Apple iOS 8.4 Rolls Out w/ Fix to Crash-Causing Unicode Text

Apple iOS 8.4 Rolls Out w/ Fix to Crash-Causing Unicode Text

Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) latest update to its mobile platform — iOS 8.4 — landed today(build string: 12H5143).  The finished iOS update comes roughly a week after the release of the GM (“Golden Master”) build.  The biggest feature of this update is, without a doubt, the new Apple Music, which comes integrated with Apple’s brand-new premium streaming service.  That said, there’s more to the update than just streaming music.

Before looking at features, let’s address compatibility and the download size.  

The iPhone 4S (2011), iPad 2 (2011), and iPod Touch 5G (2012) are the oldest compatible devices in their respective families — the five-year-old original iPad and iPhone 4 are not compatible.  iOS 8.4 is expected to be the last major update to Apple’s mobile operating system to land before iOS 9.

Apple users will be prompted to download the update if they plug a compatible device into iTunes 11.  If you want to get it immediately, data plan (or Wi-Fi) allowing, go to Settings > General > Software Update to find it.

The update measures in at 222 megabytes on the iPhone….

… and around 148 MB on the iPad.

[Image Source: Forbes]
There’s a few big bugfixes in this release.  One fix is to Apple Watch syncing.  The issue of “zombie apps” — apps that you deleted reappearing with every sync — appears to be solved.  The update also solves incompatibility issues with GPS accessories.

Probably most notable among the published fixes in the Release Notes, the update fixes a notorious Unicode bug.  

First spotted by Redditors in May, the bug involved sending the word “Power” along with a string of Arabic characters, a Chinese character, plus the English letter ‘h’, caused iOS devices to reboot when they received it, either in the default messaging app or in third party apps, such as Twitter Inc.’s (TWTR) official client app.  

The issue traced to a memory fault in the CoreText, a low level API responsible for text handling.  According to reverse engineering by Chris Williams over at Register UK, the flaw managed to escape Apple’s error handling, triggering the kernel to kill off the active app.  This is not the first bizarre Unicode handling bug to afflict iOS, and it likely won’t be the last either.

The good news is that the issue appears to now be fixed.

Featurewise Apple has made a number of tweaks to the iBooks app to make it the go-to hub for audiobooks, as well as text ebooks.  The iBooks hub gets a “Now Playing” mode for use with audiobook files.  The app can now grab said files from the iCloud, local filesystem or other sources.

Apple also is touting the ability to digitally “check out” audiobooks from your local library via its partnership program.  (This option likely is not be available in many regions, particularly outside the U.S.).  It also is trying to differentiate its Audiobook offerings via the “Made for iBooks” program.

iBooks support for audiobooks is greatly improved with the update. [Image Source: YouTube/Apple]
Along with the big ticket item — the Apple Music streaming service — come some tweaks to iOS’s built-in Music app.  “Up next” track notifications have made an appearance, mirroring the changes in iTunes 11.  Also new is the revised miniplayer widget and the inclusion of a “Recently Added” music jumplist.

Along with its premium offering, Apple has launched a 24-hour-a-day radio station dubbed “Beats 1”, which began streaming today.

And then there’s Apple Music.  With a 30 million track library, Apple Music goes head to head with Swedens Spotify AB, the current global leader in the premium streaming music market.  iOS 8.4 is mostly about Apple Music (and vice versa).  But it’s worse mentioning what else is included.  For more on Apple Music head over here.