Much of what’s new in Android 8.0, now officially named Oreo, has already been dug up in the betas leading to yesterday’s launch. It seems, however, that Google managed to sneak in a new feature that deserves a bit more attention. The oddly named “Rescue Party” tries to save phones from bootloops and potentially save Google, or one of its OEMs, from class action lawsuits. That said, it isn’t yet time to party as this hidden feature is far from being a panacea.
Bootloops, where a device is helplessly stuck in an endless cycle of booting and rebooting, has been at the heart of lawsuits hurled against LG, Huawei, and Google, particularly in cases where Nexus devices are involved. In some cases, the error might be the user’s fault, after needlessly tinkering with the smartphone. In a lot of cases, however, the cause might actually be deeper.
Rescue Party practically only solves the first case, or at least the easiest ones. In practice, what it does is to try to recover the device’s last known working state at different levels. If the bootloop isn’t fixed on one level, Rescue Party goes deeper and wider. Each level might involve wiping data clean, so you could end up with a factory reset. That, however, is better than ending up with paperweight.
To some extent, Rescue Party is rather simplistic and almost crude. The way it is activated isn’t exactly a stroke of genius either. Rescue Party kicks in when the system detects that the system_server is restarted more than 5 times within 5 minutes or that a persistent system app crashes more than 5 times in 30 seconds. Some readers might recall that Android 7.1 included a “panic mode” anti-malware feature that forcibly dumps a user to the home screen if the back button is pressed more than four times in rapid succession.
Will Rescue Party save phones from bootloops for good? Hardly. As there are quite a number of causes for a bootloop, it is almost impossible for an automated feature like this to catch and fix them all. And in some cases, the problem might be caused by a mix of hardware and firmware, like what seems to be the case in the Nexus 5X and 6P.