Apple confirms that the iPhone's error 53 bricking issue is due to unofficial repairs

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Considering that an official Apple store or authorized repair shop charges between $269 to $329 to replace a broken iPhone home button, you can understand why some people are tempted to use non-Apple technicians to save money. But it turns out that may be a bad idea, as thousands of iPhone users discovered their devices had turned into expensive paperweights after encountering the ‘error 53’ problem, according to a report in the Guardian.

The issue stems from the smartphones' Touch ID sensor that the company introduced in the iPhone 5s. As a security feature, the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone is uniquely tied to the device using a secure enclave, meaning that someone who stole the iPhone couldn’t replace the home button – either as a way to access Touch ID-related features or to surreptitiously record a user’s biometric data.

Those who have had repairs related to the home button or screen carried out on their iPhones by non-authorized Apple personal are finding that, with iOS 9, the device can’t verify the touch sensor – resulting in Apple locking down the smartphone with error 53. The problem has even been reported by users who damaged their iPhones but not to the extent that they required any repairs.

Apple has acknowledged the problem and released a statement.

We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components. If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.

Apple may be emphasizing that error 53 is a security feature, but removing iPhone owners’ personal choice to seek out third-party vendors is not going down well. “It’s ridiculous,” said Kyle Wiens, head of electronics-repair site iFixit.com. "That’s the same as Ford saying we’re not going to let any mechanics work on our cars because they’ll change the key.”

Apple apparently knew about the problem for a while, yet did nothing to warn users that installing the iOS update could potentially brick their phone if it had received third-party repairs.

While Apple is directing those who discover error 53 to its support page, it seems that the only option most owners are faced with is buying a new iPhone, as using non-Apple repair stores voids the warranty.

The issue has mainly been reported with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it’s likely that people using an iPhone 5s, iPhone 6s or 6s Plus will also be affected. iPads with Touch ID sensors are also likely to be at risk.

With the amount of negative publicity Error 53 is generating for Apple, will the Cupertino-based company respond with a change in its repairs policy? Unlikely, but it'll be a surprise if Apple doesn't do more to address the issue.

Image credit: Yeamake / Shutterstock

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Skidmarksdeluxe

TS Evangelist
Sadly, the Apple of today in no way resembles it's humble beginnings. I guess they are ignorant to the old mantra that the best business is repeat business ....
It's just too big and rich for it's own good and it's little more than a legal racket. The good news is it wont be around forever. Apple is all about smoke and mirrors that will eventually lead to it's downfall.
 
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anupam

TS Rookie
I for once do not agree with the analogy made to compare Ford car repair mechanic with Apple engineer. I phone touch ID essentially carries the key to you bank account a ford mechanic does not. If android pay or Samsung pay was to become as popular as apple pay then they too will follow suit. The implementer will have to bind the touch sensor HW and encrypt the communication with the device too.

very good design and mature security feature Apple.
 

veLa

TS Evangelist
I for once do not agree with the analogy made to compare Ford car repair mechanic with Apple engineer. I phone touch ID essentially carries the key to you bank account a ford mechanic does not. If android pay or Samsung pay was to become as popular as apple pay then they too will follow suit. The implementer will have to bind the touch sensor HW and encrypt the communication with the device too.

very good design and mature security feature Apple.
A better example: You lock your keys inside your house. You don't go running to the home's architect do you? No, you call a lock smith.

There is plenty of stuff inside your house, your check book, any electronics or other valuables. All of that is not at risk just because you had a third party lock smith let you in.

It's their phone isn't it? They should be able to do any modifications they want.
 
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grumpiman

TS Member
Yes, but where Apple failed here is to inform customers that they risked bricking their phone if they updated their version of iOS.

Of course, on the bright side, I think Apple recently announced a new trade-in policy for old iPhones that don't work anymore...
 
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Sadly, the Apple of today in no way resembles it's humble beginnings. I guess they are ignorant to the old mantra that the best business is repeat business ....
I dunno, it seems like same old Apple to me. I had drunk deeply of the "Apple Kool-Aid" in the early 1990s...until I realized that I paid more, got less, and threw away any real control and freedom over my device with Apple. Not one Apple device for me since 1992...
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
I dunno, it seems like same old Apple to me. I had drunk deeply of the "Apple Kool-Aid" in the early 1990s...until I realized that I paid more, got less, and threw away any real control and freedom over my device with Apple. Not one Apple device for me since 1992...
Pay attention class .... this one is wise beyond his years!
 

Tanstar

TS Evangelist
I for once do not agree with the analogy made to compare Ford car repair mechanic with Apple engineer. I phone touch ID essentially carries the key to you bank account a ford mechanic does not. If android pay or Samsung pay was to become as popular as apple pay then they too will follow suit. The implementer will have to bind the touch sensor HW and encrypt the communication with the device too.

very good design and mature security feature Apple.
If you lose your phone and have Apple Pay enabled then you should behave the same way you would if you lost your credit card or debit card. My wallet doesn't have a fingerprint lock and I feel plenty safe. Soon Apple's only customers will be like you, people who need their hand held through every little part of life.
 

anupam

TS Rookie
A better example: You lock your keys inside your house. You don't go running to the home's architect do you? No, you call a lock smith.

There is plenty of stuff inside your house, your check book, any electronics or other valuables. All of that is not at risk just because you had a third party lock smith let you in.

It's their phone isn't it? They should be able to do any modifications they want.
ok
on the same line

Would you let the lock smith fix the lock on your house while you wait in a different city and come to check if it was fixed after a day or 2 while knowing that as soon as your door are fixed he has access to all your stuff as that one lock unlocks most of the important stuff etc

its essentially same.

dont take me wrong I hate the design that makes changing the broken screen glass impossible (which is the cost of elegance in every slim design now days) but I appreciate identity protection!
 
T

The Owl

I used to work at one time back in the late 90's for the firm who worked under the Umax banner in the UK (since a dead bankrupt firm) I was the Guy who had to build the "Under licence" Umax Apple Mac's I did it for six months churning them out daily I eventually jacked it in and vowed to never touch a "Apple" again I can honestly say hand on my heart its a vow I have kept
 

jobeard

TS Ambassador
Examine the decision tree for security
  • is the box physically secure? { locked room, locked bios} -> no physical changes allowed, including screen/home button repairs.
  • not physically secure, then bios settings can be changed and HD can be extracted
Without physical security, the only last resort to privacy and security is full disk encryption.

So, like pregnancy, you are or are not physically secure.
 

rabbit2502

TS Rookie
Gee and just when I was getting mad enough at windohs ten to start thinking about an I Pad..oh well I guess I need to start relearning Linux again.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
Would you let the lock smith fix the lock on your house while you wait in a different city and come to check if it was fixed after a day or 2 while knowing that as soon as your door are fixed he has access to all your stuff as that one lock unlocks most of the important stuff etc
Yes I would. It's the people you don't have contracts with that are most likely to try something stupid.

If a locksmith tried anything while under contract, they would essentially be throwing their life away for even the smallest thing. A locksmith by laws has harsher penalties because they are legally registered to open locks. They are held to a higher standard than everyone else. Basically the same principle as a person being classified a lethal weapon, their punishment if caught harming another would be more severe.