iPhone 6 users cite “Error 53” issue, Apple cracking down on third-party repairs

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Date: Friday, February 5th, 2016, 11:25
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPhone, News


Well, this is a royal mess.

A large number of iPhone 6 users are claiming that Apple’s latest operating system permanently disables the handset if it detects that a repair has been carried out by a non-Apple technician.

The issue, an “Error 53”, appears when the Touch ID button has been replaced by a “non-official” outfit or technician. The error, according to at least one report, “will kill your iPhone”.

The issue only comes to light when the latest version of Apple’s iPhone software, iOS 9, is installed. Indeed, the phone may have been working perfectly for weeks or months since a repair or being damaged.

Following installation of iOS 9, a growing number of people have watched in horror as their handset is rendered useless. Any photos or other data held on the handset is lost – and irretrievable.

Tech experts claim Apple knows all about the problem but has done nothing to warn users that their phone will be bricked if they install the iOS upgrade.

Freelance photographer and self-confessed Apple addict Antonio Olmos says this happened to his phone a few weeks ago after he upgraded his software. Olmos had previously had his handset repaired while on an assignment for the Guardian in Macedonia. “I was in the Balkans covering the refugee crisis in September when I dropped my phone. Because I desperately needed it for work I got it fixed at a local shop, as there are no Apple stores in Macedonia. They repaired the screen and home button, and it worked perfectly.”

He says he thought no more about it, until he was sent the standard notification by Apple inviting him to install the latest software. He accepted the upgrade, but within seconds the phone was displaying “error 53” and was, in effect, dead.

When Olmos took it to an Apple store in London, staff told him there was nothing they could do, and that his phone was now junk. He had to pay £270 for a replacement and is furious.

California-based tech expert Kyle Wiens, who runs the iFixit website, says this is a major issue. “The ‘error 53’ page on our website has had more than 183,000 hits, suggesting this is a big problem for Apple users,” he said in an interview. “The problem occurs if the repairer changes the home button or the cable. Following the software upgrade the phone in effect checks to make sure it is still using the original components, and if it isn’t, it simply locks out the phone. There is no warning, and there’s no way that I know of to bring it back to life.”

He says it is unclear whether this is a deliberate move to force anyone who drops their phone to use Apple for a repair. “All along, Apple’s view is that it does not want third parties carrying out repairs to its products, and this looks like an obvious extension of that,” he says. “What it should do is allow its customers to recalibrate their phone after a repair. Only when there is a huge outcry about this problem will it do something.”

A spokeswoman for Apple offered the following: “We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When 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. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”

She added: “When an iPhone is serviced by an unauthorised repair provider, faulty screens or other invalid components that affect the touch ID sensor could cause the check to fail if the pairing cannot be validated. With a subsequent update or restore, additional security checks result in an ‘error 53’ being displayed … If a customer encounters an unrecoverable error 53, we recommend contacting Apple support.”

We’ll have additional details on this as they become available.

Via The Guardian

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