Columnist Jennifer Jolly describes how to check if emails and apps are draining your smartphone way too fast and what measures won't help. Jennifer Jolly for USA TODAY
Q: My Android phone started crashing, and now it can’t even finish booting up. Is there any rescuing this thing?
A: Once a mobile device gets stuck in a “bootloop,” in which Android can’t even get past the Google logo that appears right after it powers up, there’s usually no hope of restoring it to working order. (Sorry!) But that doesn’t mean the data on it--not all of which gets backed up automatically by Android--can’t be rescued.
I’m most familiar with the condition on the Nexus 5X, because I bought one in October 2015, saw it start to freeze and reboot randomly, and then had it bootloop a couple of weeks ago. Many other Nexus 5X owners have reported the same problem, as you can see in a lengthy Reddit thread collecting bootloop testimony about this LG-manufactured device.
These persistent crashes seem to be the fault of hardware glitches that develop over time.
“From our understanding, the issue is caused by bad soldering of the package-on-package memory,” e-mailed Kay-Kay Clapp, director of outreach at the troubleshooting site iFixit.
The Huawei-built Nexus 6P, the other “pure Google” Android phone introduced back then, has exhibited the same symptoms, which led some users to file a class-action lawsuit. I’ve seen similar reports about LG’s G4--and about some iPhones.
Postings on Reddit and other forums suggested an unlikely trick to get a bootlooped phone to run long enough to attempt some troubleshooting and stage any needed manual backups: chill or heat the device
As in, try throwing the phone in a refrigerator, freezer or oven. In my case, leaving it in a fridge worked--in the sense that my almost-bricked 5X could finish a boot cycle and function for a few minutes, allowing me to verify some settings, have a couple of apps back up their data online, and then factory-reset the phone.
IFixit’s Clapp pointed to that as further evidence of a soldering problem: As joints expand or contract with changing temperatures, their conductivity can improve temporarily.
Google, the most recent phone vendor to ship a phone with a widespread bootloop problem, seems to have realized that this is not a random mishap, as it’s offered free out-of-warranty refurbished replacements or refunds to bootloop victims, myself included.
The company doesn’t have a formal policy about this, and a representative did not want to speak on the record. But if your Nexus has started losing its mind in this manner, request a support call from Google via the Google Store support page and explain what’s happened.
Most user reports suggest that you’ll be offered a “refurb” model. But with both the Nexus 5X and 6P having gone out of production since last year’s introduction of the Pixel and Pixel XL Android phones, Google may offer you a full refund. (In both cases, you’ll have to ship the dead phone back to Google.)
In that case, my advice is to take the refund and buy a Pixel instead, which USA TODAY’s Ed Baig judged “excellent.”
(I know, I know: Many of us in the tech press wrote similar things about the Nexus 5X and 6P.)