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.

iphone_6_hands

“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.

Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

cmChimera Avatar
89 months ago
This is actually a good thing. However, people will still be mad.
Score: 110 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmChimera Avatar
89 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
89 months ago
Sorry, I'm with Apple on this one.
Score: 73 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sualpine Avatar
89 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
89 months ago
Well, at least we know they are serious about that fingerprint data.
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
napabar Avatar
89 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)

Popular Stories

iphone 14 pro hands snowflakes 1

Best Black Friday iPhone Deals Still Available

Wednesday November 23, 2022 1:55 pm PST by
Cellular carriers have always offered big savings on the newest iPhone models during the holidays, and Black Friday 2022 is no different. Right now we're tracking notable offers on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro devices from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. For even more savings, keep an eye on older models like the iPhone 13. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors....
apple watch gold ornaments

Best Black Friday Apple Watch Deals Still Available

Wednesday November 23, 2022 9:31 am PST by
We're tracking all of the best Apple product discounts for Black Friday this week, and the Apple Watch always makes a great gift around the holiday season, so you're guaranteed to find solid discounts right now. In this article, you'll discover the best Black Friday sales on Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these...
new airpods lineup black friday

Best Black Friday AirPods Deals Still Available

Tuesday November 22, 2022 10:01 am PST by
Although we've been tracking Black Friday deals for a few weeks now, the shopping holiday is officially kicking off this week and we're highlighting the best sales for each of Apple's product lines. In this article, you'll find the best Black Friday sales on AirPods 2, AirPods 3, AirPods Pro, AirPods Pro 2, and AirPods Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors....
ipad holiday bulbs

Best Black Friday iPad Deals Still Available

Thursday November 24, 2022 12:25 pm PST by
Black Friday deals have been in full swing for the better part of a month, and now that the shopping holiday is officially here we're seeing even more solid discounts on Apple devices. We're highlighting the best sales for all of Apple's product lines, and in this article you'll find the best Black Friday sales on iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner ...
mac imac snowflakes

Best Black Friday iMac and MacBook Deals Still Available

Thursday November 24, 2022 1:07 pm PST by
Our Black Friday coverage continues today with the best deals you can find on MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iMac. As with all Black Friday deals, we aren't sure how long any of these will last, and prices are always fluctuating, so if you see something you want, be sure to buy it soon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a...
General Black Friday Deals 2022 Green

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Still Get

Friday November 25, 2022 4:40 am PST by
Black Friday is winding down for 2022, but many Apple products are still seeing major discounts. In this article, you'll find every Apple device with a notable Black Friday sale. We'll be updating as prices change and new deals arrive, so be sure to keep an eye out if you don't see the sale you're looking for yet. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you...
General Black Friday Deals 2022 Blue

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Get Right Now: AirPods, Apple TV, Mac, iPad, and More

Saturday November 19, 2022 8:00 am PST by
Last week was jam-packed with early Black Friday deals, and now that the shopping holiday is right around the corner, we're going back through all of the best sales you might have missed over the past week and updating as prices change and new deals arrive. As with all holiday shopping, there's no guarantee that better prices won't come around later in the season, but if you want to shop early,...
Best Buy November Deals Hero

Best Buy Reveals Black Friday Plans With Sitewide Sales Available Now

Tuesday November 22, 2022 3:49 pm PST by
Following in the footsteps of Target and Walmart, Best Buy this week detailed its plans for the Black Friday shopping holiday and its schedule looks a lot like other retailers. In terms of sales, Best Buy has the expected list of TVs, appliances, video games, computers, streaming devices, and more. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a...