Error 53: Once again, Apple PR drops the ball

“Apple’s PR approach to the reporting of ‘error 53′ in the last week has been poor at best,” Ewan Spence writes for Forbes. “Following The Guardian’s coverage of the issue, Apple has released a handful of bland statements about security, fraudulent parts, hoping these will be enough to declare the issue closed. Meanwhile, the anger over Error 53′s root cause, Apple’s approach to customer repairs, and a lack of a cost-effective solution has been building online unabated.”

“The technical reasons for Error 53 have been partly lost in the conversation. Apple has a strong case for taking action to lock down a smartphone that has had its secure elements breached,” Spence writes. “There are technical reasons for two of the elements that caught my eye (why the lock-down only happens during the update process, and why the error message is so cryptic). Charles Arthur goes into exquisite detail on The Overspill, so I’ll direct you there for the full details.”

“But it’s not the technical issues that I find the most intriguing part of the story – it’s how the story has created its own myths, what the story says about Apple’s attitudes to users, and the question of Apple’s PR response,” Spence writes. “Apple traditionally has been a very secretive company, leaving its products to do the talking, but in the case where the product is saying all the wrong things (or people are interpreting what the product is saying in a negative way) then the artistic void should be put aside and clear facts should be released that acknowledge the situation, explain what has happened, and extend a solution.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple PR drops the ball. What else is new?

Apple under pressure as lawyers pledge action over ‘Error 53’ iPhones – February 9, 2016
‘Error 53’ fury mounts as Apple software update kills some iPhones ‘fixed’ by non-Apple repair shops – February 5, 2016


  1. I was hoping that, with Katie Cotton’s departure, they would manage issues like this more effectively. I guess the answer so far is, “not yet.”

    This whole thing could be fixed in a heartbeat with a press release and a decent offer to fix the broken phones, even if they charge for parts and labor on correcting any problems caused by an unauthorized repair.

    One particularly sympathetic user, a freelance photojournalist Anotonio Olmos had to have his iPhone repaired while he was in Macedonia. I don’t know what made him get the repair where he did. Perhaps he was unaware that Apple has authorized service centers in Macedonia. He could have looked one up on the Apple website.

    1. Do authorized service centers actually service iPhones? Or do they just send it to an Apple facility to do the repairs?

      When my iPhone 5 had to get its standby button replaced under recall, it wasn’t done on site, it had to be shipped off and I got a replacement for a week. And this was at an actual Apple Store.

      An unauthorized 3rd party repair would offer “same day” and maybe even “while you wait” service. He might have accepted that a Home button repair might disable TouchID functionality, but he certainly wouldn’t expect it to brick the phone at a later date.

  2. The haters and nitwits are blowing this way out of proportion, as usual. Those of us with decent critical thinking skills aren’t the ones flaming Apple about this issue, since we understand the issue and security implications involved. Newsflash: Apple doesn’t cater to uninformed, reactionary haters – never has, and hopefully never will. People like that are best ignored. In the end what matters is that Apple does the right thing by the people who are actually effected; and so far it seems Apple is doing that. Don’t get your expensive and ultra-secure Apple device “serviced” by some clueless person in a random mall kiosk if you care about your security. And if you do see this error, recognize that your data is perfectly safe rather than being potentially compromised, bring it to Apple, and they will take care of it for you. Simple.

    1. Newsflash: most of the people in the world lack critical thinking skills, not to mention even a passing understanding of technology. This is the reason that skillful handling of PR is so important. You need to lead the conversation.

        1. I don’t think it is.

          The phone was repaired months ago. An update bricked it last week. Most people wouldn’t even make the connection, and the “error 53” obviously doesn’t explain anything. One has to go find another phone (or an iPad, or a computer), google this “error 53” and discover that it is related to a home button repair. It is rather difficult to understand how was the phone able to work perfectly fine for months, only to become useless now. The logical conclusion is obviously that Apple’s update somehow bricked it.

          I completely understand the underlying security story behind this, but for the few people who are affected by this, it simply boggles the mind. A $700 device that becomes completely useless after a software update, and was working perfectly fine before that — there is no convincing explanation that make sense to that unfortunate iPhone owner.

          Had I not read about this problem on MDN, and had it happened to me, I would have likely been livid as well. Let us not forget, for most iPhone owners, the device is an extension of their mind, around which most of their daily lives revolve. Take it away and you have seriously disrupted their lives.

