Stuck with a dead iPhone 6 due to Error 53? Some Apple Stores will fix third-party screens and Touch ID problems to unbrick your device, say support personnel.
Up until this week, Apple has refused to repair iPhones with the Error 53 message, stating that it is a user-caused hardware problem not covered by the standard warranty. This left users experiencing the problem up the creek without a paddle and the only option was to purchase a brand new iPhone. But after mass-media attention and a potential class-action lawsuit coming against the company, it seems Apple may be changing its tune.
In a post on Tuesday, MacRumors stated that a source inside an Apple retail store had been given the “go ahead” to replace third-party parts in iPhones with the Error 53 message. Customers would have to pay the standard out-of-warranty fee for the repair but that figure would be less than replacing the bricked device.
iDigitalTimes contacted Apple Support to check the validity of this claim and was told that some Apple Stores were replacing the third-party screens and other non-Apple components but no official listing of stores doing repairs was available.
“Normally they [Apple technicians] won’t touch a device that has been repaired by a third party,” said an Apple Support associate. “Having any kind of repairs done outside of an Apple Store basically voids the hardware warranty, because if, for example, something was hooked up incorrectly it can cause a whole bunch of issues.”
In light of the Error 53 situation, though, some stores are approving the replacement of third-party parts.
“It’s been left to the discretion of the individual store,” said Apple Support personnel.
What Is Error 53?
Error 53 occurs when an iPhone 6 owner has the device's screen or Touch ID replaced outside of a certified Apple Repair shop. In the past, these parts could be replaced by a non-Apple technician without any major ramifications. The Touch ID functionality would be lost during such repairs, but the iPhone would still work just fine. With the release of iOS 9, however, users began reporting an Error 53 message on their screens when they tried to update. The message could not be deleted and since Apple refused to repair such devices, the owners were left with no alternative but to purchase a new phone.
Though the issue has plagued hundreds of thousands of iPhone 6 users, until recently, the company hadn't recognized it. Last Friday, The Guardian published an in-depth story featuring one of its photographer’s horrific tale of Error 53. The story gained mass-media attention, being retold across numerous news sources.
Though an Apple spokesperson told Money the Error 53 repair policy had to do with protecting users’ security, some third-party repair shops believe it’s Apple’s way of edging out competitors and increasing its own revenues by forcing iPhone owners to have screens or Touch IDs replaced at official Apple repair stores.
“Apple is just another manufacturer trying to use their monopoly to block third party repair,” iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens told iDigitalTimes. “This isn’t a new issue — auto manufacturers have also tried to lock out local mechanics. It took ‘ Right to Repair’ legislation to force the automakers to do the same thing.”
The story attracted the attention of a Seattle-based law firm, PCVA, that may soon launch a class-action suit against Apple. In a statement on the firm’s webpage, it writes that Apple’s stance on Error 53 may violate some consumer protection laws in the US.
“ We believe that Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third party repair shops,” the statement reads. “Where you could get your screen replaced by a neighborhood repair facility for $50-80, Apple charges $129 or more. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products.”
Meanwhile, iOS security researcher Stefan Esser says Apple could easily prevent further issues by changing the Error 53 message to a warning rather than a device-bricking error.
“In next iOS release, Apple should stop bricking devices and put an unauthorized Touch ID hardware warning on the screen” the researcher told Info Security Magazine. “It would definitely make more sense to temporarily disable TouchID than the whole phone.”
iDigitalTimes reached out to Apple, asking what their future plans were regarding Error 53, but the company has yet to respond. If we hear back from them, we’ll be sure to update. If you have experienced problems with Error 53, the best thing to do is schedule a Genius Bar appointment at your nearest Apple Store and find out if they are replacing third-party parts.