DROID Gets Amish Autofocus Fix [UPDATED]


Droid BackReports are buzzing that the Motorola Droid’s auto-focus lense may now be, well, focusing. But you’ve got to use a little elbow grease to get the job done.

Though no official word has been given, users are reporting that an oily substance thinly coats the Droid camera and that if you take a cloth and wipe it down really good, you’ll start to get those magical green indications that your camera is focusing. Not to mention, pictures will turn out a little better.

I know you lazy folks enjoy hands-off OTA updates to fix your every problem, but embrace the Amish lifestyle for once and use a physical piece of matter along with human labor to accomplish your goals. Once you do, tell us if you’ve noticed an improvement on your Droid camera?

UPDATE: Numerous readers (including in these comments) have linked us to a comment supposedly by Android Engineer Dan Morrill which points out the REAL problem:

Yes, this is exactly what is happening.

There’s a rounding-error bug in the camera driver’s autofocus routine (which uses a timestamp) that causes autofocus to behave poorly on a 24.5-day cycle. That is, it’ll work for 24.5 days, then have poor performance for 24.5 days, then work again.

The 17th is the start of a new “works correctly” cycle, so the devices will be fine for a while. A permanent fix is in the works.

We’re looking into this and will report back with official word ASAP!


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  1. Ummm, I was under the impression this had nothing to do with “lense coating”. A friend of mine just activated his Droid last night and has noticed the difference between yesterday and today. Not having wiped the lense off at all… BGR mentions a possible silent OTA update.


  2. Actually, us ‘lazy’ folks got an OTA update for this exact problem about 12 hours before you posted this.

  3. Why aren’t you reporting what the BGR article was actually about?

  4. http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/17/motorola-droid-camera-autofocus-fixed-in-secrecy/comments/23182303/

    research is for win

    This guy is from google. Basically it was a software bug.

  5. Wow who would have guessed that actually worked…now I see green bars around the image rather than just the red bars!

  6. To be more specific, the auto focus will work for 24.5 days, then not work for 24.5 days. You can test this theory by changing the date on your droid to a week ago, which will break the autofocus again. Then change it back…presto!

  7. @dan – cleaning isn’t what fixed it..the date that the bug cycle of bad autofocusing ends was today. Did you try testing it before cleaning?

  8. check out howard forums, its actually been said that its a code issue, something to do with the time stamp in the code, and for the next 24 days the camera should work.. apparently this was proven correct when you change ur phone time off network and back to say 11/12/09 it doesnt work again..

  9. @Nexeo Interestingly that is the same BGR article as in the OP. I really don’t get why the story is different/incomplete.

    Did anyone try Aerimus’ theory? Sounds like a lot of bull :P

  10. I just changed my date and then it didn’t work and put it back then it would work – :\

    Trying to figure out exactly how time causes this.

  11. Date hack worked for me too…Go back a few days and its (mostly) just red boxes. Set it to the 17th, and Green to go!
    Check it out: http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php?t=1591518

  12. I’m sorry Aerimus, looks like you’re right. Here’s a comment from Dan Morril himself from engadget (might be a fake, but hey, people tested it anyway):

    NeutralDan Morrill @ Nov 17th 2009 11:26AM
    Yes, this is exactly what is happening.

    There’s a rounding-error bug in the camera driver’s autofocus routine (which uses a timestamp) that causes autofocus to behave poorly on a 24.5-day cycle. That is, it’ll work for 24.5 days, then have poor performance for 24.5 days, then work again.

    The 17th is the start of a new “works correctly” cycle, so the devices will be fine for a while. A permanent fix is in the works.

  13. You know, I find it hilarious that nobody is freaking out about a silent OTA update for Android. Microsoft, on the other hand, gets chewed out every time somebody finds something that their update service does quietly. If Microsoft had released a silent OTA update for Windows Mobile, there would be a class-action lawsuit in no time. Why does Verizon get a pass on this?

  14. Brad: Because the Droid was NOT updated. All that changed was the date. That is what caused the issue. Strange for sure, but changing your Droid’s date back a couple of days will cause the camera autofocus to stop working again. They will release a patch soon and will most likely ask if you want it or not.

  15. What OTA update? The firmware version of the phone looks the same today as it did yesterday. Are people just assuming that BGRs assumption is accurate?

