Samsung Galaxy S3 browser bug inflates data usage, loading times

If you own a Samsung Galaxy S3, here’s a tip for you: avoid using the in-built browser. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered a bug in the Galaxy S3’s browser that downloads more images than is necessary, resulting in loading times and mobile data usage rising exponentially. 


Emmanuel Cecchet, Robert Sims, Xin He, and Prashant Shenoy of the Massachusetts Amherst University discovered the bug while testing a Quality of Experience (QoE) benchmarking application. The Galaxy S3’s browser lagged way behind other smartphone and tablet browsers when the researchers ran some QoE tests on Wikipedia. The findings were noted in a research paper (PDF) that will be presented at the IEEE/ACM IWQoS Symposium, to be held on June 3-4 in Montreal, Canada.


“When comparing our results on the different devices and networks for our Wikipedia trace, we noticed significantly higher latencies for our Samsung S3 smartphone on both Wifi and 3G,” the research paper notes. In the tests, the researchers also noted that the number of HTTP requests the S3’s browser made was considerably higher than that of other browsers. 


According to the researchers, the problem is caused by the srcset HTML attribute, which indicates the size and resolution of images a browser should pick based on the device’s screen size and magnification needed. This attribute enables websites to tell devices which images are compatible so the site looks good irrespective of the screen size and resolution. 


The Galaxy S3’s browser, however, has a bug that makes it download all the images specified in the srcset HTML attribute instead of the ones it needs, resulting in long load times and lots of data usage. For instance, the researchers loaded a Wikipedia page that was only 600 KB when browsed using Internet Explorer, but the page’s size inflated to a whopping 2.1 MB on the Galaxy S3.


“This bug significantly affects the Wikipedia performance on 3G were these massive number of requests for image downloads overwhelmed the network and ended up timing out rendering an incomplete page,” the research paper reads.


The researchers were also able to record the bug on both the GT-I9300—the international version of the S3—and the AT&T version of the phone (SGH-I747). Both the versions of the phone are said to be running the latest version of Android 4.2.2.


However, there’s no need to be too alarmed. The srcset attribute is still in draft status. That means that it is not yet recommended to use it because the specification can still change and web browsers are not expected to implement it already. You can safely avoid the bug by switching to another browser such as Chrome or Firefox, as almost no other modern browser—desktop or mobile—looks for the srcset tag yet.

Published Date: Jun 03, 2013 02:41 pm | Updated Date: Jun 03, 2013 02:41 pm