Apple is a pretty great company, and iPhones are pretty handy devices to hang on to. The iOS smartphones are sturdy, run one of the best operating systems and while pricey, are arguably some of the most secure phones out there. The company is also known for responding quickly and efficiently to consumer complaints. However, the past couple of years have seen the company draw the ire of users after a change in its repair policy, that has led to the infamous Error 53.
If you have — or have had — an iPhone with iOS9, and have tried to get it repaired at a non-Apple service center, you are probably familiar with the surge of disappointment and anger that comes up after your device displays Error 53.
If however, you have dutifully taken your damaged device to an Apple authorized center or have protected it from all manner of harm, Error 53 is when Apple deliberately, remotely and permanently bricks those iPhones, that had their home buttons replaced by around the corner shops during the repair of something as slight as a shattered screen.
The error actually popped up after many people upgraded their devices to iOS 9. In many cases, local repair led to the devices being fixed and working in perfect order. However, upgrade to iOS 9 and poof! Your device has been bricked and all your data is gone — all because you choose to pay only a fraction of what Apple would charge, and get the slightly damaged screen , or something similar, at a local shop.
Why does Apple do this? After all, a person who has purchased an electronic device, ought to have the full rights associated with it. And if he wants to save some bucks and get it repaired at the local shop — well, its his choice.
Well, ostensibly, Apple does it to keep your device secure. The company says that it wants to ensure that no one messes with the fingerprint sensor, which is situated on the home button. As per The Guardian, here’s what an Apple spokeswomen said,
We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised 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.
However, considering that Apple’s extreme precautionary measures forces iPhone owners to seek the company’s own service centers in case of damage — allow us to mention that repair and service of devices is a significant business sector — well, one has a hard time swallowing Apple’s “fingerprint sensor” story.
The story doesn’t end — or start — with iPhone and the home button either. Apple is one of the most paranoid companies where it comes to repair and servicing and goes to great, some would call absurd, leanghts to ensure that its consumers must of necessity, seek its doorstep for repair. The company first latched upon the idea of using its own screws — which were inaccessible anywhere else and couldn’t be opened by normal tools — to ensure that only authorized personnel could open its devices.
However, after people started getting around the problem by manufacturing their own screwdrivers, the company resorted to other measures, including not releasing repair manuals for its devices, maintaining a hawks eye watch upon spare parts production and distribution. The Error 53 is just another example of the things the company is willing to do to keep it’s business to itself.
There isn’t really much that an average user can do either. Its either Apple’s way, or the highway. Customers seeking to get their devices repaired have the option of visiting Apple centers and paying whatever is asked of them, or risk Apple bricking their expensive device in the name of protection — cum retribution.
However, a section of lawmakers in the US, are said to have turned their attention upon the issue and may be considering taking steps to destroy this forced monopoly.
Something similar did exist — and still does despite correctional measures — in the past in the automobile sector, where automakers would play Apple and keep all the information and tools related to the repair and servicing of their vehicles from public knowledge. This not only lead to normal garages being unequipped to tackle consumer concerns but also meant that carmakers got a fair bit of extra, comfortable, monopolistic business.
After much public outrage over the issue, lawmakers finally decided to take things into their own hands. First came the whiff of right to repair legislation in 2000, which finally induced US auto makers, dealerships and service shops to halfheartedly agree to form a union to share information on repairing high-tech cars. However, voluntary participation kept the union from being particularly productive.
Finally, after the state of Massachusetts pulled the carpet from under the feet of manufacturers by forcing them to provide the same information and tools to repair shops as they do to dealership, automakers across the US agreed to make the law, a standard by 2018.
Something similar may happen in the electronics sector too. That it hasn’t already, can be attributed to the fact that not all OEMs are as paranoid as Apple and most are cool, if you get their devices repaired elsewhere. However, bricking devices and Error 53 may just have proved the last straw and public outcry over the matter is continuously on the upswing. A string of very vocal disagreements along with legal issues prove the point.
So unless Apple wants to let lawmakers force a similar, binding argument upon it against its will, the company would do better to take steps to rectify the situation on its own. Sharing out tools and information and perhaps creating a market for spare parts may prove to be a good idea. For now though, getting rid of the infamous Error 53 and taking alternative measures to guard the security — that don’t involve disabling the device — would certainly be a good start.
Until then, consumers rocking an iPhone with iOS 9 are advised to guard it with their lives — because Apple is very willing to do business with you again — unless of course, they are cool with paying huge sums for repair. Replacing the home button for example, is known to cost in the north of a couple of hundred euros, in the UK.