If you follow the instructions contained in a nasty hoax message currently circulating via social media and online forums, you could render your iPhone unusable. The message claims that you can activate an ‘easter egg’ by changing the date on your iPhone to January 1st, 1970 and then rebooting the device. Supposedly, the easter egg will allow you to ‘warp back in time with a classic Macintosh theme to relive the magic’.
However, changing to the specified date as instructed will in fact ‘brick’ your iPhone. Your phone will not restart and you will not be able to restore via the normal method using iTunes. You will likely have to take the phone to an Apple store for repair.
Why does this happen? It’s a little complex but a post on Apple support communities explains it thusly:
We’re not sure why it happens, but it’s related to the fact that iOS is a Unix based system, and Unix time starts at 0:0:0 UTC on January 1, 1970. All time is saved as seconds since that date-time, and converted as needed for human understanding. (Negative seconds refers to time before that date and time, and works back to 1904, but apparently Apple didn’t include earlier dates because they didn’t think you would ever take your iPhone with you in a time machine.)
According to Business Insider, the hoax message may have originally come from the notorious troll forum 4Chan. Since then, it has been passed around via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets and has apparently tricked a lot of people into breaking their iPhones. The bug reportedly affects devices running 64-bit iOS including iPhone 5S, iPad Mini 2, iPad Air, and newer versions.
What to do if you have been caught out by this trick and bricked your phone? While some people have reported that you can fix the problem yourself by attempting to restore in DFU mode as described here, other have said that this fix did not work for them. The procedure is apparently fairly tricky to achieve and must be done exactly right to work. Also, this procedure will wipe all of the data on your phone.
Others have suggested that opening the phone up and disconnecting and reconnecting the battery will fix the problem. However, this is not good advice as doing so will likely void your device warranty and you could even do further damage if you don’t know what your are doing. The best option is probably to take the phone to an Apple store.
If you have friends or family members that use iPhones, make sure that they are aware of this hoax and do not inadvertently break their devices.
Last updated: February 15, 2016
First published: February 15, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen