Apple has fixed a bizarre iOS bug that caused iPhone apps to crash whenever the word "Taiwan" was mentioned or the Taiwan flag emoji was used.
Some aspects of the bug, which was present in iOS 11.3 and earlier, remain mysterious. However, it is believed that the code that caused the issue was likely included in the mobile operating system to appease the Chinese government and its required censorships.
iPhone Crashing Bug Caused By Taiwan
Security researcher and former NSA staffer Patrick Wardle learned about the peculiar bug last April, when a Taiwanese friend met with him in San Francisco. She claimed that China was trying to hack her iPhone.
Wardle, naturally, was skeptical, but then his friend showed him something weird. Every time the word "Taiwan" or Taiwan flag emoji appeared on her iPhone, the app where it was displayed suddenly crashed. Essentially, anybody could cause the iPhone to crash just by sending that word or emoji to the device.
Wardle worked on the issue for months, eventually determining that the iPhone bug was not because China was targeting his friend's iPhone. Instead, it was an issue in the censorship feature included in all iPhones around the world to meet the demands of the Chinese government. Since early 2017, switching an iPhone's location to China causes the Taiwan flag to disappear from the device's emoji library. This likely represents the Chinese government's belief that there is no independent government of Taiwan and that the country is still part of China.
"Basically, Apple added some code to iOS with the goal that phones in China wouldn't display a Taiwanese flag," said Wardle. The problem, however, is that the code carried a bug that treated the Taiwan emoji as an invalid input, causing apps to crash.
Wardle found out that simply switching the iPhone's region from United States to China and then back to United States fixed the issue. Apple, meanwhile, also confirmed that the weird bug was patched with iOS 11.4.1.
Apple Rolls Out iOS 11.4.1
Apple recently rolled out iOS 11.4.1, perceived to be a minor upgrade to iOS 11.4. The new version of the mobile operating system comes with various bug fixes, one of which addressed the Taiwan app crashing bug.
Apple, however, did not mention anything about fixing the battery drain problem that has resurfaced with iOS 11.4. iPhone and iPad owners have flooded the official Apple support forum with complaints on rapidly draining batteries since upgrading to iOS 11.4.