Since the morning, Apple has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Guardian has reported that an software update for iOS is disabling iPhones, which have been repaired by non-Apple authorised parties. This is a problem that iPhone users are facing all over the world. The problem, which has been technically defined as a Error 53 issue, is related to an iOS device’s Touch ID scanner.
To be precise, when an iOS device with Touch ID is opened the engineer has to be careful about not detaching the cable connecting the Touch ID scanner to the logic board of the device. Apple’s Touch ID scanner is super secure. So much so, that each scanner is calibrated and paired with an individual processor. Essentially, this also means if there’s something wrong with your Touch ID scanner, you can’t replace the individual part, you have to simply get a new iPhone.
Things are even more complicated because the scanner is embedded in the home-button, which is a part of the display assembly. So, in the case you break the screen of the iPhone, it is a not a straight-forward repair job. Often in such cases, the Touch ID scanner is rendered useless. This happens because the Touch ID scanner isn’t authenticated with the processor. In some extreme cases, the condition is terminal, and the phone becomes unusable.
Apple does this for obvious reasons. It wants to make sure that access to the phone or tablet isn’t attained illegally as it can give unauthorised people access to private data and also your credit card and banking details as Touch ID is used to authenticate Apple Pay transactions and also iTunes and the App Store.
The secure enclave on the A7, A8 and A9 processors only has access to the fingerprint data and that’s why every Touch ID scanner is married to an individual processor. That’s alright. Apple has its heart in the right place.
But what’s happening now is beyond wrong. An iOS 9 update is essentially disabling working iPhones, which have been repaired by third parties. As per Apple’s terms of conditions, once an iPhone endures physical damage, it loses its warranty anyway. Even if the phone is opened by a third party, the phone loses its warranty. That’s okay. Most users who get the phone repaired are aware of this fact. The phone is the user’s property for which he or she paid money. They can do whatever they want to do with it.
In India, Apple doesn’t change the screen of the iPhone. Instead for more than Rs.20,000, it replaces the phone with a new unit. So, in case users break the screen, they often pay around Rs.10,000 to a third-party service centre and get the phone repaired. These phones often work fine because the parts are original.
But if Apple is pushing out an update, which could possibly render these phones useless, it is doing a big disservice to its consumers. Apple has never communicated that it would disable the phone if it was repaired by a third party.
Of late, the quality of Apple’s software and services has indeed gone down . So, this could be a bug. But one thing is clear, it’s either a problem with iOS, or worse it’s a problem with the thinking of Apple’s management. The Error 53 fits well for you Apple. It’s not the iPhone that’s malfunctioning, it’s you.