Rather worrying news comes our way from Reddit user vista980622, who explains that setting the time and date to Jan 1, 1970 on an iOS device will brick it – that is to say, make it unusable, short of taking it into an Apple Store for repair. Only they can officially disconnect and reattach the battery, which is the only way of repairing the problem, although some report success waiting several days until the battery has entirely drained.
vista980622 reports that nothing else will fix the device. The usual DFU firmware trick or booting to Recovery Mode via iTunes will not work. With the latter, the restoration from backup might appear to work but the device won’t boot subsequently.
The bug affects all versions of iOS. We can only speculate about the cause but the Unix basis of iOS might be an issue – Unix time counts up from Jan 1, 1970. However, some have reported that a date of 1971 can also trigger the bug. Sometimes computers running Unix “fall back” to 1 Jan, 1970 if they can’t discover the actual date and time via the Internet. It’s not known if iOS devices fall back in this way.
The good news is that it only affects iPhones and iPads with 64-bit A7, A8, A8X, A9 and A9X internals. Older iPhones and iPads with 32-bit chips are OK.
That means the following models are potentially vulnerable:
- iPhone 5S
- iPhone 6 (including Plus models)
- iPhone 6S (including Plus models)
- iPod Touch 6th Generation
- iPad Air
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Pro
Rather entertainingly, vista980622 reports that an Apple support staff member was so skeptical about the existence of this bug that he repeated the steps on his own phone – and subsequently bricked it too.
vista980622 apparently learned of the bug at the Chinese bulletin board site provided by Feng.com.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update if we get a response.