Taiwanese flag emoji causes iPhones to crash in China

Bizarre iPhone bug caused handsets in China to crash every time they received a Taiwanese flag emoji

  • The glitch spread when Apple started to censor the emoji on iPhones in China
  • Messages sent featuring the Taiwanese flag instead show a ‘missing’ emoji
  • China regards Taiwan as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland
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Apple has fixed a strange bug that caused iPhones to crash any time they received a message with the Taiwanese flag emoji.

The glitch first surfaced last year after Apple started to censor the emoji on handsets in China, which does not recognise the island’s independence.

Messages sent with the flag instead displayed as a ‘missing’ emoji.

However, iOS would sometimes struggle to read the symbol, causing iPhones to shutdown, a researcher has revealed. 

Anyone with their Apple ID location set to China was affected by the glitch, which was finally repaired earlier this week with a software update.

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A strange bug caused iPhones to crash every time someone sent them the Taiwanese flag emoji. The glitch spread when Apple began censoring the emoji on iPhones in China – which doesn’t recognise the island’s independence (stock image)

Prior to the software update, the baffling bug allowed anyone to crash a vulnerable device by simply sending a text with the Taiwanese flag.

It’s unclear exactly how many customers were affected by the iPhone glitch, since anyone who had their Apple ID location set to China was vulnerable – not only those who had bought their handset in the country. 

The glitch was discovered by security researcher Patrick Wardle, who founded South Florida cybersecurity firm Digital Security.

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He said the emoji triggered a crash in iOS as the censored version of the operating system read it is an ‘invalid input’, rather than a symbol missing from Apple’s library.

Mr Wardle informed Apple of the glitch and helped them fix the issue, which was eventually resolved on Tuesday with the release of an update to iOS.

The company censored the emoji at the request of the Chinese government since at least last September.


Messages sent featuring the Taiwanese flag emoji (pictured) instead show a ‘missing’ emoji. Sometimes Apple’s iOS software would struggle to read this symbol, causing iPhones to shut down, a researcher has revealed

China regards Taiwan as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland, despite the island essentially achieving independence in 1950.

Mr Wardle said: ‘If Apple had never tried to appease the Chinese government, the bug would never have been introduced in the first place.’

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time US company has made diplomatic changes to its devices on behalf of the Chinese government.

Apple shifted Chinese users’ data to servers within the country in 2014 after officials complained information on citizens was being kept overseas.

It also removed some Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from the App Store in China.

The software had allowed iOS users in China to skirt around the country’s strict internet firewalls.

ARE EMOJIS RUINING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE? 

Emojis may be a fun form of communication but they are destroying the English language, a recent study by Google has revealed.

Smiley faces, love hearts, thumbs up and other cartoon icons – rather than words – are the preferred method of communication by teenagers, who are considered the worst offenders regarding the decline in grammar and punctuation.

More than a third of British adults believe emojis are the reason for the deterioration in proper language usage, according to the study commissioned by the Google-owned site YouTube.


Emojis were first used by Japanese mobile phone companies in the late 1990s to express an emotion, concept or message in a simple, graphic way. Now, Twitter feeds, text messages and Facebook posts are crammed with them

Of the two thousand adults, aged 16 to 65, who were asked their views, 94 per cent reckoned English was in a state of decline, with 80 per cent citing youngsters as the worst offenders.

The most common errors made by Brits are spelling mistakes (21 per cent), followed closely by apostrophe placement (16 per cent) and the misuse of a comma (16 per cent).

More than half of British adults are not confident with their command of spelling and grammar, the study also found.

Furthermore, around three-quarters of adults rely on emoji to communicate, in addition to a dependence on predictive text and spell checking.

The use of emojis has seeped into our culture to such an extent that the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year’ in 2015 wasn’t actually a word at all – it was the Face With Tears emoji, which shows just how influential the little graphic images have become.

They were first used by Japanese mobile phone companies in the late 1990s to express an emotion, concept or message in a simple, graphic way.

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