If you receive a lot of text messages from different people, the next few days could have you a little nervous. Though the method of its discovery is unknown, enterprising pranksters have found a string of characters that, when viewed on an iPhone, can lock users out of the Messages app or even crash the phone.
Updated on 05-29-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added news of Apple workaround for the bug that crashes iPhones.
Users who view the string within the Messages app won’t be able to view other conversations without leaving the app, which causes it to crash. Once they’ve exited the app, they likely won’t be able to reopen it. Viewing the message on the lock screen also prevents users from opening the Messages app.
Luckily, Apple has revealed a workaround to free your phone from the bug. Affected iPhone users should ask Siri to “read unread messages,” and then ask Siri to send a reply to the message. Once you’ve responded to the offending message, you should be able to open the app and swipe left to delete to the message thread or just the message itself. Apple told ABC News that it’s working on resolving the issue with a software update.
It’s certainly a good thing that Apple has this workaround in the meantime. A quick Twitter search reveals that plenty of users were affected by this “prank” within just 24 hours. We won’t share the specific characters here, but it is essentially impossible to enter the string in question by accident, so if you receive this message, it’s because someone sent it to you on purpose.
This isn’t the first time that a bug like this has been seen in the wild, 9to5Mac notes, and Apple is usually quick to fix such bugs, but it will likely be a while before a fix is available. Luckily, there are a few ways to regain control of your phone if you happen to be affected.
If the person who sent you the mischievous message is actually a friend (if perhaps not a very mature one), having them send any other message will free up the Messages app to be used again — and may go some way toward repairing the friendship as well. Replying to the Message using Siri or the built-in iOS share functionality will also work.
If you’re one of the unlucky bunch whose phone has crashed, it may be easiest to reply to the Message via the Mac version of the Messages app, which isn’t affected by the bug.
It isn’t clear how long this bug has been quietly festering, but now that it is out in the open, this will likely get worse before it gets better. Stay safe out there.