iOS Unicode Bug Crashes Messages & Reboots Devices, Here’s a Fix
A bug with text rendering in iOS allows a specifically arranged text message to crash the Messages app on iPhone and iPad and then reboot the device. When the device has booted back again, the Messages app becomes unavailable as it crashes immediately upon launch, which has caused some users to think the problem is a general Messages app issue, which it is not.
To be clear, being impacted by this bug is not subtle, as the first time you receive the message the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in iOS 8+ will crash and the device itself will restart, much like a forced reboot. Afterwards, the Messages app is completely inaccessible to the user. If you are impacted by this bug, there is a workaround to get the Messages app working again in iOS, which we detail below.
We’re not going to reproduce the actual character sequence here in a manner which could be copied and pasted since there is obviously room for mischief and misuse, but here is what the offending unicode message string looks like (image from MacRumors):
You likely won’t be able to see the message itself because, as mentioned, rendering it on a device causes it to crash. We tested this on an iPhone Plus and it immediately crashes the device running iOS 8.3, presumably older versions are also impacted.
Fix the Crashing Messages App Unicode Bug
If you notice that iPhone has randomly crashed and rebooted randomly after receiving a text message and you are unable to open the Messages app, you can send yourself a message to fix the problem. If you have a Mac, just send yourself a few messages to clear out the app on iOS. Otherwise, you can also do this through Siri, or you can use the Share Sheets elsewhere in iOS to send yourself just about any other text:
- Hold down the Home button to summon Siri and say “send a message to myself saying some words about something”
It does not matter what the content of the new message is or how you send it to yourself, it just needs to sufficiently clear the offending unicode message off the screen. Once that happens, you’ll then want to open Messages app and delete the offending message that was sent to you which caused the crash.
Heads up to MacRumors for originally discovering the problem. Apple has told CNBC they are aware of the message bug and is working on a resolution, users can expect to find a software update available to iOS sometime in the near future to prevent the problem.
It’s unclear if the software update will arrive as part of the broader iOS 8.4 release or as smaller point release, like iOS 8.3.1.