This 3-Character Text Message Can Instantly Crash Your iPhone

When your iPhone crashes, it’s usually due to a system-wide failure or hardware deficiency. An issue known as “Touch Disease” plagued iPhone 6 Plus users last year, forcing Apple to implement a fix program for the questionable price tag of $149.

Now though, as revealed by the Apple-wonks at EverythingApplePro, an iPhone bug that will automatically freeze any device operating on iOS 10 can spread with a simple three character text message. What’s slightly unbelievable, is that anyone can send it and instantly lock your phone. 

According to French iOS Developer Vincent Desmurs, who claims to have discovered the issue and wrote about it on his blog, the glitch exists in two different formats. The first entails a string text message containing a white flag emoji, a zero and a rainbow emoji. Those three characters, coupled with something called a variation selector, are enough to swarm your device with an overwhelming amount of data, causing it to become non-responsive. The second involves the same string message, but attaches it to a contact’s card which you can then share with anyone. For that to work, the variation selector must be uploaded to iCloud Drive or Dropbox, and then sent via iMessage.

The first method works on iOS 10.1 and earlier versions, while the contact card variation is more lethal, capable of hamstringing every device operating on all iterations of iOS 10. As explained by both the video and Desmurs’ blogpost, the iPhone tries to combine the white flag emoji and the rainbow into a rainbow flag emoji, but gets confused while handling the process. Desmurs writes that the snafu is Apple’s fault: "What I’m assuming is happening is that the phone tries to combine the waving white flag and the zero into an emoji, but this obviously can’t be done," he writes. 

Luckily, if you fall victim to the sneaky prank, the developer has provided a “magic link” that rectifies the issue. With that in mind, it’s still a good time to keep your phone number far away from your tech-savvy enemies.

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.