Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Apple Reissues iOS 9.3 for Older Devices; Links Remain Problematic

Following activation issues with some older iOS devices, Apple has reissued the iOS 9.3 update for them after pulling it temporarily. Affected devices include the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, third-generation iPad, fourth-generation iPad, iPad 2 (read on for a separate update for the GSM model), iPad mini, iPad mini 2, and the fifth-generation iPod touch.

The issue with iOS 9.3 was that those devices would get stuck at activation if users couldn’t remember their Apple ID usernames and/or passwords. If your iOS device is stuck at the activation step, Apple has posted some instructions explaining how to bypass the hangup.

To obtain the new update, issued with build number 13E237, check Settings > General > Software Update or update via iTunes.

Apple has also issued an iOS 9.3 update for GSM-equipped iPad 2 tablets, which resolves a similar activation issue.

However, many users are reporting that tapping Web links in iOS 9.3 is causing hangs and app crashes. The new iOS 9.3 release does not fix this issue. One affected TidBITS reader contacted Apple, who informed her that this is an “emerging issue” — meaning that Apple is just now learning about it, and probably hasn’t identified the solution yet. Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac claims to have traced the issue back to specific third-party apps installed on iOS devices, but otherwise, we don’t have much light to shine on the issue.

Given that iOS 9.3 was in beta for much longer than most minor iOS updates, it’s surprising that Apple missed these bugs in the update. Regardless, if you follow our advice of storing passwords in a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, you likely missed the activation glitch entirely. Unfortunately, the Web-link bug is still a major problem for many iOS users, and all we can do is hope Apple releases a fix soon.

If you haven’t yet updated to iOS 9.3, it’s definitely worth waiting until there’s more movement from Apple.


Try productivity tools from Smile that will make your job easier!
PDFpen: PDF toolkit for busy pros on Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
TextExpander: Your shortcut to accurate writing on Mac, Windows,
and iOS. Free trials and friendly support. <>

Comments about Apple Reissues iOS 9.3 for Older Devices; Links Remain Problematic
(Comments are closed.)

Dennis B. Swaney  2016-03-28 20:45
Today, I determined that the iOS 9.3 update has totally screwed up my iBooks. First I can no longer add ePub books (like Take Control...) and PDF books take several minutes after syncing to show up in iBooks.

Second, iOS 3 totally screwed up my meticulously sorted iBooks library on my iPad (haven't checked the iPhone yet) into a total mess. I figure it will take me several hours over several days to get it straightened out.
janesprando  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-03-28 20:50
I am getting quite a few hangs on websites since I updated to 9.3. These are sites I have visited in the past and no additional Apps.
Peter Londey  2016-03-28 20:51
The problem with tapping weblinks is not an iOS 9.3 problem. I have devices running 9.2.1 and they are increasingly (though erratically) affected. This problem seems to have been around for a while, but is steadily affecting more and more users. It started affecting me well after I updated to 9.2.1. More like a virus than a bug? Or an attack on sites like Google (which is now useless on iOS)? Apple seems to be taking it very slowly addressing this problem. Perhaps there is some updated 3rd-party app which caused the problem, but some users have reported deinstalling all their apps and failing to fix it.
asm732  2016-03-29 10:53
I originally saw this problem early Sunday morning (Mar 27, US central time) on my iPad 2, while on iOS 9.2.1 I had just been using the iPad the night before with no problems. I switched to my phone (5S on 9.2.1) since it was not having problems and at around 6 pm the same day, I noticed that it was having the same problem as the iPad (for what it's worth, the problems appeared after I got notification that 9.3 was available for my phone). Toggling JavaScript (per the suggestion of Apple support) did not change the response of the system.
Seven betas and something as major as the Safari links bug still makes it to the final release? Dammit Apple, do you care at all anymore?

I sometimes really wonder what all those thousands of Apple employees really do all day. Obviously not hunt and fix bugs.

And thanks to Apple becoming more MS-like, even though we now know not to install 9.3 yet, we can't get our phones to shut ut about it. Every day I need to click away at least two panels trying to get me to update, read brick, my iPhone. And of course there's also that badge on the icon, just as a reminder that I should still break basic functionality on my iPhone. Thanks too for that, Apple.
Michel Hedley  2016-03-29 02:13
Yet more evidence of Apple losing its software mojo. Not only has its software become less than average, Apple's capacity to deliver upgrades of its operating and application software has become lamentable and problematic for its customers.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-03-29 13:38
People should no longer be surprised when an Apple update causes more problems than it solves. Apple doesn't do quality control any more. This is not a new issue. OS X 10.10 was the buggiest OS update in history and took almost a year to fix. Best practices now with all Apple updates suggest waiting at least a week before installing to see what problems early adopters turn up. Since they reduced the OS upgrade cycle from 18 months to one year (with Yosemite) Apple has been in a rush with everything. So flawed upgrades and updates have become the norm. Unfortunately, Apple's reputation is such that most users and Apple itself seem oblivious to the problem. Apple's lack of awareness on this issue is inexcusable in my opinion. At this point I think their overconfidence is such that they have lost the ability to learn from their mistakes.
Alan Sanders  2016-03-29 16:00
It is indeed lamentable that Apple released iOS 9.3 in a buggy state, but anyone who says that Apple doesn't do quality control anymore doesn't know what they're talking about. iOS and OS X are both extensively tested both internally and externally throughout the development process. This doesn't explain how bugs like this manage to escape detection, but it certainly isn't because of a lack of effort on Apple's part. As for the iOS 9.3 activation problem that is affecting some older iPhones and iPads: How is it that anyone with even a drop of common sense doesn't write down and save their Apple ID password? And how is it Apple's fault if they fail to do this?
Some people don't use their Apple ID. They actively avoid iCloud. They don't buy media with iTunes. I should know, I am one of those people. I don't think blaming this one on the users is going to cut it. . .