A new bug has been discovered in iOS 11, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, allowing users to send a specific character that inadvertently crashes iPhones and blocks access to messaging apps like iMessage, but also third-party platforms such as WhatsApp, Outlook, Gmail and Facebook Messenger.
The bug is triggered by sending an Indian language (Telugu) character to devices, which first causes Apple’s iOS Springboard — the standard application that manages the iOS home screen — to crash after the message has been received. Next, Messages will no longer open because the iPhone or iPad is unable to load the character. According to reports, the only way to open iMessage again is to get another friend to send a message, which then allows users to delete the affected thread.
While a simple fix, weak or non-existent internet access could potentially make the process of deleting messages suffering from the problem more difficult.
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) February 15, 2018
Furthermore, to put the problem in perspective, roughly 47 million people in India understand Telugu, a number that amounts to more than double the population of Canada — this also doesn’t include those that are part of the diaspora around the world.
Tests by a variety of publications have been performed with third-party apps such as FaceBook Messenger, WhatsApp, Gmail and Outlook, with the issue appearing in all cases.
Interestingly, reports have also emerged indicating that the public beta version of iOS 11.3 is unaffected; I’m running the beta, so I haven’t been able to test the problem myself. This means that Apple is likely aware of the problem to some extent.
This bug follows another issue referred to as ‘chaiOS‘ that caused iMessage on iOS devices and Macs to crash after clicking on a simple link. The company also recently admitted that its HomePod speaker causes white circles to form on certain wooden surfaces.
There are also earlier instances of text and links causing iOS to crash, including a small string of text disabling iMessage back in 2015 and a short, 5-second video forcing iPhones to crash back in 2016.
Given how quickly Apple releases software updates, it’s likely that the company will push out some sort of update that fixes the bug soon.