Replacing a broken screen the cheap way can now ‘kill’ a new iPhone thanks to a security measure installed by Apple, which some users have learned the very hard way.
After the iOS 9 update was released in September 2015, some buyers of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were greeted with an ‘Error 53’ message if their damaged screens had been replaced by non-Apple repairers – even if the repair had occurred before the software update.
Not only does the error render the phone unusable, it reportedly prevents data retrieval. So a simple screen swap could turn your expensive Apple-branded device into a very expensive paperweight.
Over the weekend, Apple confirmed the existence of the security measure, explaining that it was intended to prevent tampering with the Touch ID sensor, the phone’s fingerprint scanner.
“We protect fingerprint data using a Secure Enclave, which is uniquely paired to the Touch ID sensor,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.
“When [an] iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the Touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated.”
An iPhone repair expert at IFixit told The New Daily that even genuine Apple parts swapped between iPhones can trigger the error.
Death without warning
The measure triggered outrage not only for its perceived severity, but also because the tech company failed to warn consumers.
A technology academic told The New Daily that while he understood Apple’s security concerns, the public was unlikely to see it as anything but “harsh”, and that the company should have issued a warning.
“If people go to one of these stores in the shopping malls and get the screens replaced and then there ends up being a problem which then Apple has to deal with later, I can understand the rationale for that,” UWA Centre for Software Practice director Dr David Glance said.
“It’s just that it’s going to be perceived by the public as being a bit harsh, especially when going through the Apple path is possibly going to be more expensive.”
What you should do
No matter how infuriating the security measure, Dr Glance still recommended customers play by the new rules and deal exclusively with Apple for repairs and replacements, despite the potential extra cost.
“I would always recommend that people go to the Apple store first,” he said.
“Apple is generally pretty good about replacing defective items. I’ve had people who have dropped their phones, having new phones given to them without too many questions asked. The local stores have a lot of discretion.
“I would personally, if I’d got a $1000 phone, prefer to get it done by Apple than to have it done by somebody else, but I understand that when people buy a phone on a plan and it’s much cheaper somewhere else, then that’s an option that people take.”
Yet another controversy
Dr Glance’s observation that Apple has, in this instance, favoured design over practicality is a common criticism of the company.
Late last year, reports the company would replace the headphone jack with a wireless option to make the iPhone thinner also angered Apple fans.
The company also continues to sell its devices at higher price points than many of its Android competitors, despite the fact that consumers would clearly prefer to pay less. Analysts have explained this as a deliberate market ploy to boost profits by targeting more affluent buyers, rather than the bargain market.
Will all this actually turn customers away? Dr Glance thought not.
It would seem Apple users are rusted on.