All it takes to crash an iPhone is one text message, because of a small set of Arabic characters that grow longer when you delete them. Probably.
So says Tom Scott, a British engineer and TV personality known for his explanatory YouTube clips. He tackled the interesting bug in a video published Friday.
In the video, Scott speculates the bug is triggered by a string of Arabic in the middle of the text message, and the iPhone's confusion in trying to shorten it.
When the phone receives a message, says Scott, it shortens it to a length suitable to be displayed as a notification. In English, this can be achieved by simply cutting off words and characters. In Arabic, however, characters sometimes shrink when they become part of a word. This means that when characters are deleted, the word can split into its more space-consuming characters and become physically longer, despite having fewer letters in it.
This linguistic oddity can trip up an iPhone, which unexpectedly sees words grow in length as it attempts to shorten them. The phone's response, Scott theorizes, is to either lock the Messages app, or to reset itself.
To see these words in action, head over to Google Translate, plug in these words, and then delete them one character at a time. As you do so, pay close attention to the total length of the words themselves, which grow ever so slightly in size: انا ,ضا ,لا ,ثم. And while you're at it, press delete on this string of nonsensical letters, which feature in the text message that started the whole mess to begin with: لُلُصّبُلُلصّبُررً
Of course, Scott notes, this is all just a theory, and will remain so unless Apple decides to confirm or deny it. The company told The Huffington Post on Wednesday it is aware of the bug and it will be fixed in an upcoming software update. Until then, Apple has released a simple set of instructions to help iOS users who have been locked out of Messages.