Apple has fixed a bug in iOS 11 that led iPhones and iPads with their region set to China to crash when the word “Taiwan” was entered in the text field or the Taiwan flag emoji was used.
The bug was present in all versions of iOS up until iOS 11.3 when it was documented by Digita Security’s Patrick Wardle.
The bug was present on a system level and affected all apps, so if someone sent you a Taiwanese flag on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or iMessage, they would all crash. Interestingly, the bug could be fixed by simply changing the region of the affected iPhone or iPad from China to the United States.
While Apple has fixed the issue in iOS 11.4.1, there’s an interesting take here. In China, the Taiwanese flag is not shown even in the emoji keyboard. When one receives a message with a Taiwanese flag, the emoji is not rendered on the device as well. This essentially confirms that while the bug was due to an error from Apple’s part, the company is willing to make small modifications to its OS to please the Chinese government.
There are political and legal tensions between China and Taiwan, with the former considering Taiwan as a part of its sovereignty while Taiwan considers itself an independent democracy.
This is not the first time that Apple has done something like this. The company first removed hundreds of thousands of VPN apps from the iOS App Store last year to conform to Chinese government regulations. Then, this year, it removed apps featuring CallKit integration from the App Store again due to government regulations.
Since China is an important market for Apple, there’s not much the company can do here except ensure that it is meeting the demands of the Chinese government to ensure its business activities are not affected in the country.