TL;DR

Receiving a specially crafted text message with lock screen message notification enabled crashes the iPhone.

An interesting thread has emerged from the popular website Reddit. A user posted that sending a message containing special characters would cause the receiving iPhone to crash.

The thread from Reddit.

We were able to replicate this bug in iOS 8.3, and the comment thread would seem to indicate that many other users were affected, up to and including the Apple watch.

The crash in action, on an iPhone 6 plus running iOS 8.3, the latest version from Apple.

Conditions

The bug seems to be affecting the “Banners” or “Alerts” shown for messages when your iPhone is locked. I have read the thread and it was fascinating. This is as close to a co-operative debug analysis as I have ever seen.

  • The iPhone needs to be locked.
  • The setting under “settings->notifications->messages->show on Lock Screen” must be enabled
  • Can be set to “Banners” or “Alerts”.
  • Not limited to just to messages, twitter notifications, WhatsApp… Anything that will display as a notification should in theory cause the crash.

What should I do?

With great power comes great responsibility, and as news of this spreads you can rest assured that this annoying party trick will spread. Until Apple pushes a fix, you can neutralize this threat by disabling the lockscreen notifications.

This can be achieved by selecting: settings, notifications, messages, and alert style to “none”. You lose some quick glance functionality, but your iPhone is safe from mischievous people sending you this annoying text.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Quick fix

Don’t panic, or restore your iPhone, as I’ve seen users offer as a solution.

Simply send a picture from any other device to the affected iPhone. The idea being that you want to “push” the notification off the screen, replacing it with the picture. Follow this with disabling the “show on lock screen” option, as demonstrated above.

What remains to be seen is how fast Apple responds to this and pushes an update to their devices.

EDIT

The iPhone doesn’t need to be locked, banner notification while in a call also causes a crash. This reinforces my advice to just disable alerts style notifications for now.

@jean_taggart