‘Error 53’ fury mounts as Apple software update kills some iPhones ‘fixed’ by non-Apple repair shops

“Thousands of iPhone 6 users claim they have been left holding almost worthless phones because Apple’s latest operating system permanently disables the handset if it detects that a repair has been carried out by a non-Apple technician,” Miles Brignall reports for The Guardian. “The issue appears to affect handsets where the home button, which has touch ID fingerprint recognition built-in, has been repaired by a ‘non-official’ company or individual. It has also reportedly affected customers whose phone has been damaged but who have been able to carry on using it without the need for a repair.”

“But the problem 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,” Brignall reports. “After installation a growing number of people have watched in horror as their phone, which may well have cost them £500-plus, 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’ (ie, rendered as technologically useful as a brick) if they install the iOS upgrade,” Brignall reports. “Apple charges £236 for a repair to the home button on an iPhone 6 in the UK, while an independent repairer would demand a fraction of that.”

MacDailyNews Take: Wrong. The link that Brignall supplies takes you to Apple UK’s iPhone repair page which clearly states: £79 to fix “accidental damage” for those with AppleCare+ coverage. It costs £256.44 for those without AppleCare+ warranty.

“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,'” Brignall reports. “When Olmos, who says he has spent thousands of pounds on Apple products over the years, 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. ‘The whole thing is extraordinary. How can a company deliberately make their own products useless with an upgrade and not warn their own customers about it? Outside of the big industrialised nations, Apple stores are few and far between, and damaged phones can only be brought back to life by small third-party repairers.'”

MacDailyNews Take: You should have had AppleCare+, Antonio. You take your iPhone to cover a crisis in the Balkans and you don’t have proper insurance coverage? Or proper backup? No sympathy. If your iPhone is so important for your work and you know you are going to an area without proper repair services, maybe you should take along a backup iPhone? You know, like a smart person?

Instead you go whining to the media, trumpeting your own ineptitude and glaring lack of preparedness in your work. Have some effing personal responsibility, will you? It’s not Apple’s fault you’re a butterfingered klutz without even a wisp of a backup plan.

Some people have to learn lessons the hard way.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Security first. Back up your iPhone and you won’t lose any data if you’re an international photojournalist or otherwise prone to breaking your iPhone, who has no backup and is therefore likely to panickedly resort to getting it serviced in an insecure way by an unauthorized technician, and therefore ultimately have to get a new one.

Apple’s statement:

We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorized 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. 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.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Sarasota” and “Dialtone” for the heads up.]

49 Comments

  1. So everyone is ok with the possibility of having your ID stolen due to some back alley shop that pops open a phone and replaces the sensors that keep your phone secure. Ok.
    Apple has seen in past years a ton of damage to their devices and computers when Joe shops think they can properly repair the Apple products. Those same products are then taken into Apple as broken or defective products thinking Apple will fix the issues. Wrong. It’s no different than taking your new BMW to Joes garage to have the interior and security system fixed. Yes Joe can do it, but without the proper training, parts, and security your BMW may not work properly or might fail at a most crucial times. If you crash and your airbag doesn’t go off due to Joe, it was you who took it there in the first place.
    The better thing to do would be to make an appointment at the BMW dealer and then get a rental until the job is complete.
    If you find yourself in the back parts of the world and your phone breaks, just buy a cheap phone and swap sims out. Then later take your phone to be repaired at the correct place. If your job requires you to rely on your ability to communicate with the office, then take a back up with you.

    1. You know actually my sister owns a 2006 BMW 330i. It was puking out engine coolant and oil. She got a quote from the dealership and it was gonna be a $700 repair job.

      Wanna know what the culprit was? A gasket had gone out. The fix? A new gasket. Cost $15 at the local auto parts store and took about an hour to replace at home.

      I actually have a 2004 Saturn ION that was making a rattling noise and one day quit running. The culprit? Timing chain tensioner went out, causing the timing chain to fly off and causing damage to the internal timing mechanisim. Dealership quoted me $1,000. The fix? A new timing chain kit that cost $50 at the local auto parts store and a few days to replace.

