iBeacons chasing customers away?

Schermafbeelding-2014-04-24-om-22.53.12Or, Apple’s iBeacons driving more Android upgrade sales from JB/KK?

Various sources put the percentage of android users on 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and 4.4 (KitKat) at about two thirds of all android users.  That’s a staggering number, even when only of users passing by a shop at your local shopping area.

The percentage of retailers (in some industries more than others) adopting Apple iBeacons to track user behaviour is growing, while a lurking gremlin in android 4.3/4.4 is just waiting for broad iBeacon adoption to rear its head more visibly.

The problem originates with android (specifically android 4.3 and 4.4 – it’s presumed solved after that), and how it handles bluetooth connections (which iBeacons use – BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy). As a security feature iBeacons cycle through unique bluetooth addresses every 0.8 seconds. Sounds hairy, but most modern devices deal with it seamlessly without alerting you. However android 4.3/4.4 devices can only handle about 1990 records in the service that scans for bluetooth devices – after that, the bluetooth service just continually crashes on the phone whenever bluetooth is attempted to be used.

It’s not at all clear to the user what is causing the constant crashes, however a bit of snooping reveals the android 4.3/4.4 bluetooth bug, and the iBeacon behaviour. If it becomes common knowledge that visiting certain stores could break a great many customers’ phones… well, it’s hard to imagine that ending well.