iOS 9.3

[Update: Although details around the problem with iOS 9.3 links causing hangs and crashes remain sparse, it appears to be related to the third-party apps a user installed on the system. We have been able to take an unaffected iPhone 6 and iPad Pro, install the app, and then observe Safari consistently hanging when long pressing a link. We do not recommend repeating this however to see the bug for yourself, as the problem appears to stay around. Our test devices continue to exhibit the crashing bug after uninstalling the app and rebooting. We are not sure what exactly causes the issue and thus do not know what class of apps cause the problem to arise. It is likely not limited to just one app, but we are yet to find others. Apple is yet to comment officially on the issue.]

Readers are reporting a strange bug with iOS 9.3 (and older versions apparently, exact characteristics of affected devices is unclear), primarily affecting the latest Apple devices, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The issue has also been reported on older phones and some iPad models as well. The cause is unknown, but many users are finding themselves unable to open links in Safari, Messages, Mail, Notes and other apps. Instead of visiting the target website, the app crashes, freezes or hangs. Hundreds of reports have already been posted about the iOS 9.3 problem on the Apple Support forums.

Other users are reporting that tapping on links simply does nothing, whereas a tap-and-hold causes a crash. A permanent fix for the issue is not known and Apple has yet to comment on what may be going on. Some people have reported that disabling JavaScript partially solves the issue for opening links in Safari, but remains for other apps.

We have received several tips about this, in an addition to many frustrated users messaging AppleSupport on Twitter, so it appears to be a significant widespread issue. Although the cause of the issue is unclear, most reports appear to come from people with iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus devices … potentially linking back the problem to bugs with 3D Touch. We also have sporadic cases of similar issues being observed on iOS 9.2.1, suggesting it isn’t solely limited to Apple’s latest operating system release.

However, it is not purely limited to those devices so another root cause (or multiple causes) is also likely responsible. It is somewhat strange how the bug appears to be affecting people differently, across so many different apps and devices. Watch a video of the issue in action below for one example … following a link press, the Safari app refuses to respond to further touch input.

Here’s another video more clearly showing the ‘links don’t load’ scenario. We’ll update if Apple comments or a solution comes to light. iOS 9.3 was released last week and the launch was generally smooth. However, in the following days, news surfaced that older devices (like the iPad 2) were failing to activate successfully after upgrading, causing Apple to re-issue iOS 9.3 for some iOS devices.

Let us know if you are experiencing this problem in the comments, and on what devices. We’d love to hear about any potential workarounds or fixes too.

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About the Author

Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.