupting that, killing Bluetooth altogether. We can safely assume, given Qualcomm’s statement, this affects all Android devices, not just Samsung or a certain Android build.
Given that we’re not clear on when the next iteration of Android is actually coming out, this is all still up in the air. It’s not even certain this will be clarified with Android 4.4.4 (or whatever they call it). As Gimbal and iBeacon continue to grow in popularity, gaining more and more venue support all the time, Google will need to act to fix this for Android. Perhaps it’s instances like this that cause iBeacon to be iOS only.
We’ve reached out to Qualcomm for further clarification, and will update this post should we hear from them.
Update: Qualcomm got back to us. It seems as if the video depicts a scenario your average Android user (that's you and me) are simply not going to bump into. In our experience with Gimbal, the video depicts a situation we've not seen on stock hardware and software configurations. It's not clear what the user's setup was.
There is not an issue in using Android devices where Gimbal beacons are active. To be clear, Gimbal beacons are compliant with the Bluetooth 4.0 specification. The video is portraying someone using development software that is actively searching for Bluetooth Smart Devices. They’ve effectively constructed a scenario that is designed to show an issue that a typical Android user will not run into.