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iOS 16 exploit lets you set the system font to Comic Sans (and other things)

An indie app can be used to change your iPhone's default font if you haven't already installed the latest OS update.
Enlarge / An indie app can be used to change your iPhone’s default font if you haven’t already installed the latest OS update.

If you like your iPhone but hate the San Francisco typeface, developer Zhuowei Zhang has posted a neat tool to Github—an app that can temporarily “overwrite” the iOS system font with another one, giving your phone a new, non-Apple-sanctioned look.

The app doesn’t require any kind of jailbreak, but does need “iOS 16.1.2 or below” to work, since it relies on a kernel execution bug (CVE-2022-46689) patched in iOS 16.2. If you’ve already installed iOS 16.2—which we’d advise you to do, for security reasons—you won’t be able to experiment with the hack. Any font changes will be reverted by a device reboot, and apps that don’t use the default San Francisco typeface won’t change.

The app includes a number of pre-installed fonts, many of which seem designed to irritate the eyes of Apple’s UI designers. Comic Sans MS leads the charge in that regard, but Segoe UI (Windows’ and Microsoft’s default font of choice) and Samsung’s “Choco Cooky” (a distant cousin of Comic Sans) are also included. Custom fonts can be installed as long as they’re iOS-compatible.

Apple used to support more extensive customization of its user interfaces back in the classic Mac OS days, when everything from the system font to the window borders could be customized using the Appearance Manager. Those settings disappeared in the initial releases of Mac OS X, and changing the look and feel of any of Apple’s operating systems has only gotten harder in recent years as Apple has taken more and more steps to protect system files from modification and tampering (benign and otherwise).

Designing your interfaces around a single, predictable font makes it easier to test things and harder for users to break stuff by using a bizarre monospaced typeface that causes rendering errors. But these screenshots do kind of make me wish that OS designers would leave that up to me like they did in the old days.

Listing image by Apple

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