Apple under pressure as lawyers pledge action over ‘Error 53’ iPhones

“Apple has come under pressure to scrap its controversial policy of permanently disabling repaired iPhone 6s when software is upgraded, following a global consumer backlash and claims the company could be acting illegally,” Miles Brignall reports for The Guardian. “At least one firm of US lawyers said it hopes to bring a class action against the technology giant on behalf of victims whose £500 phones have been rendered worthless by an Apple software upgrade.”

The Guardian revealed on Friday how thousands of iPhone 6 users found an iOS software upgrade permanently disabled their phone, which was left displaying an ‘Error 53’ code. Nothing could be done to restore it to working order,” Brignall reports. “The Apple iOS 9 software update which it launched last autumn will, in the jargon, ‘brick’ the handset if it detects that the touch ID fingerprint recognition and/or the home button is not the original.”

“Within hours of publication of the Guardian story, the Seattle-based law firm PCVA called for victims to get in touch, with a view to bringing a class action suit,” Brignall reports. “Apple has so far declined to comment other than a revised statement issued on Saturday saying: ‘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.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This is a security issue.

Apple’s previous statement regarding the matter:

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.

‘Error 53’ fury mounts as Apple software update kills some iPhones ‘fixed’ by non-Apple repair shops – February 5, 2016


  1. I did a bit of research into the legality of the ‘Error 53’ situation. Apple’s response is entirely LEGAL. Apple’s error message to users is of course poorly implemented, reminding me of the bad old days of obscure Mac OS error numbers. But Apple’s iOS Warranty clearly covers this situation:

    This Warranty does not apply…
    (f) to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP”);

    ‘Damage’ would, in this case, refer to the compromising of the Touch ID security system due to non-Apple repair. It’s an entirely wise response, protecting the iPhone user from others tampering with their device.

    Apple’s warranty varies according to the marketing zone in which an iOS device is sold, usually affected by local laws. I’ve heard comments that possibly law in the EU zone would affect the ‘Error 53’ situation, but I’ll let people living there consider that warranty.

    ∑ = In the USA a class action lawsuit would be thrown out and any lawyer attempting it would not have done their homework.

    Meanwhile, Apple has to provide far better notification and explanation to users of this error, both its purpose and how to solve it. Also, there are at least reports that third party repairs were not involved, despite the triggering of the error. What is truth and what is deception, the usual veracity problem.

    1. Derek,

      Fine the warranty is voided, but this is a matter of destroying someone’s device. This is about damages. And if the warranty is indeed void, what exactly are they fixing by bricking the device? A notification of warranty interruption is called for, and they then wipe their hands of it.

      1. I’ve heard that the devices can be effectively destroyed but this hasn’t been clear to me, so I avoided the subject. When that is the case it is UNACCEPTABLE.

        Of course, ‘Make A Backup’ is the #1 Rule of Computing. That should help. But Apple has to offer, at least for a fee, a way to get the data off the ‘damaged’ iOS device. And of course, if the Error 53 turns out to be Apple’s fault, replace the device AND transfer all data over to it for free.

        Ideally, the user benefits from the ‘bricking’ of the iOS device IF someone tampered with it. Then you offer them a free path back to life again.

        Meanwhile, attempting a legal recourse against what is clearly a warranty violation, is a waste of bottom crawlers.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.