Update 2: Fixed in iOS 9.3.1

Update: Apple has confirmed the bug and is working on a fix for a 9.3.1 release.

My Safari on iOS 9.2.1 (update: and now 9.3) won’t open most links anymore, i.e. tapping on a link on a page does not do anything. Worse, other apps like Messages, Chrome are having issues when they try to open URL/Links.

The common issue is pauses when tapping links and even Mobile Safari tap and hold (to get the app open a link in a new tab), the device freezes and eventually crashes.

  • Looking at the html source for the links causing issues, it seems all scheme absolute links are affected (e.g. http://example.com/something), while relative links work (e.g. /some/page.html).
  • This makes me think third party registration of URL handlers (or what they are called) is related to the bug
  • All apps that can open links, such as Mail or Spark, are affected. Tapping a link freezes the device. Tap & hold and then selecting copy link, switch to Safari or Chrome and paste URL sometimes helps/works.
  • It happens mostly on Google and DuckDuckGo result pages. On some other pages it works.

I tried things to rule out a simple setting error:

  1. disable all content blockers
  2. delete website data from Safari (in preferences app)
  3. kill all apps, restart iOS.
  4. Tried Chrome, and it doesn't work there on simple taps, but tap and hold works, and I can open them in a new tab at least.

My conclusion is that this bug relates to iOS 9.2 and third party app updates triggering bad behavior, I saw constant crashes of the swdc process in my iPhone logs and I reported a bug with Apple. Suspect apps include:

  • Wikipedia
  • Booking.com

Is there a way to list these apps that change link handling so I can selectively uninstall them?

  • I looked at the logs of my device and in the syslog found swcd (shared web credentials daemon) to be constantly crashing. It seems very much related, as it is responsible for some deep linking / url schemes / universal linking. Reported to Apple as rdar://25259569 Mar 20, 2016 at 8:35
  • I think you mean disabling Javascript in Safaris settings? That does not make a difference to me (other than breaking a lot of sites :-)). Mar 22, 2016 at 15:30
  • 1
    My bug report was marked by Apple as duplicate of 25159773 (Open), so it seems to be known and hopefully worked on. Fingers crossed :) Mar 24, 2016 at 15:38
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    I got some feedback on various channels: 1. I still have the problem, will post a solution here once I have one (I think we need to wait for a fix by Apple) 2. Booking.com is one of these apps with the open-link-in-app feature that might have introduced it - but uninstalling it does not fix it for me: youtube.com/watch?v=OaR_wWcKfMs Mar 28, 2016 at 5:31
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    Also - apologies for the major edit. We're getting a surge of new questions and I'm reworking the appearance to handle several linked questions. Ping me if you need to revert the changes and I'll see about setting up another destination to link duplicated. I'd rather you get the views and votes, though here.
    – bmike
    Mar 28, 2016 at 18:15

6 Answers 6


Update to iOS 9.3.1 or later to fix this specific issue.

Details of iOS 9 updates are posted at https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1842

If you want to try to fix this before Apple patches the bug, here are some steps to try:

The latter is a bit longer and more humorous and has some nice photos to look at while you do the prescribed dance. The former link is shorter and more to the point.

Both require the device to be put in AirPlane mode and connected to a computer to resolve the data corruption caused by some apps and iOS not handling the app configurations in a robust manner.

There's a lot of evidence that Safari is in fact having a lot of trouble for some people. I haven't seen a device with issues, but if I did I would do two things to help narrow down the possibilities:

  1. Verify your personal backup situation. Run a manual iCloud backup and make sure it finishes. Run a manual iTunes backup if you do that as well.
  2. Connect the iPhone to iTunes and run a sync - be careful to read and cancel any sync if iTunes warns you that the sync may erase any data or content. The sync is to gather logs from iOS so you can look them over on the computer - but it's not worth losing music files if a sync will erase that.
  3. Keep a log of when you run into issues - you'll want to note the time, the app in question (if you aren't using Mobile Safari to browse links)
  4. Keep track of which apps you uninstall/install while sleuthing is ingoing.

Now - I would recommend anyone contact AppleCare if they can - sooner rather than later as Apple's paid support will a) know how to use these logs and get them to engineering b) know if/when a fix is out c) allocate resources to nail this down based on support costs and volume.

I believe someone has isolated one third party app that is causing Safari on iOS 9.3 to behave badly:

  • @stroughtonsmith > Reproducible: installing http://Booking.com ’s app will break link handling across iOS. Uninstalling it will fix it
  • @stroughtonsmith > The fun part, however: it won’t be fixed immediately after uninstalling. There’s a timeout before it’ll fix itself 😅

If you have that specific app, you might consider deleting it and then waiting a bit (10 to 15 minutes) to see if this resoles your issue. If this is in fact the case, my suspicion is that Apple can work with developers to fix this or release a patch.