        2. No, silverdick, your trolling attempts are definitely getting more and more pathetic. Why don’t you get back to sucking Cook’s little popsicle stick since all you do is attack anyone who expects Apple to act like the premier quality computer maker. Just can’t stand the truth when Timmy fucks up, can you?

    2. Forbes’ Ewen Spence paints the issue as “any replacement parts” when it is not. It is only the replacement of the TouchID sensor, which is very unusual to be replaced. Third party replacement of the screen, batteries, or other parts which are far more likely to be replaced, will NOT have this problem, and are generally safe to have replaced by non-Apple authorized shops or as a do-it-yourself project (assuming one is somewhat skilled). As far as I know, the only paired part is that TouchID sensor.

      When I read Apple’s response originally, it was quite clear. It explained it as a security issue and told people who had run into a problem to contact Apple Service, which would handle the problem by doing a re-sync of the sensor of the system to the sensor, if the user was authorized. Problem solved.

        1. They are claiming that since only Apple can re-sync the sensors, it requires the customer only to do business with Apple. They imply that is impermissible as a restraint on the customer. Any old hack should be able to work on the iPhone under their theory.

  3. Apple drops the ball? How?
    If someone stole my phone, bypassed security by switching out a component and then accessed all my data, I would want the thing to be a brick.
    There is a reason why some things should be serviced by Apple.

    1. If the TouchID is compromised – why can’t the software disable that function entirely and still let the phone work in the same way as an iPhone 5? It would still then need a numerical passcode.

  4. Each and every Apple product needs to be shipped with a clear and obvious warning that repairs and installation of non-Apple approved components will make the device a security risk and likely make the device unuasble. However, access to emergency services from an iPhone should remain intact.

    1. You are onto something there! In this case it certainly seems like they have been assimilated by the Gorg.

      What would people have said if the iPhone actually ALLOWED the security hardware to be replaced by some hacker. Then it would be some kind of bigger “security gate” or some sort.

      1. We’re back in the arena in which no matter Apple actions or lack of actions, the hyenas come out of the woodwork barking at the top of their lungs how terrible Apple is.

        And MDN cheers the hyenas on.

        Yes, imagine the crap storm that would happen if Touch ID’s security features were compromised! It would be all over the media and the NYT would be looking to score a Pulitzer (undeserved or not).

        1. You are talking about something else. Nobody is arguing that Apple allow third-party, compromised touch ID sensors, or the underlying security to be compromised.

          The main point here (and it is quite valid) is that Apple didn’t develop proper process that would inform the user of the consequences of having the touch ID sensor replaced by anyone other than Apple themselves. This is a somewhat complicated technological problem. Not even genuine Apple Touch ID sensor would have worked, unless it was installed at an Apple shop, and Apple had a way of authenticating it against their servers.

          There will be people who need to replace a defective Touch ID sensor. For them, Apple (and the third-party repair shops) must be able to clearly explain what can (and will) happen next time user tries to update the iOS. Regardless of whether the user paid for the replacement out of pocket, or if it was covered by warranty (or some other third-party coverage), logical expectation is that, after the repair, the device will resume working the way it always did. Because of the complex security architecture, this may not be possible, and the user must be informed BEFORE he decides to spend money to replace the Touch ID sensor. It is only normal that when a person spends money to repair the phone, they’d be angry if the phone turns into a brick later down the road, as a consequence of that repair.

          1. Read Charles Arthur’s piece referred to in the article. It’s very technical but covers most of the myths and misunderstandings being bruited abroad.

            Apple’s only fault IMO is that their PR department has not “led the conversation”. But then, it is a very technical issue. Most iPhone users have little understanding of the security issues inherent in the use of Touch ID for ApplePay. I have a better understanding having read the article.

  5. I consider it case closed! If they are Apple authorized, why are they using cheap third party products to repair the phone then? Sounds like another over blown story.

    1. It doesn’t matter whether the Touch ID sensor was ‘cheap third-party’ part or genuine Apple part; the exact same problem happens. No third-party authorised repair shop can successfully replace Touch ID sensor and make it work. It requires the sensor to be properly authenticated with data on Apple’s servers, and apparently only Apple can do that. Most of the world’s users don’t have an Apple shop nearby, so this is a serious problem.

      1. Apple states:

        “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.”

        So apparently there are indeed authorized service providers – other than Apple retail stores – that can do the pairing.

Reader Feedback

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