A bizarre predictive text error has left some iPhone users unable to type the word "I." Instead, every time they attempt to use the English first-person pronoun, it gets replaced by the letter A and an unprintable unicode character, typically rendered as a question mark in a box, but occasionally five horizontal bars instead.
The error first surfaced almost a week ago, as scattered reports of the problem hit social media and the specialist press. It appears to affect users of iOS 10 [pictured above] and iOS 11, and has also been reported as happening to users of Apple's Mac computers too.
The bug seems to be related to Apple's cloud-based synchronization for predictive text -- a relatively recent feature that allows users' dictionaries to be shared using its iCloud service. When the phone learns a novel autocorrection, such as the name of a new contact, it will be shared with other devices owned by the same person.
Apple also uses machine learning to identify new words that are being used by its customers -- for example, the name "Harambe," which entered common usage after the shooting of a gorilla in Cincinnati Zoo -- and syncs those words to iOS and macOS devices.
As well as the autocorrect, a number of other related problems seem to be hitting iOS devices. Some users have reported that a lower-case "I" character is appearing in the emoji picker, while others are seeing the strange unicode character where a normal "I" is written.
According to MacRumors, Apple support staff offered a temporary workaround using the iOS text replacement settings to replace all uses of a capital I with a lowercase i. It may be grammatically incorrect, but at least it will be legible.
Daylight Savings Crash
Users of Apple's watchOS have avoided the predictive text bug, by virtue of not having a keyboard, but have fallen prey to their own odd error over the last few weeks: a hard crash of the device when asked for the weather.
Through trial and error, some worked out the likely culprit of the reset: daylight savings time. When an Apple watch running watchOS 4 is asked for the current weather in a location where the clocks are going back in the next 24 hours, it crashes.
Daylight savings is always tricky for developers, and Apple has a long history of minor errors caused by the clocks changing. In 2010, iPhone alarms failed to update after the clocks changed, resulting in a lot of flustered people arriving late to work. In 2011, some US iPhones managed to update the time, but in the wrong direction, falling back when they should have sprung forward. In between those two, iPhone alarms also failed completely on New Year's Day 2011.
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