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Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 03:10 pm PT (06:10 pm ET)

Steve Jobs vows iPhone app crash fix for September

iPhone owners suddenly locked out of their third-party apps by a crash bug on startup will have a solution next month, Apple chief Steve Jobs has revealed.

An AppleInsider reader has received one of Steve Jobs' characteristically brief and rare personal responses, assuring them that his company is aware of the problem and has a solution.

"This is a known iPhone bug that is being fixed in the next software update in September," reads the one-line message from the Apple co-founder.

The email provides an end date to problems that have become increasingly apparent in Apple's support forums and elsewhere. Many report the iPhone 2.0 firmware suddenly failing to load non-default apps regardless of their nature, briefly loading them before abruptly jumping back to the home screen.

The bug occurs both with freshly downloaded software and with updates, but is reported as never having a definite fix; although some report successfully deleting and re-downloading apps to regain access, others find the solution either having no effect or gradually decaying over time to where the apps again fail to run. Restoring the iPhone also seldom works.

Apple's recently released 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 updates are similarly incapable of resolving the problem. In some circumstances, iPhone owners have found the patches breaking what ran properly before.

And while Apple until Jobs' message has never publicly said when a solution would arrive, an increasing amount of speculation and clues suggests that the problem may stem from improperly set permissions to run the apps. One member of Apple's forums has been told by a support agent that his iTunes account was apparently "split into two separate accounts," confusing the iPhone when it attempts to load an app. Some users note experiencing the problem chiefly with on-iPhone downloads rather than through iTunes.

Even if the root cause has been identified, however, the weeks-long wait has been cold comfort for those affected by the crashes, many of whom had updated their original iPhones just to add support for third-party programs. The same reader who prompted Jobs' response told the executive that the crashing bug had at least temporarily soured an otherwise positive experience.

"[The flaw] has been so completely out of line with what I have experienced and expect from Apple that I am compelled to share this information with you," the reader says.