Reddit users have discovered that a certain five-second-long video, when opened on an iPhone, will cause your phone to lock up and freeze about ten seconds after watching it. It’s like that video from The Ring, but on a much shorter timescale.
I’ve confirmed that the crash happens on an iPhone 7 Plus, after initially thinking nothing was going to happen. Here’s the chain of events: After I watch the video, I get about seven to ten seconds of normal operation, and then will start to see delay in touch input, and then, finally, my phone freezes until I do a hard reset. Other iPhone (and iPod Touch) owners have confirmed the video also freezes their devices, on a range of different versions of iOS. (Pro strat for iPhone 7 owners: You now do a hard reset by holding down the power button and the volume down button.)
Not convinced? You can try it out for yourself by heading over here on your iPhone and clicking the video link while browsing in Safari. (Warning: While that link won’t make your iPhone crash, clicking the video link you see once it loads absolutely will; proceed with caution). No permanent damage seems to happens to your phone — my iPhone was back to its usual self as soon as I hit restart.
Or, if you wanna avoid making your own phone a test bed for a bug testing, here’s a video showing off the freeze (skip to about 1:10 to avoid a bunch of “like and subscribe” requests).
The problem seems to be that the video encoding is corrupted. When the iOS video player hits that corrupted bit of video at about five seconds in, it simply loops back and tries to play the video again, creating a memory leak that eats up more more and more of the phone’s RAM. After a few seconds, you’ll have an iPhone that’s basically an eternal screenshot of whatever you were looking at, until you reset it.
Downloading and watching the video on a Mac desktop or laptop won’t cause the bug — you’ll simply download the file and be able to watch it in Quicktime or any other video player. It also doesn’t affect Android phones, which use a different type of video player than iPhones.
This is somewhat reminiscent of the “Effective Power” text-message bug, in which texting someone a certain string of characters would immediately crash their iPhone. This is slightly less harmful, in that you have to click the video to crash your phone. The “Effective Power” bug took about five days for Apple to patch up; it’s likely it’ll take about the same amount of time for Apple to issue a hotfix for this. I reached out to Apple for comment and will update if they say anything. Until then, be wary of anyone sending you a link to a video file, unless you dig frozen phones.