Trolls Trick Users Into Bricking Their iPhones & iPads; Apple Acknowledges January 1, 1970 Date Bug

If you set your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to January 1, 1970, then you will brick the device. Apple has acknowledged the bug in a statement this week, also vowing to fix the bug at a later date. You are probably questioning why anyone would set their phones to January 1, 1970. Well, because the internet is full of trolls who will trick users into doing just about anything.

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A post on 4Chan encourages users to set their devices back in time in order to take advantage of an alleged “easter egg” that would put a retro Apple logo theme on the display. Apple didn’t even exist in 1970, but that didn’t stop unsuspecting users from giving it a try. Once the deed is done, you will have an inoperable device. So far the fix appears to affect 64-bit iOS devices, including the iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and the iPhone 5S.

Reason for the Error

Apple’s newest support document acknowledged the error, stating:

Manually changing the date to May 1970 or earlier can prevent your iOS device from turning on after a restart. An upcoming software update will prevent this issue from affecting iOS devices. If you have this issue, contact Apple Support.

However, Apple did not say why the error occurred. Experts believe that manually changing the device’s date provokes a continuous reboot cycle, which essentially bricks the device. YouTube video maker and programmer Tom Scott thinks the error is derived from Unix time, because setting the date close to January 1, 1970, is 00:00:00 in Unix time. This may result in an integer underflow — in this case, a date prior to January 1, 1970.

iOS handles the underflow by returning the negative integrer to the maximum value. According to Scott, this causes a date that is 20 times longer than the universe is expected to last! This complicated math equation means iOS has trouble handle the large number, which results in a massive crash for the device. Ultimately, the reason for the error doesn’t matter. Fixing the error and avoiding it all together is what experts and Apple are focusing on.

4Chan is a Troll-Haven

4Chan is notorious for pranking Apple users. A 4Chan message board once convinced users that iOS 7 made their iPhones were waterproof, causing many users to plug their iPhones into water, which of course destroyed the devices. Another Apple prank convinced users that iOS 8 had a feature that provided for a fast battery charge – called Wave – which could be accessed by microwaving the iPhone for 90 seconds. Again, some users were gullible enough to try “Wave” out, causing damage to their phones and their microwaves.

German website Apfelpage.de had a possible fix involving opening an iPhone and resetting its battery. But the act of opening the phone up and messing with the hardware will void your warranty, not to mention ruining your device. It would be better to wait for Apple’s fix or contact the Genius Bar. And stay away from 4Chan!

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