Update at foot of post.

Samsung device owners have discovered a rather odd bug: if you use the copy feature a certain number of times (some say as many as 20), the phone or tablet crashes. Furthermore, affected devices reportedly require a factory reset to properly copy and paste again.

The issue, which was discovered sometime last year, doesn’t occur on all devices, and it appears TouchWiz is the culprit. Users have noted, however, that the bug affects Android versions 3.0 to 4.1, meaning it doesn’t seem to have been fixed for all devices yet, despite Samsung’s multiple updates to TouchWiz.

The bug was first brought up on a Samsung developer forum by a user named Veeti Paananen:

Samsung devices running TouchWiz and Android 3.0 or higher have a fatal clipboard bug that can cause it to become permanently unusable until a factory reset. It seems to occur randomly. Whenever a user tries to copy something, this error occurs in the system ClipboardManager class:

java.lang.NullPointerException at android.content.ClipboardManager.setPrimaryClip(ClipboardManager.java:146)

And the application that the user is using crashes. The only fix for this is to perform a factory reset or to clear the contents of /data/clipboard as a rooted user. Since this directory does not exist in stock Android, the fault is clearly with the Samsung software.

Here’s a video from Terence Eden, who brought the bug to our attention:

The issue isn’t just limited to text. Other functions like the camera can trigger the bug when copying images because they rely on the clipboard as well. We here at TNW were unable to replicate the issue ourselves.

The Android ecosystem requires carrier and manufacturer hands-on software updates, rather than just a simple patch that can be pushed out to Nexus or iOS devices. While this is clearly an edge-case, it is rather troublesome to fix as it needs to be tested on multiple devices and then be approved by multiple carriers.

The aforementioned thread was started on October 22, 2012. Yet users are still posting about it to this day. The most recent post at the time of writing, by Daniele Mazzoni, pleads for Samsung to at least acknowledge the bug:

I add my voice to the chorus. I think at least a workaround after months could be found. If it involves some programming please let us know nonetheless but don’t ignore this large group of Samsung fans who are getting more and more disappointed every day not having a solution for a very basic function of their telephone.

“Copy function crashes” cannot be part of a good Samsung product description. Please point us at least to an alternative app/function, at least to some temporary workaround.

I hope regular feedback is given in this forum as well, as part of the support to the Samsung community.

We have contacted Samsung for further details about this issue.

Hat tip to Terence Eden.

UPDATE: Samsung has sent us the following statement: “We would like to assure our customers that this issue can only occur in extremely rare circumstances. Furthermore, this issue can be easily and quickly prevented through a regular Over-The-Air (OTA) software update which began rolling out last year.”

Image credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images