Origin of Apple's 'A ?' QuickType bug a mystery, but notoriety grows with spread of memes, tweets

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An iOS QuickType and autocorrect bug replacing the letter "i" with the letter A and a strange character has seemingly spread, despite the fact that no software updates have arrived. Its persistence raises questions as to what exactly is causing the autocorrect issue to proliferate — and is also drawing jokes on social media.

The bug, while an annoyance, is obviously not a major concern for most users, who are making light of the situation on Twitter, Facebook and through memes.

The @AppleSupport account on Twitter has been on top of the issue, responding to countless complaints and letting users know that a fix is on the way. In fact, the latest beta of iOS 11.2 addresses the problem, though it is unclear when the final update will arrive for members of the public.

Oddly, the bug goes back to earlier builds of iOS 11, but also went unnoticed or unexperienced by many for some time. Over time, anecdotal experience suggest it seems to have spread, though there are no clear answers as to how or why.

One potential theory is that Apple's intelligent QuickType algorithm reads the previously received message in apps like Message for contextual awareness. For example, if the last message you received from a friend was "Haha," QuickType will read that and potentially suggest options like "LOL" or a laughing emoji.

Some have suggested the "i" bug could somehow proliferate in this manner. However, Apple has declined to comment on what exactly is causing the bug, or any potential spread of it.

The issue first began gaining mainstream attention last week, despite the fact that iOS 11 has been out since mid-September. Making the issue even more strange, not all running iOS 11 are affected by the bug, while it also affects some builds of macOS.

In place of the letter i, QuickType and autocorrect generate a symbol that is a combination of the unicode symbol 0049 for the capital letter "i" as well as symbol FE0F which is called "variation selector-16."

Variation selectors are used to specify a specific variant for a Unicode character, such as the Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Taiwanese form of a particular glyph.

The end result is a capital letter A with some sort of symbol next to it, whether it is a question mark in a box, or a series of lines, or something else.

Until Apple's official fix arrives, the company has offered a temporary solution, using the iOS Text Replacement feature as an interim workaround.

On an affected device, users can open the Settings app, then go to General, then Keyboard, then Text Replacement. Tap the plus symbol and enter an uppercase "I" in the Phrase field, with a lowercase "i" in the Shortcut section, then save.

Aside from Apple's own workaround, users can also avoid the issue by turning off predictive text. Though some users have suggested a phone restore could clean up whatever is causing the issue to occur, the Apple Community Support Forums advise this isn't likely to permanently fix it.