An iOS 9 glitch is affecting users around the world by rendering apps useless. But luckily, a fix is on the way.
Over the last couple of days, iOS 9 users have been reporting problems when they click on links inside apps running on Apple’s mobile operating system. In certain cases, the links will simply freeze or return to their homepages rather than direct users to their desired destination.
The problem effectively turns an iPhone or iPad into a half-baked mobile companion that won’t support certain Internet links.
The issue is caused by a feature introduced in iOS 9 called Universal Links. Users who click on a link to Wikipedia, for example, will be automatically redirected to the Wikipedia app they may have running on their device rather than delivering them to the web-based Wikipedia page.
The feature was added to save users from opening links in the Safari browser to access content they could otherwise find in apps. But it doesn’t always work as expected.
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Since Apple introduced iOS 9.3 last week, users have taken to the company’s Support forums as well as its @AppleSupport Twitter
feed to complain that they couldn’t open links. When trying links, the users reported that their apps would either freeze or they’d be brought back to an app’s homepage and not their desired destination.
There was very little (if any) talk of an issue with links in iOS 9 before then, leading some users to believe iOS 9.3 was to blame. However, iOS 9.3 does not include any changes to Universal Links, and now, users with older versions of iOS 9 have piped up to say they’ve experienced similar problems.
So, what’s really happening?
For more about iOS 9.3, check out:
Since iOS 9’s launch in September, an increasing number of app developers have been using Universal Links in their apps. Those developers would rather the links open directly in their apps than in the Safari browser. While most apps have just a handful of links, which iOS 9 can handle without trouble, many developers are adding hundreds or thousands of links to their Universal Links list.
Meanwhile, as developers added support for Universal Links, Apple was working on iOS 9.3. The operating system, which has been subject to some other glitches including an issue that caused the operating system to fail to activate when users forgot their Apple ID password, was in beta for months. But apparently, it did not show any signs of the app-freezing problem some users are experiencing now.
Then iOS 9.3 went live.
A function built into Apple’s iOS 9 is a reprocessing, or a reevaluation, of links within apps. That function is only turned on when a user updates to a new version of iOS; those who don’t update won’t have their links reprocessed until they finally install an update. So, when legions of users started updating to iOS 9.3, Apple’s operating system automatically started checking for links and found itself overwhelmed by the number of new Universal Links it had encountered since the user’s last update.
In cases in which the number of Universal Links was too much, the iOS 9 device buckled and users were left with half-usable iPhones and iPads.
At this point, it’s impossible to say how many people were affected by the latest iOS glitch. However, this is not just an iOS 9.3 problem. Users who upgrade from iOS 9.1 to iOS 9.2, for instance, could face the same issue. What’s more, it appears that the issue is partly due to Apple’s handling of Universal Links and partly due to the growing popularity of Universal Links among developers. It coincidentally came to a head when users downloaded Apple’s latest operating system.
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spokeswoman told Fortune in a statement that Apple is “aware of the issue, and we will release a fix in a software update soon.” The spokeswoman did not say when the update would be issued.
Those who haven’t updated to a new version of iOS 9 might want to hold off, given the recent developments. It should be noted, however, that not every iOS 9.3 user is experiencing the issue, which makes this odd series of events even more odd.