Reports from multiple outlets are showing a critical issue called “Error 53” that bricks iPhones if they’ve had their home button or screen repaired by a 3rd party outlet. The problem has been circulating for months, but very few people are aware of the issue.
Apple’s reasoning on the fix is that someone could potentially change out the home button on a stolen iPhone 6 to bypass the Touch ID system, and while this may be the reality in some cases, the software change is hurting many legitimate buyers. Many people go to 3rd party repair shops (even though this technically breaks Apple’s warranty guidelines) to save money on repairs. Phones that have been working for months after a fix could break after updating to iOS 9.
The software update’s reasoning is sound, but Apple isn’t communicating that iOS 9 can brick your phone. What’s worse is that there isn’t a way to reverse the error– you will be unable to access your phone if you’re affected and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it. All data that isn’t backed up will be lost.
What to do if you think you’ll be affected
There isn’t much to do outside of staying on iOS 8. We’ll have to wait until Apple changes their stance on the issue and changes how iOS 9 behaves on the iPhone. We’ll update this article if the situation changes.
This is also something to keep in mind if you’re buying a second-hand iPhone. It’s nearly impossible to tell if the home button was replaced in the past, so you won’t know if the iOS 9 update will break your phone.
It appears that Apple doesn’t plan on changing their stance. According to an Apple Spokesperson,
“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 unauthorized 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.”
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