The Ghost in my Wife's Samsung Mobile
June 2, 2008 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Mobile Phone Mystery: My wife's phone dialed mine, spontaneously. Seriously, no physical human interaction -- completely on its own, as far as we're able to tell. What ways could this happen? And I suppose I should ask: Is there cause for concern?

This is clearly not a life or death issue, and it doesn't really have a hard and fast answer; it's just a question that's got us both a little creeped out.

We were both sitting in the front of our car, her purse between us, sitting upright and free. Driving along a quiet inner-suburb street at about 10 miles per hour, about 9am on a Sunday morning. Then my phone rings. It's her ring; I'm thinking that one of the kids must have the phone, so I haul out my phone but don't get to it in time to answer.

Then I hear a voicemail voice coming from her purse. I fish out her phone from the usual place (an inner pocket -- the pocket is well-fitted to the phone, slack but not so much that the phone flops around), flip it open, and sure enough, it's my voicemail answering.

I checked the recent calls list on her phone, and there was a call from hers to mine, of course. But I couldn't see an obvious way to get more info.

I stress that the purse wasn't touching either of us at the time, and the phone wasn't pressed against anything. (Hers is a Samsung SCH-u740 [I think, might be an earlier variant of this model], if it's helfpul.) She has bluetooth enabled, but her headset wasn't on at the time (I tested by turning it on and the phone popped up its pairing prompt). She had both hands on the wheel the whole time. Never set up voice dialing on it. My number was probably "2" on speed dial -- "1" is voicemail on all the ATT phones I've seen so far.

Anticipating: I don't think we have a data cable for this phone, but we could browse it via Bluetooth. I'm thinking I won't be able to see anything outside the storage space, though.

Any ideas?
posted by lodurr to Technology (13 answers total)
This has happened to me on my Sprint phone. Twice, I think. It's always been the most recent person I've dialed. No clue whatsoever as to what causes it. It's a flip phone, and I generally have key lock on, or whatever, but somehow it dials and puts itself on speaker.

I wouldn't be too worried unless it either dialed a (seemingly) random number, or this occurred quite a bit more often.
posted by Precision at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2008

Concern? I doubt it. I've seen something like this once and never did work out what caused it. My assumption was that a phone button (or connection on a button) was slightly flaky and spontaneously registered a push, calling whatever number was on speed dial. Buggy phone software could plausibly have the same effect. Given that you were in a car (albeit a slow moving one) there would have been some vibration, that might have aided this process. So, no cause for alarm.
posted by outlier at 7:15 AM on June 2, 2008

It's always been the most recent person I've dialed.

As I should have included, but didn't, she'd called five or six other people since she'd last called me.

Outlier: I thought about the faulty button idea, but that would mean registering not just a transient push, but a long push (for speed-dial on these phones, you hold it down for about two seconds). Would you happen to know what the nature of the switch malfunction is -- whether it's something that would be likely to register as a long or short push?

Software would be the more entertaining explanation, by far.
posted by lodurr at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2008

is yours a flip phone? I had a non flip phone and was constantly calling people accidentally. Sounds like a different situation but maybe is was jammed tightly in the pocketbook? I used to keep mine in my pocket and fall asleep with my pants on and roll over and call people at three in the morning.
posted by sully75 at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2008

Both are clamshell flip-phones. But the Samsung has heat-activated audio controls (that have never seemed to work) on the front, like the kind they use on a lot of phones and music players these days. Both have programmable buttons on the side, but the pocked her phone sits in is loose enough that I don't believe they got pressed.
posted by lodurr at 7:45 AM on June 2, 2008

My wife and I always take the free cheapie phones, and after a couple years or so of pocket lint and accidental swan dives into the dogs' water bowl, they start to do unexplained stuff like this too.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2008

It's only a matter of concern if your phone surreptitiously calls hers while you're driving home from work, and you have a habit of sometimes singing george jones songs at the top of your lungs, including the pedal steel solos, and she records the call, and saves it for your later humiliation. That could potentially be a problem for you.

/voice of experience
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:30 AM on June 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

DO either of the phones have bluetooth enabled? Perhaps a stray signal from alpha centauri (or DHS dun dun dunhhhhhh)bypassed bluetooth's security (hah!) and said "dial last number".
posted by lalochezia at 8:40 AM on June 2, 2008

Never mind, I just read the rest of yr description. doh.
posted by lalochezia at 8:41 AM on June 2, 2008

stupidsexyflanders: Could have been worse. The George Jones song could have been "She Thinks I Still Care". In which case embarrassment would be least of your worries.

Re. Bluetooth: How easy is it to get the phone to do that kind of thing via Bluetooth? Does Bluetooth essentially open up a terminal session?

(I was just this morning having a discussion about DHS and wiretapping w.r.t. the latest Cory Doctorow novel.)
posted by lodurr at 9:38 AM on June 2, 2008

Re. Bluetooth: How easy is it to get the phone to do that kind of thing via Bluetooth? Does Bluetooth essentially open up a terminal session?

I am not a comms expert but, it seems unlikely. I don't know that model but if it has terminal sessions (and it doesn't look like the OS supports that), you'd likely have to set it up to be allowed. As for a button malfunction registering as a long or short press, either seems possible. It's mass market complex electronics. On balance however, it seems more likely that it was a software problem. Not to be worried about unless it happens again, and in that case it's back to the store for a return.
posted by outlier at 12:12 PM on June 2, 2008

Well, I was thinking more metaphorically about the terminal session, but your reply is more on point.
posted by lodurr at 1:21 PM on June 2, 2008

My husband's phone does this to me frequently. But this one time it called me while I was at the office. I answered and could hear him talking to his ex-wife. They couldn't hear me. This was a week before we were getting married, and she was telling him that she had had no idea that he wasn't taking the weekend with his son as usual.

I figured it was the universe's way of letting me know she was going to be an interfering witch so I'd better be prepared.

Maybe your phone is trying to tell you something.
posted by Jazz Hands at 6:53 PM on June 2, 2008

« Older Is there a quick way of copying files "up" an SSH...   |   Best way to tile a sphere ? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.