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Reminder: iPhones commit suicide if you repair them on the cheap

Bloke bricked his handset after running afoul of Apple security policy

Sad iPhone

An iPhone owner says his handset bricked itself after it was repaired and updated to the latest version of iOS.

Freelance journalist Antonio Olmos reports that after having his iPhone repaired by a shop in Macedonia, his handset was working fine until he recently attempted to update the iPhone's software.

The update triggered an "Error 53" message, and Olmos said he was no longer able to either update or restore his iPhone to a previous version of iOS. In other words, his iPhone was now effectively bricked by Apple.

Olmos is far from the first person to experience this condition. People have been complaining about the issue on Apple support forums for years now, and the Cupertino maker of iStuffs has even posted a support page to explain Error 53.

The iOS Error 53 is a safety measure triggered when iOS detects "an unidentified or unexpected Touch ID module." The Touch ID hardware is crucial to iOS's security, so if iOS fears this module has been compromised, it locks itself down and prevents the update from going forward or reversing itself.

In other words, replacing the screen or fingerprint sensor with electronics that has not been approved and supplied by Apple will be detected as a compromised Touch ID module, and lead to the device being bricked upon the next firmware update. The user will need to have that component replaced by Apple or an authorized service provider.

Apple says that the policy is designed to keep users safe. By preventing any unauthorized or unknown hardware from loading, personal information is kept secure and users are protected from hardware tampering.

On the other hand, the policy also reinforces a strict lockdown on who can open up and repair Apple devices. Only Apple itself and a small handful of authorized shops are able to repair handsets, and for many users this means having to travel long distances or wait out shipping and receiving times (and costs) when they need to have an iDevice fixed.

This strict control over hardware repairs has been the subject of sharp criticism from DIY groups who argue that users have the right to open up and repair the hardware they bought. ®

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