Apple's China appeasement broke the iPhone

Flag of The Republic of China

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Wardle traced the likely objective of the buggy code to documented iOS behavior that hides the Taiwanese flag from the emoji menu or from being displayed on the screen when the region is set to China.

As a result of the strained relations between the two countries, the Taiwanese flag is censored in China.

"Does Apple really add code to iOS to appease the Chinese government?"

China is the most populated country and the largest smartphone market in the world, and Apple would put an extra effort to please the large target audience.

ElcomSoft has ordered other non-original USB accessories for the iPhone to see if they can also be used to reset the USB Restricted Mode timer. Eventually, the researcher was able to figure out that the bug was caused by iOS mishandling how it applied a filter based on location.

Messages sent with the flag instead displayed as a "missing" emoji. He discovered, after digging into Apple's code, that iOS 11 blocked the emoji in Apple's own iMessage, as well as messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

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But iPhone users still can't put Taiwanese flags into their texts, so it looks like Apple has bowed down to China and is adhering to the nation's censorship and seeming dislike of freedom of speech, which we reckon iPhone users wouldn't want having shelled out for a high-end smartphone.

He discovered the cause of these crashes to be related to a series of checks that verified whether the iPhone's region was set to China or not, and then attempted to remove a specific emoji (in this case, the Taiwanese flag) from incoming messages.

Taiwan, of course, is self-governing and considers itself independent of mainland China.

As such, it would appear that Apple was forced to tweak its iOS 11 code to keep mentions of Taiwan out of its software and iPhone apps. China claimed Taiwan as its territory, but Taiwan insisted on its right to self-govern.

Luckily, that code won't cause a problem for non-Chinese iPhones anymore. "Theoretically, iOS could remember which devices were connected to the iPhone, and only allow those accessories to establish connectivity without requiring an unlock", he wrote in his blog post. As of the latest 11.4.1 update, users won't crash their phones simply by typing "Taiwan".

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