      $700 vs $15. $1,000 vs $50.

      I know cars are quite different than phones. But here’s what I’m getting at. Companies like these mark up prices by 1,000% on a regular basis. You know why? Because they know they can rely on people who blindly trust them.

      1. So in these cases you take the risk knowing you may get sub-standard parts or void your warrantly or whatever. In most cases it’s not a problem, but you take the risk on yourself. You don’t sue BMW because they didn’t have a dealership in Macedonia and Aristophanes’s repair shop messed up your ride.

        1. No not sub standard. 90% of the time, the parts you get at the local auto shop place are made by the same exact people who produce parts for dealerships. And the place I go to has a lifetime guarantee on all the parts they sell anyways, but that’s beside the point.

          And you’re right. You don’t sue BMW, or Apple because they don’t have a dealership or store in Macedonia. You sue them for releasing a software update that can render peoples cars or phones useless without even so much as a warning beforehand.

  2. I’m on Apple’s side on this one:

    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.

  3. These 3rd party repair shops are not authorized to service iPhones. Especially screen replacements as they need a calibration machine to calibrate not only the display but also the touch sensor. This is why they are failing.

  4. Apple does offer mail-in Service for authorized repairs as well, the argument about not being near an Apple Store doesn’t work very well.

    Additionally, anyone that cannot stand ANY downtime with an iPhone should at least bring a previous model (i.e. the ones most Apple addicts have around the house) or at least plan somehow.

    Anyone who purchases such a high cost piece of tech and then decides to have it repaired in a back-alley shop should be prepared to dump it and buy a new device back home anyways.

    1. Where? You do realize there are lots of countries with unreliable mail service and high costs for mailing to the US, right? Not really an option for much of the world.

    2. You’re right, especially if this is a photojournalist he should have a backup camera and a computer. If the iPhone is his only photo and communications device then he’s pretending he’s a professional.

  5. Considering how many people around the world live far, far away from any authorized Apple servicer, this seems grotesquely punitive. Particularly in less affluent countries where people scrimp and save to get an iPhone, inflicting these kinds of costs is only going to drive a whole lot of people away from Apple. And, now that I think about it, I am now much more inclined to stick with my iPhone 5 than upgrade to a newer model with Touch ID.

  6. Wow you guys must just let anyone write your articles.

    I love how you said he should have had Apple Care coverage right underneath the paragraph where he explicitly explains there are no Apple stores in Macedonia.

    Even if he does have coverage, how the hell is he supposed to use it with no stores around? Send it through the mail and wait maybe a month before he can start making money again. Yeah let’s do that. Let’s do that instead of waiting maybe a day at a local repair shop. That’s perfectly fucking logical in an emergency situation like that.

    Oh no, he should have bought a backup phone. Because, you know, a freelance photographer has money to just throw around like that.

    SMH stupidity like this pisses me off.

  7. I suspect this is yet another bug, rather than a conscious attempt by Apple to brick people’s phones. That would be extreme, even for Apple.

    However, many of the comments in this thread are beyond stupid. If Microsoft or Google bricked their owners phones in the name of data security, would this site and its loyal readers be applauding that as the pinnacle of security concern? Hardly. Bricking someone’s device so they can no longer access their own data on their own device is hardly a responsible security policy. Politely informing a user that their security profile had been comprised through use of a 3rd party component would be the more responsible approach that I would expect from a company that cared for its customers.

    Let’s hope Apple fixes this bug – or sacks the executive that approved this if it is a feature – and allows users to what they wish with devices that they have paid for and own.

    Can you imagine taking your car to the dealer and finding that they’ve disabled the engine management system because you had the exhaust replaced in Quickfit? It’s outrageous.

  8. There are valid arguments for both sides with this issue. Apple needs to explain in clear language what is going on and why. At the moment it’s not a good look for the company and it’s not going to go away any time soon.

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