Revealed on Reddit late Tuesday, the text message exploits the inability of iMessage's preview feature to render a particular string of unicode characters. After the notification banner fails to present the incoming text, it causes it to crash and reboot the phone.
The malicious text, which is extremely easy to find on Twitter, includes Arabic and other non-Roman characters and is likely to come from someone on your contacts list as many have turned the system glitch into a prank. The ability to crash someone's iPhone works both from Android-to-iPhone and iPhone-to-iPhone and can also affect Apple Watch.
It has been reported that similar results have been found through other apps such as WhatsApp and Twitter that have banner notifications enabled. Another Reddit user reported that they were able to get the mail app to crash after setting the text to the subject line. "[It b]asically locks the mail app so that it can't be opened until the email either scrolls out of the main viewport or is deleted externally," they explained.
An Apple spokeswoman said in a statement that, "We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update."
The glitch seems to only work with banner notifications and can be avoided by disabling notification alerts in your settings. However, if you happen to fall victim to this prank, the person who sent the initial text can send another, effectively fixing the glitch. There's no word for how soon Apple will release an update.