A hot potato: In an act of uncharacteristic generosity, Apple has decided that iPhone 13 owners will be able to use third parties for screen repairs without losing Face ID functionality. The welcome change will arrive in the form of a software update, though Apple never revealed when it would land.
Apple, long known for its opposition to the right to repair movement, attracted more controversy recently when iFixit confirmed that using an independent repair shop to replace the screen on an iPhone 13 renders Face ID useless. Upon detecting a new screen, the handset displays a message that reads: "Unable to verify this phone has a genuine Apple display."
Apple received plenty of criticism over the situation, understandably, and has now done something about it. Cupertino told The Verge it would be pushing out a software update that removes the need for the paired microcontroller chip to be transferred from an iPhone 13's original screen to a new one in order for Face ID to work.
Transferring the microcontroller chip is a hugely complicated, time-consuming process that requires "special equipment, and the ability to microsolder," making the relatively simple and cheap task of screen replacement a costly one for small repair shops—unless they're willing to join Apple's Independent Repair Program. Authorized Apple repair stores have special software that allows the iPhone 13 to accept a new screen without borking Face ID.
"This is a tactical achievement for the repair market, but it's an endless fight until the battlefield changes," said iFixit's Kevin Purdy. "Apple — and the many companies it inspires — will advance again with more parts lock-downs, more feature reductions, more reasons why only their profitable repair centers can do this work.