Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Alibaba Android App Considered Harmful to Active Bluetooth Connections

11/23/2021, 4:01:03 PM

I hope you'll excuse the editorialized title – after all I do have a sense of humour :)

Awhile back, I started experiencing a very weird issue with my various Bluetooth-enabled audio interfaces on my phone.

In my car (a Mazda CX-5), it would think a phone call was active, even though it wasn't. My car would think the phone call was coming from my phone number, but there would of course be nobody else on the other end. Any time a phone call is active, it interrupts whatever audio is playing, be it audio streaming from the phone, or even FM radio. If the "phone calls" permission was enabled, then any streaming audio would play through the phantom phone call! The audio quality was complete crap, as well.

On various Bluetooth-enabled headsets, audio would cut out after some seconds to minutes, and my media would pause. On resume, it would resume playing on the phone speaker itself, and no amount of fiddling would cause it to come back.

I thought it might've been my upgrade to Android 12, but I was reasonably certain that these issues started happening before I had upgraded. Almost every avenue of research came up short. There are literally thousands of articles about Bluetooth call or audio quality, connection loss, etc., but none of them were specifically related to my use case. After many days of research, I did end up finding the cause.

In the end, the root cause was the Alibaba app on my phone. It was probably buggy, starting some phone calls from the perspective of the Bluetooth interface. Maybe they are listening in, maybe they are not :)

Either way, I uninstalled the app and everything is ship-shape again. Hopefully this helps somebody else!