Apple says it will no longer punish those daring to repair their iPhone 13 screens

iFixit welcomes 'tactical achievement' after iGiant offers vague software fix to Face ID block


Apple has said it will stop making life difficult for anyone replacing a broken iPhone 13 screen with a third-party display and wishing to retain Face ID support.

As iFixit pointed out at the end of September, if you swap out the screen in an iPhone 13, Pro or non-Pro, with a third-party replacement, you'll be left with Face ID authentication disabled.

"Any display replacement knocks out Face ID," the repair house noted in its teardown of the latest iPhone. "It looks like the display is serial-locked to the phone. Unless Apple revises this behavior in software, screen replacements outside Apple's authorized repair lose all Face ID functionality."

According to analyses by iCorrect and iFixit, if you want to replace the screen in an iPhone 13, you need to transfer a small controller chip from the official touchscreen display to the unofficial one.

From what we can tell, this chip effectively pairs the screen to the rest of the phone, and if you fit a new display, you need to bring across this paired controller. Without this pairing, Face ID is disabled by iOS 15.

Performing this chip transplant massively complicates what should be a routine servicing, frustrating independent repair shops and anyone else replacing a display.

Meanwhile, authorized Apple repair outfits have a software tool that ensures an iPhone and its replacement screen work together as necessary without any fuss. This creates an uneven playing field in the world of Apple repairs, and reduces choice for owners.

Today Apple said it will address this situation in an iOS update at some unspecific point, allowing replacement screens to keep Face ID enabled without any chip transfers. "A solution will be available in an upcoming software update," an Apple spokesperson told us, echoing what it told The Verge earlier.

"This is a tactical achievement for the repair market," said iFixit's Kevin Purdy in reaction to Tuesday's news, "but it’s an endless fight until the battlefield changes.

"Apple — and the many companies it inspires — will advance again with more parts lock-downs, more feature reductions, more reasons why only their profitable repair centers can do this work.

"Repair shops are still looking at a future that involves more microsoldering, more time, and possibly tighter profit margins, as they compete against a company that can fix its own firmware blocks from the cloud."

iCorrect's Ricky Panesar has more technical details here about Apple's approach to repairability following the u-turn on screen replacements.

"Apple’s decision to release a software update – we believe in iOS 15.2, coming soon – is a huge sigh of relief for many repair companies in the industry, who would have not been able to complete the necessary microsoldering repair to the screen’s microchip to keep Face ID functionality," Panesar wrote.

"Furthermore, this is more for consumers who now don’t have to make the choice of having a repair completed outside of the Apple network resulting in the loss of facial recognition. You as a consumer own your iPhone, you pay a premium amount for it and should have the right to have it repaired outside the Apple network without loss of functionality. The loss of functionality just unnecessary." ®

Editor's note: This article was updated on November 10 to include reaction from iCorrect.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022