February 17, 2016 11:38 am
Updated: February 17, 2016 3:19 pm

Don’t be tricked into setting your iPhone’s date to 1970; it will break your phone

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Yet another iPhone prank is making the rounds online, tricking users into believing if they change the date on their iPhone to 1970 they will unlock a special Easter Egg hidden by Apple software developers. Instead, hundreds of users now have iPhone’s that have been rendered useless thanks to an error that prevents the phone from restarting after the date change.

The prank — which gained momentum after it was posted to 4Chan — claims that by setting your iPhone’s date to Jan. 1, 1970, your device will restart with the retro rainbow coloured Apple logo the company first used when it introduced the Macintosh computer.

But, as those who have fallen victim to the prank have discovered, the date change permanently disables the iPhone — leaving it about as useful as a paperweight. According to user reports, restoring the iPhone’s software through iTunes won’t help bring the phone back to life.

An example of the prank that has been circulating on websites like 4Chan.

Screenshot/4Chan

The bug appears to affect 64-bit iOS devices, including the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus, iPad Air and iPad Mini 2.

For the record, the prank doesn’t make that much sense – Apple didn’t even exist as a company until 1976 and the multi-coloured logo wasn’t unveiled until 1977.

Some have speculated that the bug could be related to the same issue that caused Facebook to wish people a happy 46 years of friendship on the platform – the UNIX Epoch bug. Epoch time is the way the Unix operating system records time, by measuring the number of seconds that have elapsed since midnight on Jan. 1, 1970.

READ MORE: iPhones repaired by third parties rendered useless after iOS 9 update

According to YouTuber Tom Scott, time is displayed as one single integer on your iPhone. If you set the date on your iPhone to Jan. 1, 1970, that integer is set to zero. In the video, Scott explains that software designers at Apple likely did this to prevent a bug.

“But, if you do set your phone’s time to near zero, then somewhere else in the code there’s a check – maybe it tries to do a battery check calculation, maybe it just runs the math on when the last call was,” he explained. “But whatever that check does, it ends up with a time before Jan. 1, 1970, which should just be a negative integer, except its not. Its giving you a date 20 times longer than the expected lifespan of the universe.”

Scott said that date is likely what causes the phone to crash.

Apple has acknowledged it is aware of the issue, but has not yet confirmed what is causing it.

According to a page on its support website, the company is working on a software update that will prevent this issue from affecting 64-bit devices.

If you have already been tricked into performing the prank and now have a useless phone, you will have to contact Apple Support and take your phone to an Apple Store for a fix.

This is the second time in less than a month that an Apple prank has plagued iPhone users.

In January, many people began sharing a link that crashed any device using Apple’s Safari web browser. The link – simply called crashsafari.co – overloaded the browser with a complicated string of code, causing Safari to freeze and ultimately crash. Many compared that prank to the “effective power” text message bug that was widely reported in May, 2015.

That bug caused users’ iPhones to crash and restart after receiving a specific text message or iOS message containing the words “effective,” “power,” and a series of Chinese and Arabic letters.

Global News

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