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How to fix iOS 8 Unicode Messages crash bug

While Apple is working on a fix for the bug that causes Messages and notifications to crash iOS 8, there are several things you can do right now to help prevent your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch from being affected, and to try to recover if you've already been affected.

  1. Unless you have reason to believe you're a target, you probably only need to do this until your friends' attention span lapses and they move on to the next prank.
  2. We've had luck with these methods. They may or may not work for everybody. Other people may or may not have had luck with other methods, up to and including a restore with Messages or notifications disabled. Make sure you let us know in the comments what's worthing for you!

Update from Apple

Apple has posted a fix in the company's knowledge base{.nofollow}. It's similar to the Siri fix we listed below, but more specific and worth trying first:

Ask Siri to "read unread messages."

  1. Use Siri to reply to the malicious message.
  2. After you reply, you'll be able to open Messages again.
  3. In Messages, swipe left to delete the entire thread. Or tap and hold the malicious message, tap More, and delete the message from the thread.

How to prevent crashes from the lock screen

  1. Launch the Settings app from your or iPad iPhone Home screen.
  2. Tap on Notifications.
  3. Tap on Messages.
  4. Toggle Show on Lock Screen to OFF.

How to prevent Apple Watch crashes

  1. Launch the Apple Watch app from your iPhone or iPad Home screen.
  2. Tap on Notifications.
  3. Tap on Messages.
  4. Tap on Custom.
  5. Toggle Show Alerts to OFF.

How to clear notification center to prevent crashes

If you've already received the bad Unicode string maliciously or as a prank, send yourself or have someone else send you a clean message to the same app.

  1. Hold down the Home button to launch Siri.
  2. Say "Send a message to [name]".
  3. Say "Send it" or tap Send.

You can also use the Share Sheet.

  1. Launch Photos from your iPhone or iPad Home screen.
  2. Tap on any Photo.
  3. Tap on the Share button.
  4. Tap on the Messages icon.
  5. Enter the recipient.
  6. Tap Send.

That should fix the notification crashes, but you still won't be able to open any conversation or screen that contains the bad string.

If you've been affected by the bug, or found any other fixes, please let us know.

Nick Arnott contributed to this article.

Updated to include a fix posted by Apple.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

32 Comments
  • How do they even come up with these things?
  • Parts of Cook legacy!
  • Now that's one weird old trick!
  • Many of my friends and I were messing with this for a long time and we figured out of you remove the "effective power." part of the message it can cause the messages to permanently crash and not open (I tried restarting, closing the app, dfu mode, etc). Restoring fixes this issue. Later we figured out if the messages app won't open, have someone text you "Hi". It seriously fixes it. We tried many other messages but it seems as if sending "Hi" is the only message that fixes the messages app. Hope this helps anyone who can't open their messages app because their friends spammed them with this bug. Sent from the iMore App
  • Bro, you're a life saver ! i've tried all the other methods sharing a pic, the siri sending a message to myself, etc... I tried a bunch. Since I was messing with the bug with friends and pranking them well pranking each other. Let's say for example my msg app would get bugged I'd do it with the siri message thing or sharing pic. But after a while that I had done it so many times ! It stopped working lmao ! but bro omg ! this worked !! Thank you so much ! Edit: Well, since I couldn't get into my messages before with this method I was able to again ! Just one lil problem now lmao everytime I scroll down to look for more messages it crashes. But atleast I can text the people I see !
  • ^that is the same thing that's happening to me on my phone! But how do I fix my iPad? Just the same thing that I did with my phone?
  • None of these have worked, my messages app still won't open Sent from the iMore App
  • After Messages being inaccessible for me all day, I recently tried again and it launched. Scrolling down caused the crash again. It appears as though I needed enough conversations to move to the top of the list to push the offending conversation down and offscreen. Earlier in the day I had tried sending more messages in that conversation so the crashing string would no longer appear as the latest message, but that hadn't worked.
  • I have a possible solution....
    that is... if you don't mind all your messages being deleted...
    If you don't, here's how to (most likely) fix it
    1. Go into Settings>General>Date & Time
    2. Turn of Set Automatically if you have it on
    3. Set the date forward at least 30 days
    4. Go into Settings>Messages
    5. Under Message History, Tap Keep Messages
    6. Tap 30 Days
    7. Tap Delete
    8. Head back into Settings>General>Date & Time
    9. Turn on Set Automatically
    10. Try your luck in opening the app :) This solution worked for me and a few friends I pranked
    Hope it works
  • THANK YOU!!!!!
  • I almost done it before I read your post, except the part of changing date forward.
    Thanks
    You are the genius that I have to be.
  • It didn't work ;-;;
  • What I said should work no matter what due to it deleting all your messages.... if it doesn't work, try it a few times, fully close the messages app, restart your phone a few times, and keep trying it. It will eventually work :D
    Hope you have success.
  • IT WORKED!!!! Thank you!!!
    I tried a TON of solutions and none of them worked... This one did.
    Thanks again!!
  • I restored my phone and didn't back it up and my messages work
  • People have to message you until the message is no longer visible on your message screen the minute you try to scroll up to were that message came in it happens all over again
  • I have a possible solution if nothing else is working....
    That is... if you don't mind all your messages being deleted...
    If you don't, here's how to (most likely) fix it: 1. Go into Settings>General>Date & Time
    2. Turn of Set Automatically if you have it on
    3. Set the date forward at least 30 days
    4. Go into Settings>Messages
    5. Under Message History, Tap Keep Messages
    6. Tap 30 Days
    7. Tap Delete
    8. Head back into Settings>General>Date & Time
    9. Turn on Set Automatically
    10. Try your luck in opening the app :) This solution worked for me and a few friends I pranked
    Hope it works
  • This worked for me and my son after nothing else would. Thank you!!!!
  • This one worked for fixing my friends iphone after i did this trick with him, he was about to kill me
  • If this was Android, ya'll would be gloating... Think about it... Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • i don´t think so, but it might be after that apple every time shows up with new hidden bugs, that´s why i love my galaxy s6
  • Yeah, I picked up a Gold 32GB S6 yesterday. Looks like an iPhone, but just works better. Much nicer Gold color, too. Almost a platinum.
  • My messages will open but my iMessage doesn't work won't activate or anything. I've tried factory resetting my phone and changing my iCloud password and everything. Has anyone else had this problem and found a solution?
  • What a nightmare. Theres 10 different ways a problem like this could instantly be fixed on Android. Yes, Android has its flaws, but no where near anything like this. Talk about vulnerable.
  • I think it's much worse than iOS 8.0.1. Posted via the iMore App on iPad Air
  • Someone sent it to me before I realized what this was but I had no problems from it. Here's my fix: block the jack ass that keeps sending until they understand it causes major issues! Sent from the iMore App
  • Im running the 8.4 second public beta and it did not effect my phone. Just putting it out there
  • Oh how I dont miss the days of having to adapt or simply being screwed until Apple decides to fix it. Apple is on a roll.
  • I've got an easier fix: wait for an update? So far only my friends playing a joke have been an issue lol
  • "It just works" lol Sent from the iMore App
  • If Jailbroken here is an easier fix: Download Ineffective power and boom problem solved.
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