  16. @Brad…have you been reading the other comments? From the looks of it (and the tests that we have been doing) it wasn’t a silent OTA update. It wasn’t an update at all, in fact, but rather a bug in the code that makes the camera work on some days but not on others.
    But, I do agree, I wouldn’t want to see any silent OTA updates…not so much because they would make me mad if they did something to my phone that I didn’t know about, but more just because if they do something, it’s probably a good thing, and I want to know what new toys I have to play with :) Instead of someone “just figuring it out” a few days later.

  17. @Brad, oh believe me, some people are freaking out. Just check comments on BGR and Engadget. It’s just that they’re muted by the number of people asking “WTF?” and telling others that their camera is working now. But as we now know, it wasn’t an OTA update but a bug which kinda resolved itself, so the whole point is moot.

  18. I find it funny people don’t read carefully. It wasn’t a software update, read the posts above yours.

  19. @Brad, it could be because no one actually knows whether it was in fact a silent OTA. There is rumor that this is a cyclical bug that auto-corrected itself.

  20. Actually there was an OTA fix, but the Droid is so powerful that when you change the date you are actually going back in time to before the fix was issued.

  21. Okay, that’s weird. When I posted my earlier comment, it showed me as the second poster. When I refreshed the page now, it shows my comment way down the page, posted after comments that made my comment irrelevant. Go figure. Sorry about that guys.
    While we’re on the subject though, how the heck can a timestamp cause the camera to not focus? That has gotta be hands-down one of the weirdest bugs I’ve ever heard of, and I work with computers and other technological gadgetry for a living, meaning I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff already.

  22. How many people went ahead and buffed off the scratch resistant coating on their camera lens because of this prematurely posted “fix”? Some small degree of fact checking might have been nice before spreading this rumor. For that matter, the update doesn’t even bother to refute the “clean the lens” theory.

    As for how a timestamp could cause this, if someone used the clock as a cheap RNG (counting minutes), and stored the result in a signed long, you’d flip from negatives to positives about evert 24 days and change. I have no idea if this is what is actually happening, but the math works.

  23. The 24.5 days is a rounded value for 24.85513481481…, which is 2^31 milliseconds (*signed* 32 bit integer used for milliseconds). The focusing could use timestamps for calculating how far to move the focus-point during a given time-span, by measuring how fast the focus-engine is.

    Maybe during each alternating 24.5 day period the timestamps obtained switch from positive in one period to negative in another. The ones with the negative timestamp values are unexpected and could be exhibiting the problem.

    But then again… the cause could be entirely different… just guessing here… :-)

  24. so let me get this straight. lol. during the “red” cycle, if i want to take good pictures, i have to trick my phone into thinking its Doc Brown. updates please, like now.


  25. From:


    Tam @ Nov 17th 2009 3:21PM
    I think I know the nature of the bug. The number of milliseconds that can be counted by a 32-bit number is approximately 49.7 days (i.e. about twice “24.5”).

    Now, that’s for an “unsigned” (non-negative) 32-bit integer. For a signed 32-bit quantity, once the number of milliseconds exceeds ~24.8 days, the millisecond count becomes the lowest negative number (and starts counting back up towards zero).

    The bug is that code is using a signed 32-bit integer math instead of unsigned so for half of the span of 32 bits (24.8 days) the timer math used for the autofocus is choking on negative millisecond values.

  26. i just got green corners 15 times in a row, and didn’t do anything to the lens. I guess its in the day cycle. use to get about 2 green out out of 10.

  27. That’s one of the most interesting bugs I’ve ever seen.

  28. Doesn’t Motorola bother to test their garbage before they put it on the market?

  29. You wouldn’t see this bug if testing was in the 24.5day window, duh.

  30. Perhaps their QA process lasts all of 24.5 days so they didn’t notice the bug.

  31. 550mhz arm cortex a8 cpu
    Android 2.0
    Google Nav
    16gb sd card
    3.7 inch 854×480 capacitive lcd touch screen
    physical qwerty keyboard
    5mp autoblur camera

  32. I’m I the only one who read this explanation and thought it was a complete joke? Now that I’ve read some believable reasons why I guess it makes sense.. but when I first read that post I was thinking “yeah right.. this guy is having some fun with us”. lol

  33. I had an issue w/ my phone yesterday and brought it in to the VZW store. While there, the tech guy said that there were a “few patches” that were available for it that he would install. Alas, we’re green lights across the board. So maybe it’s the bug, maybe it’s the patch, but regardless, it’s working now.

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