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Rare iOS bug can cause text messages to crash your iPhone

But the message must contain a specific series of Arabic characters, so you're likely to receive it only as a prank. And there are ways to resolve the problem.

A bug in iOS is causing certain text messages to crash your iPhone. CNET

A quirky bug in Apple's iOS can crash and reboot your iPhone if you receive a certain text message.

First revealed by a Reddit user on Tuesday, the bug works as follows: Someone texts you a message with a specific string of Arabic characters. If your iPhone is locked, and you receive a notification of the new text, iMessage crashes and your iPhone proceeds to reboot.

iOS bugs are nothing new. Since its release last September, iOS 8 has been beset by glitches that have forced Apple to continually issue updates to resolve certain issues. But this latest bug is much more random and rare than others, so it's not something that would affect a wide audience. And it's one that users can resolve themselves without waiting for Apple to issue a fix.

What's the cause behind this newly discovered bug? It's not the Arabic characters per se but the way iOS tries to handle the full text string, as described by AppleInsider. The Unicode characters that attempt to render and display the string chew up too many resources when your phone is locked and the notification of the message appears.

The folks at AppleInsider sent the same text string during a normal iMessage conversation, and the iPhone did not crash or reboot. That test suggests the glitch lies more within iOS's notifications process and not within the iMessage app.

Several iOS users have chimed in on Reddit and Twitter to report the problem. But it's not one likely to affect most people. First of all, you'd need to be texted that specific string of characters while your iPhone is locked. That means you're not going to receive it accidentally but rather from someone who knows your mobile number and is purposely trying to crash your iPhone for some reason.

What if you do bump into this particular bug? There are a few ways around it.

You can always turn off notifications for text messages, but that's hardly an ideal solution. Instead, you can simply trigger another text message. You can ask the person who sent you the original message to send a new one, assuming that person didn't send it maliciously. Otherwise, you can send yourself a text message easily enough by telling Siri to do it or using an iOS app that lets you share content via iMessage. The new text message essentially supercedes the older message, so you can use iMessage again. (Editors' note, May 29 at 1:18 p.m. PT: Apple is now offering much the same advice on an Apple.com support page.)

Apple knows about the problem and is working on a fix.

"We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update," an Apple spokesperson said.

Apple didn't say when the fix would roll out, but it could pop up as soon as the next iOS update appears. Developers are currently beta testing iOS 8.4, so Apple may have time to squeeze in a fix before it rolls that latest update.

(Via 9to5Mac)