iPhone 12 Camera Repairs Require Apple's Proprietary System Configuration Tool

iFixit has discovered that it is not possible to repair the iPhone 12's camera without access to Apple's proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app, raising questions over the repairability of the device.

ifixit iphone 12 camera

iFixit says that it conducted exhaustive testing, compared notes with multiple repair technicians, and reviewed leaked Apple training documents to reach the conclusion that the ‌iPhone 12‌'s camera "is entirely unreliable when swapped between iPhones."

The matter was first addressed by Hugh Jeffreys on YouTube:


After detecting "extremely odd results" when conducting a camera repair, iFixit found that the ‌iPhone 12‌ camera, when transferred to another ‌iPhone 12‌, appears to work on launch, but fails in actual use. It reportedly refuses to switch to the ultrawide camera, responds only to certain camera modes, and occasionally becomes completely unresponsive.

iFixit also recalled that until now, cameras have "generally been easy" to swap between iPhones of the same model. Although similar, resolvable issues occurred with the iPhone 7 and ‌iPhone‌ 8's LCD screens and Taptic Engines, iFixit believes that there is now more cause for concern.

Apple's internal training guides for the ‌iPhone 12‌, seen by iFixit, reportedly said that starting with the 12, authorized technicians will need to run Apple's proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app to fully repair cameras and screens.

Although it may theoretically be possible to complete camera and screen repairs without Apple's proprietary technology, iFixit is pessimistic about what the move means for independent repairs.

Apple, by design or neglect or both, is making it extremely hard to repair an ‌iPhone‌ without their blessing... It doesn't look good for independent repair. Apple is putting yet another question mark on a core component of the ‌iPhone‌. Why? Why does a camera need to have its serial number authorized remotely by Apple just to let someone take pictures with their phone?

It is possible that Apple could address the ‌iPhone 12‌'s camera swap behavior with a future software update, but iFixit believes this is unlikely.

Taken together with the System Configuration document, and all the other bugs, tricks, and intentional lock-outs that Apple has put in the way of fully functioning iPhones, we take this as a sign that things won't get any better unless there is major change—from within, from customer demand, or from the law.

There is an argument to suggest that warning an ‌iPhone‌ owner about non-genuine parts, especially if the phone was bought used, is useful information, but iFixit notes that the camera module is not a security component.

It's a part prone to malfunction and damage, and can be harvested from otherwise-broken iPhones. Putting an authentication check on a simple camera swap poisons the ‌iPhone‌ repair and resale market. With no obvious benefit for ‌iPhone‌ buyers, it reeks of greed. Or worse: planned obsolescence.

Last week, iFixit scored the iPhone 12 a six out of ten for repairability. In response to this discovery about the camera module, iFixit is now actively reevaluating how its repairability scale scores iPhones going forward.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
Tag: iFixit
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 12 (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

[AUT] Thomas Avatar
17 weeks ago
Enough... Right to Repair needs be put in law. Any arbitrary limitation to swap parts should result in ban of sale of the device.


Many might argue the camera is not a security component. I do see it as such. Yes, it's a pain. But I'd rather pay the cost to have a functional camera vs a copy-cat module half-baked.

In the end, if I bought a iPhone for the point-and-shoot, I might as well ensure the camera works as intended by the manufacturer.
Yeah, right. Bring it to Apple then, but allow the rest of us to turn 2 broken iphones into one working one...
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr_Brightside_@ Avatar
17 weeks ago

iFixIt is making a mountain out of a molehill. I have owned every model of iPhone except the iPhone 4. I have never needed to perform a repair on a single one.

My OG iPhone had a faulty touchscreen and was replaced under warranty at about 4 months old. I had a similar issue with my iPhone 6 after about 2 months. I attribute both of these issues to initial production of an entirely new device design (I always purchase on launch day). Apple’s customer service was impeccable in both situations.

Aside from these two ‘infant mortalities’ which didn’t require a repair, I have never needed to fix anything on an iPhone or even replace a battery. For the vast majority of iPhone users, repair is a hypothetical situation.

iPhones are crazy reliable devices and keep getting more reliable every year.
You're replacing your phone every year, of course you are going to find them reliable.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Reason077 Avatar
17 weeks ago
The noose tightens just a little bit each year, with each new iPhone.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
and 1989 others Avatar
17 weeks ago
As I get older I increasingly look for harware, of all kinds, that I can repair myself with a basic set of tools should they fail.
This is bad news.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr_Brightside_@ Avatar
17 weeks ago
Did no one read to the third paragraph of this article? iFixit isn't using third party camera modules, they literally swapped modules between two iPhone 12s.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aaadktda Avatar
17 weeks ago
There was another guy on youtube that discovered this before them. Maybe it would be nice to give him credit for it.

Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
mac mini developer transition kit photo feature

Apple Requiring Developers to Return DTK Mac Minis by March 31

Friday February 26, 2021 3:57 pm PST by
Apple today sent out emails to developers who are in possession of a Developer Transition Kit, asking them to return the machines by March 31. The Developer Transition Kits are Mac minis with A12Z chips that Apple provided for development purposes ahead of the release of the M1 Macs. Apple in the emails provided developers with shipping instructions, and plans to begin collecting the DTKs...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh rate, including display industry analyst Ross Young, leakers ...
unc0ver version 6 release

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 6.0.0 Released With iOS 14.3 Compatibility

Sunday February 28, 2021 9:26 am PST by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 6.0.0 of its software, which can allegedly be used to jailbreak any device running iOS 11.0 through iOS 14.3 using a kernel vulnerability. The unc0ver website describes how the tool has been extensively tested across a range of iOS devices running various software versions, including an iPhone 12 Pro Max running iOS ...