In our digital era, many of us choose to forego a clock or traditional timepiece in favor of our iPhones and Apple Watches.
And why shouldn’t we? They’re convenient, multipurpose devices that are probably already with us, wherever we go. In other words, we depend on our devices.
So when an iPhone says it’s 12:46 p.m., you expect that to be true.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an issue in iOS 12 and 11 that causes the time to be displayed inaccurately when traveling across time zones.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Time Zone Bug Issue
When you travel between time zones, iOS will automatically update to the local time if “Set Automatically” is enabled.
It’s a useful feature that keeps you from having to set the time manually. But, as of iOS 12-11, many iOS users are running into problems with the feature.
It’s worth noting that there are two distinct instances of this bug. They may be two separate bugs, but they’re similar and seemingly related. So we include them both.
Time Zone Resetting
According to user reports, the issue occurs when their phones are powered off or are put into Airplane Mode. Once in Airplane Mode or turned off, the iOS device will then revert back to the user’s home time zone.
This, of course, is incredibly inconvenient for all types of travelers. It can cause alarms, calendar events, and other reminders to be missed because of the time discrepancy.
- iOS 12 Common Problems–a troubleshooting guide
- Checking Your Battery Health using iOS 11.3+ and Optimization Tips
- Common iOS 11 Problems and How To Fix Them
‘Set Automatically’ Resetting
Of course, the solution to the first problem would just be to set the time manually. Unfortunately, there’s a big with that feature in iOS 12/11, too.
Specifically, users on the Apple Support Forums are reporting that disabling Set Automatically and manually updating their time only works until the device is powered off.
Like the first bug, this issue shows up as soon as an iPhone is rebooted or otherwise turned off. Basically, it will switch Set Automatically back on.
That complicates the solution to the first bug and presents its own problem for users who’d like to keep their local time zones when traveling.
The bugs are not device-breaking ones, but they’re annoying for travelers. That’s especially true because it does not seem like an isolated incident for users. Here’s what we know about the scope of the problem.
What versions does it impact?
According to anecdotal user reports, this issue seems to have been introduced as of iOS 12-11.
Despite some reports to the contrary, it appears that the issue has not been fixed in the latest version of iOS 12-11. That means you might run into the problem in every iOS update — from the base iOS 11 or 12 version to the most current iOS 12 version.
Worse still, there are some early indications that the newer macOS updates may also introduce the bug to that platform. Though we can’t confirm that at this point. Similarly, there are reports that the bug can also affect Apple Watch devices synced to an affected iPhone.
How widespread is it?
Judging by the number of posts complaining about the issue on the Apple Support Forums, it seems that both bugs are relatively widespread.
We can’t claim that they affect every device on iOS 12-11. At this point, it’s not currently clear if it’s tied to a sporadic issue or is baked into the platform.
For one, it would make sense that the only people that are seeing the bug are those who routinely travel between time zones. Users who don’t won’t see the bug and are unlikely to report it.
How to Fix It
If you’ve come to this article, you’ve probably been impacted by this particular bug. If that’s the case, you probably want to know how to fix it.
What’s Causing It?
The best way to solve a problem is to identify the underlying cause. Unfortunately, we’re not sure what is causing this time zone bug in iOS 12-11.
According to users who contacted Apple support, it could be a carrier issue. The time and date settings are largely pushed out by a user’s carrier (if Wi-Fi is not available). But even support staff agree that something in iOS 12-11 is also at play. So check and see if there is a carrier update available and if so, update.
One former software engineer speculates that it’s probably tied to the reboot sequence. Which isn’t too helpful as far as practical, but there it is.
What Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy or particularly convenient fix for this issue.
- While some posters on the Apple Support Forums suggest that a fresh install of iOS 12/11 could help, we can’t recommend that. It does not seem like reinstalling the operating system has any effect on the bug, based on the reports we’ve read. That’s likely because there’s an issue with the software itself.
- Like we’ve stated above, disabling Set Automatically and manually setting the time only works temporarily. As soon as a phone is rebooted or otherwise powered off, iOS 12/11 will turn Set Automatically back on.
What Could Work
In lieu of a perfect fix, there are some things you can do to mitigate the problem. You should use these if you have important appointments or dates you can’t miss while traveling.
- Don’t use Airplane Mode. Sure, you may need when you’re on the plane. But once you land, make sure your device’s time zone is accurate and refrain from turning on Airplane Mode for the duration of your trip.
- Make sure your device doesn’t power off. This may be out of your control at times, but don’t turn off your device. Keep it charged and powered on, if you can. If circumstances come up and you need to power it off, make sure to set the time zone correctly when it’s powered back on.
- Use another timekeeper. This may be a frustrating solution, but it can keep you from missing important appointments. Use the in-room hotel clock, wear a watch to keep the time accurate, or buy a cheap and portable alarm clock to carry with you.
- Turn off Location Services. Specifically, the option to use Location Services to set the time zone. Go to Settings –> Privacy –> Location Services –> System Services. Make sure that Setting Time Zone is switched off. This issue likely won’t fix Set Automatically turning back on if a device is powered off, however.
- Use Time Zone Override. Some users are claiming that this mitigates the time zone issues within the native Calendar app. You can find it in Settings –> Calendar –> Time Zone Override. Of course, you’ll still run into problems with the Clock and Reminders apps.
As of the writing of this article, Apple’s engineers are reportedly aware of the issue. But there’s currently no timeline for a possible fix being introduced.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.