Users Facing 'Error 53' Bricking Message After Third-Party iPhone 6 Home Button Repairs

Some iPhone 6 users who had their smartphones repaired by third-party technicians are reporting that a mysterious "error 53" message is permanently bricking their iPhones (via The Guardian). Users who have had Touch ID on their iPhone 6 fixed by a non-Apple technician, and agreed to update the iPhone to the most recent version of iOS, are facing an issue which essentially prevents all access to the iPhone.

Freelance photographer Antonio Olmos is one such affected iPhone 6 user who had his iPhone repaired in Macedonia while working. He said "it worked perfectly" after the repair shop finished fixing the broken screen and home button, but once he updated to iOS 9 he got an "error 53" message and could no longer access any of his personal content on the iPhone. An Apple Store in London was shown the issue, and staff there admitted there was nothing they could do for him besides sell him a new iPhone.

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“The whole thing is extraordinary. How can a company deliberately make their own products useless with an upgrade and not warn their own customers about it? Outside of the big industrialized nations, Apple stores are few and far between, and damaged phones can only be brought back to life by small third-party repairers," Olmos said. "I am not even sure these third-party outfits even know this is a potential problem."

Speaking with The Guardian, iFixit's Kyle Wiens said that the issue, while still unclear, appears to be Apple ensuring only genuine components are being used for repairs. Once a third party changes the home button or internal cable, the iPhone checks to be sure that all original components are running the phone, and if there are any discrepancies users face the "error 53" message and can't access their data. Since mentions of "error 53" span a few versions of iOS, it's unclear specifically which software update began the phone-locking error message.

An Apple spokeswoman commented on the issue, referring to protective security features intended to prevent "malicious" third-party components from potentially compromising a user's iPhone as the main reason for the "error 53" message.

“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.”

She adds: “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.”

Other than that, Apple hasn't commented on the issue or outlined exactly what the company can do for those affected by the iPhone bricking error message. Mentions of "error 53" have been around since at least last April, where some users have encountered the issue in software updates as early as iOS 8.3.

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Top Rated Comments

cmChimera Avatar
109 months ago
This is actually a good thing. However, people will still be mad.
Score: 110 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmChimera Avatar
109 months ago
Why?

If my iPhone is out of warranty, then I should be able to have it repaired by who ever I want.
You understand the security risks though? If someone could just install hacked touch ID sensors, then your data could be compromised. Apple has a responsibility to prevent scenarios like that.

And you don't have to get it fixed by Apple per se, but they probably need to be an authorized repair center. Otherwise what's to stop cheap repair shops from putting in Chinese knockoff TouchID sensors and putting your security and or personal information at risk?
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MacDarcy Avatar
109 months ago
Sorry, I'm with Apple on this one.
Score: 73 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sualpine Avatar
109 months ago
Apple has zero responsibility to allow or consider non- Apple parts being put into their product.
Score: 71 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vmachiel Avatar
109 months ago
Well, at least we know they are serious about that fingerprint data.
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
napabar Avatar
109 months ago
Why?

If my iPhone is out of warranty, then I should be able to have it repaired by who ever I want.

I can see why it might be a good thing to avoid circumventing the security on stolen phones, but from a user standpoint who wants a repair, apple repairs aren't exactly the cheapest, or in the UK and other countries where apple stores are only in big cities, its a pain in the rear not being able to take it to a local phone shop.
Wrong! Not when it involves the fingerprint scanner and it's attachment to the secure enclave. Without this security, anyone could hack an iPhone by replacing the sensor. Think!
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)