Not a great week for Verizon Wireless (VZ): Not only is it being sued by AT&T (T) for its blatant ripoff “There’s a map for that” ad campaign, but now it’s been suspected of operating a super-secret remote software update program that manipulates users’ mobile devices without their knowledge or consent.
This tangled, not to say ridiculous, conspiracy theory originated when some Droid owners noticed that the auto-focus on their built-in cameras seemed mysteriously fuzzy. Later, they noticed that the problem had mysteriously fixed itself, giving rise to the inevitable dark blogosphere mutterings that they’d been the victims of “a secret, silent, over-the-air invasion by Verizon’s software-update police,” as Wired News put it. This, the site added helpfully, “would be rather creepy.”
Responding to a jumble of misinformed posts on this theory on Engadget, Dan Morrill, a developer on the Android team at Google Inc. (GOOG), explained that the real story is less nefarious but perhaps even more odd: The Droid, manufactured by Motorola Inc. (MOT) using the Android operating system, has a rounding-error bug in its time-stamp software that causes the camera’s auto-focus to lose function on a regular periodic cycle (24.5 days, to be exact). Stealth fix explained. Conspiracy theory kyboshed.
On the other hand, 24.5 seems a portentous, not to say arbitrary, number. It’s exactly twice 12.25, which is not only the date of Christmas but is strangely close to the year 2012, which as we all know is when the Mayan apocalypse is coming. Coincidence? You decide.