“That Symbol” Sweeps Across Bob Jones, Crashing Hundreds of iOS Devices


Zachary Johnson, Writer

Another phone-breaking symbol has reared its ugly head and swept across phones at Bob Jones. The symbol, which is a collection of characters in the Indian language of Telugu, can easily crash iPhones and in some cases prevent them from turning back on.

Bob Jones students were most greatly affected when a GroupMe bot sent the special character to a large Bob Jones GroupMe of about 600 students. The bot would send the symbol twice in a row every couple of hours. If you opened the GroupMe message, the symbol would crash the app. If, however, you didn’t have the GroupMe muted and the message appeared on your lock screen notifications, it could easily brick your phone.

“Even though I’m an Android user, it’s still scary to think about. The fact that a student can effectively disable hundreds of other students’ phones with just a symbol sent to a group chat is something not a whole lot of people think about until it happens to them. I didn’t think that it would happen in such a large GroupMe filled exclusively with Bob Jones students. I know multiple people who, throughout the day, either had their phone completely disabled or were stuck restarting for hours,” said Payton Gloschat, a junior at Bob Jones.

Aloha Browser, a browser for phones, said the issue was most likely caused by Apple’s San Francisco font and the way it interprets the symbol.

When the symbol appeared on my lock screen notifications, my phone almost immediately crashed and tried to restart itself for three hours before it died and couldn’t restart anymore. After my phone recharged, I took it to the Apple store and asked if there was anything they could do. They said they probably could, but as of today at 3:40 PM, the earliest appointment they could make was Saturday night, or I could wait at least an hour and a half and hope someone didn’t show up for their appointment.

I fixed my phone by plugging it into my computer and putting the phone in restore mode. Once my phone was in restore mode, I managed to force an update which fixes the problem.

If you haven’t seen the message yet and your iOS device isn’t up to date, it is imperative that you update it to iOS 11.2.6, the latest update, as soon as possible.

Phone-crashing messages aren’t new to iOS devices. In late May 2015, a not-so-similar message, featuring the words “effective,” “power,” and a string of Arabic text, circulated which would restart phones once a banner notification appeared.

“It’s scary to think of how one little widget could knock out an entire system. What if someone was in crisis or needed help?” said Will Spiegel, a senior.

The student(s) responsible for the GroupMe bot have been dealt with, and it is important to note that the student who shared a name with the bot is not responsible for the bot’s message.