The non-malicious glitch has been gaining new traction online recently, with some iOS users sharing screenshots of their devices receiving emails from December 31, 1969 or January 1, 1970. The glitch has been reported by users on both iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices, with those users noting that the messages in question have no content, subject line, or sender, and can not be interacted with.
The emails often appear when iPhone users are checking their emails in a different timezone. January 1, 1970 represents 0 in UNIX time – the way that computers often understand times and dates. One Reddit user who reported it appeared to be using Microsoft's Outlook app.
Every second since midnight on January 1 1970 is a different point in UNIX time (we’re currently at around 1.45 billion). So when an email is sent without any time data, or a timezone bug means it can’t be interpreted, the iPhone will default to zero – 1970.
With the issue causing emails to show up with timestamps of midnight GMT on January 1, 1970, users in the Western Hemisphere see dates of December 31, 1969 on their ghost emails due to timezone offsets.
The issue can sometimes be fixed by simply closing the email app and reopening, while others have found success with subsequently performing a hard reset on the device (pressing down the Home and lock buttons until the iPhone or iPad restarts). The more notable January 1, 1970 date bug bricked iPhones with a date manually set to May 1970 or earlier, and Apple will be fixing the issue with its forthcoming iOS 9.3 update. In comparison, the ghost email reports -- which include a long list of affected users -- are simply a nuisance.