If not - you might need to keep track of and troubleshoot the following items:

  • watch the system log on iOS when Safari is crashing or mis-behaving with cfgutil syslog and Apple Configurator 2's automation tools.
  • Safari content blockers
  • Whether some or all web sites are problematic
  • Safari settings (it's not looking like javascript is failing - but that could conceivably cause an issue like this combined with other settings and internet access)
  • How you connect to the internet (public WiFi, work WiFi, cellular and which carrier, VPN to a data center or specific other network)
  • It would take time, but you could easily make a backup and then erase all content and settings to verify that the issue is one or more third party apps. Depending on how full your iOS device is - a restore overnight or over lunch isn't a bad solution to knowing what precisely is the cause.

After reading https://bencollier.net/2016/03/unable-to-open-links-in-safari-mail-or-messages-on-ios-9-3/ , it seems that Booking.com's iOS app overloaded the database used by com.apple.swdc... A normal restore will not work as the corrupted database is also part of the backup.

Currently, I am trying to use Decipher Phone Refresh to build a custom restore image that does not contain the corrupted database. Will update as soon as I have results.


I managed to use Decipher Tool to get rid of this bug by:

  1. remove Bookings app from phone
  2. create a backup on computer
  3. use Decipher Tools to clean up my backup files, removing the corrupted data that crash com.apple.swdc
  4. do a reset to clear all settings and content on my phone
  5. restore from the custom backup file
  6. let iOS download all of the apps from app store again that is used by the backup, all the settings / docs is already in the backup

Right now I am talking to the developers at Decipher Tools to see if they can create something free to help everyone effected by this bug.

  • Using a tool from DecipherTools, I was able to recover myself by: 1.
    – williamli
    Mar 29, 2016 at 9:08
  • Thanks for the pointer. I added Ben's new fix as another answer. And reported all this in my Apple bug report, just in case they weren't aware of it yet :) Mar 29, 2016 at 16:18
  • Damn, I’d hate to shell out $30 for Decipher Tool’s product to fix my phone. Hopefully Apple would consider this its problem (I mean, they approved the app themselves after all). Using Firefox in the meantime. Mar 30, 2016 at 6:28
  • @AntonStrogonoff the app only made some db records larger than usual. It was changes in iOS 9.3 that made some internal crash when trying to read this rather large entry... but yeah, Apple should be releasing a fix sometime this week.
    – williamli
    Mar 30, 2016 at 6:53
  • @williamli: like OP before he upgraded, I have this happening under 9.2.1 (very reliably reproducible). Mar 30, 2016 at 12:33

As reported earlier, thousands of users yesterday and today are having Mail and Safari freezing on iPhones with iOS 9.3 when using links. All workarounds for the moment do not solve the issue entirely. Apple has no comments for now. Several sites are suggesting a 9.3.1 fix in a few days.

  • Applies if you have 9.3, to those having the same issue with 9.2—like me and OP who claims problems began before the OS upgrade—the other answer seems to be onto something. (I do have Booking.com app installed and I sadly recall updating it recently before the hangs began.) Mar 30, 2016 at 6:04
  • @AntonStrogonoff if this helps, a new update just came out (1.4 GB) still called 9.3. I'd highly recommend updating to this one to see if the bugs are fixed!
    – user176982
    Mar 30, 2016 at 6:07
  • Thanks for the pointer, and especially the upgrade size. I had just 1GB free on my over encumbered phone, could be the reason it says it’s up-to-date when I go to Software Update pane. Mar 30, 2016 at 6:24
  • In the meantime I had no option but to try every browser in the store, and seems like Firefox is not affected—though I can’t open links from other apps still (they obviously try to load the Safari stuff and hang). Mar 30, 2016 at 6:24

According to what I found on the web, what you do this in this situation is to clear cache in your Safari browser, head to Settings > Safari then tap Clear History and Website Data. Plus, Turning off spotlight suggestions worked.

Further steps with images can be found from Express.

  • As I wrote, I already did that. Doesn't work. Mar 19, 2016 at 18:03
  • Did you check the link? They have more steps. Mar 19, 2016 at 18:07
  • No, the link won't open ;-) (just to show how frustrating it is) Mar 19, 2016 at 18:09
  • Got to open the link. No, it's not the address bar issue. I mean links on pages. Mar 19, 2016 at 18:12

There is no fix for this for the moment. It was introduced in iOS 9.2.1 and updating to iOS 9.3 doesn't fix it.

Various fixes such as turning off Settings > Safari > Advanced> Javascript have varying anecdotal degrees of success, as has changing to the Bing browser (this latter probably simply means that Bing is not affected by the issue, so won't help in other web pages).

Workarounds: Try Opera browser. In Chrome browser, click and hold and select 'Open Link in New Tab' or 'Copy URL' and then paste it.

For the moment, we'll just have to wait on Apple to make a fix which 'reportedly' will happen in a few days (Now, March 28, 2016). Things like restoring your phone to a previous OS (especially if you simply go to 9.2.1) are likely to be a waste of time.


There is a manual fix that does not require a restore from backup from Ben Collier, but apparently the timing of the steps is important. It involves reinstalling the Booking.com app via iTunes and USB with Airplane mode on, and quickly killing the app after the first launch.

It did not work for me (tried a few times), but posting in case it might help others. According to comments over there, if it works, it only fixes it partially, as not all the broken caches for different apps are reset, so I assume only Apple can provide the real fix.

There is also an alternative one with more steps by Wojtek Pietrusiewicz.

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