New bug can crash iPhones with a single character

16 Feb 2018

iPhone 8. Image: franz12/Shutterstock

The bug affecting Apple devices is caused by typing a single Unicode symbol.

Apple is working hard to repair a bug in its latest OS update that causes apps to crash when a particular letter from Telugu, a south Indian language, is displayed.

MobileWorld, an Italian blog, spotted the crash first and it was tested by journalists from The Verge. The bug also affects the macOS versions of both Messages and Safari.

Telugu character affecting iPhones, some apps

Typing or receiving a message containing the letter also causes third-party apps such as Gmail and WhatsApp to crash. If a notification containing the letter pops up, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and TVs can become trapped in a bootloop, restarting continually without ever actually booting up.

Apple’s iOS SpringBoard will crash once the message has been received. It seems that the only way to regain access to your iMessages is to get someone else to send you a message and try to delete the thread containing the offending character.

Telugu is spoken by tens of millions of people around the world, with most of the people who speak it living in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

A fix for the problem is on the way from Apple, which is likely to arrive ahead of the projected iOS 11.3 mid-year update from the company. A similar update is also on the cards for both macOS and watch0S. Engadget estimates that a fix will be available within a week.

Apple has been troubled by a series of issues lately, including a separate iOS bug called ‘chaiOS’ that was exposed by a researcher on GitHub.

A new approach to OS updates from Apple

According to Axios, Apple is transforming its original software plans for this year to focus on addressing the performance and quality issues many users have been complaining about. Software head at Apple, Craig Federighi, announced the revisions to staff at a meeting in early February.

A refresh of the home screen and photo-editing updates are being put on the back-burner, while improvements to iPhone responsiveness and new parental controls are among the features that made the grade.

This new approach to OS launches will ease the frenetic pace of the update release cycle, which can in some cases lead to flaws and programming mistakes not being flagged due to time pressure.

Older versions of the OS are not affected by the bug.

iPhone 8. Image: franz12/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects