In weird Apple news today, it turns out there's a text message that you can send iPhone users that will shut down their phones. Just sending the message - which we won't include here but is easy to find online - includes Arabic and other non-Roman characters. It causes the recipient's phone to restart and makes it difficult for them to open their Messages app.
Apple is aware of the problem. A company spokeswoman said in a statement, "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."
While it's alarming to think that someone can attack your device this way, sending the message isn't exactly destructive. Your phone doesn't become inoperable, it just reboots. You can even open your messages again, as long as your prankster sends you another message (your enemies, of course, may not be so obliging).
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But the whole affair is somewhat baffling: How can a string of text automatically shut down your device?
The working theory, via a Reddit thread on the subject, is that the phone struggles with displaying the non-Western characters in banner notifications, a.k.a. the alerts you get that pop down from the top of the iPhone screen. Eventually, that causes the phone to reboot. This kind of problem has shown up before, in iOS 6, numerous Reddit posters said.
Others on Reddit have reported achieving similar results by sending the same message through other services that have banner notifications enabled, such as WhatsApp and Pushbullet.
You could also theoretically switch your notifications to appear as something other than a banner, though in our completely unscientific test this still prompted my phone to restart but didn't repeatedly crash the Messages app.