A newly discovered bug in the current version of Apple’s iOS 11 operating system can disable iPhone messaging and email applications and send smartphones into an endless reboot loop, if a user receives a text with a specific Indian-language character.
Apple devices running iOS 11.2.5, as well as desktops running macOS, Apple Watch and Apple TVs, are susceptible to the bug. The issue occurs if an app receives a character in the Telugu language — cause apps including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Gmail to crash. At that point, users are unable to relaunch the apps.
The glitch was first reported by Italian tech blog MobileWorld. Apple reps did not respond to a request for more info. A notice on its support site says, “For our customers’ protection, Apple doesn’t disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until an investigation has occurred and patches or releases are available.” [UPDATE, 5 p.m. ET: Apple said it is working on a fix for the versions of iOS 11, macOS High Sierra, watchOS 4 and tvOS 11 versions affected by the bug.]
Devices running the beta version of iOS 11.3, which Apple is expected to release widely this spring, are not affected by the bug, according to the Mobile World report.
“The character in question can cause serious problems and, in almost all our tests, after the Springboard crash the iPhone went into bootloop and we had to perform a reset from DFU [Device Firmware Upgrade] mode,” the site reported.
One workaround for the bug is for a user to have someone else send a new message and then delete the text that contained the Telugu character, the Verge reported.
Mobile World published an image of the Telugu character that causes the iOS issues (but not the character itself). The Telugu character translates into English as “sign,” according to Google Translate.
Tech blog 9to5Mac noted there have been previous similar cases in which sending a specific message to an iOS device has caused app crashes. In December, Apple released a major iOS update within a few hours of the emergence of a bug in a previous update that began crashing iPhones that had apps set for recurring notifications.
Apple’s installed base of devices surpassed 1.3 billion worldwide in January, CEO Tim Cook said in announcing the tech giant’s most recent quarterly earnings.