Weird things are happening to iPhones that have had their screens replaced by third-party repair houses, and it has a whiff of conspiracy theory to it.
On Monday Motherboard reported that iPhone 8 users were finding that their phones bricked after updating to iOS 11.3. Owners claimed that their devices had worked fine before the update, but after installing 11.3, their screens lost touch functionality. The common thread between all the bricked phones was that they had been repaired using aftermarket screens.
Now it appears that those with aftermarket screens are not the only ones being affected by display problems after the update. According to Engadget, some repair shops using genuine Apple replacement screens in iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X are finding that the displays will no longer auto-adjust the brightness. It is a subtle glitch and one that does not entirely make the device useless, but it is still not an acceptable issue that users should have to swallow. This concern is not only isolated with iOS 11.3, but also affects devices running 11.1 and 11.2.
These problems are understandably frustrating for users, but third-party repairers share in the frustration as well.
"We don’t even do the 8 repairs this year."
Georgia-based repair shop Injured Gadgets CEO Aakshay Kripalani told Motherboard, “This [loss of touch functionality] has caused my company over 2,000 reshipments.”
Where the story gets conspiratorial is that some shops using genuine Apple parts are saying that those same screens function fine when replaced by Apple. Third-party service providers are wondering how it is that their repairs are failing while Apple’s are not.
“Customers are annoyed, and it seems like Apple is doing this to prevent customers from doing 3rd party repair,” said Kripalani.
Repair tech Michael Oberdick said his shop intentionally refuses to do iPhone 8 repairs. “We don’t even do the [iPhone] 8 repairs this year, on purpose. I had a really good feeling that something like this was going to happen again,” he said.
Oberdick was referring to a similar problem with iPhone 7s last October that sprung up after the iOS 11.0.3 update. In that instance, Apple quickly issued a patch that resolved the problem. In all likelihood, the same will happen this time.
The last thing Apple needs is a bunch of angry users with bricked devices, especially after the FTC has just come down on several companies regarding the legality of placing “warranty voiding” stickers in their devices.
While the FTC did not mention which companies it had targeted, Apple is known to void warranties if they can detect that the phone has been opened. A device can even have its warranty voided when official Apple parts are used outside of an authorized repair facility.
Whether there is anything to the conspiracy remains to be seen. Perhaps it is just an honest bug in iOS 11.3, or maybe it is Apple fighting back and turning up the heat on the Right to Repair movement that we have reported on numerous times in recent months.
So far Apple has not responded to requests for comment.