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
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

[AUT] Thomas Avatar
13 months 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
13 months 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
13 months ago
The noose tightens just a little bit each year, with each new iPhone.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
and 1989 others Avatar
13 months 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
13 months 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
13 months 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)

Related Stories

ifixitteardown11promax

iFixit Highlights Apple's Uncertain Right to Repair Stance Through Emails Shared With Judiciary Committee

Thursday July 30, 2020 10:13 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday testified in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee where he was questioned on Apple's App Store policies, but Congress also released a series of emails that Apple had submitted as part of the ongoing antitrust investigation. Image via iFixit Those emails revealed Apple's thoughts on App Store fees and provided insight into its efforts to negotiat...
ifixit m1 macbook teardown

Leaked MacBook Schematics Have Aided Independent Technicians Performing Complicated Repairs

Monday May 10, 2021 8:51 am PDT by
Independent technicians have reportedly been able to use leaked MacBook schematics to aid repairs (via Vice). Last month, Apple supplier Quanta Computer was hit with an attack by the ransomware group known as "REvil," leading to a large quantity of internal Apple documents about both released and unreleased devices being exposed. The leaked PDFs, available on a number of forums and online...
apple repair service expansion iphone repair 07072020 big

Apple Agrees to Multimillion-Dollar Settlement After iPhone Repair Technicians Post Customer's Private Photos Online

Monday June 7, 2021 2:44 am PDT by
Apple has paid a 21-year-old millions of dollars in a legal settlement after photos and videos from the customer's iPhone, sent in for repair, were uploaded to Facebook, leading to "severe emotional distress," according to a new report from The Telegraph. The incident occurred in 2016 at a repair facility run by Apple supplier Pegatron in California. The 21-year-old college student sent her...
thunderbolt display

Apple's Thunderbolt Display Classified as 'Vintage' Amid Rumors of a Replacement

Thursday June 3, 2021 1:09 pm PDT by
Apple now considers the 27-inch Thunderbolt Display to be a "vintage" product because it has been close to five years since it was last offered for sale. The Thunderbolt Display was today added to Apple's list of vintage and obsolete products, which are part of a support document on obtaining service for an Apple product after a warranty expires. Products are considered vintage when it’s...
iphone 12 pro triple camera video

Apple's Changing the iPhone 13 Camera Bump

Friday April 9, 2021 3:21 am PDT by
The upcoming iPhone 13's rear camera bump is set to be thinner and protrude less from the device, according to recent rumors. A recent YouTube video from EverythingApplePro, used to share Max Weinbach's leaks, said that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature a flatter camera bump. Weinbach explained that the iPhone 13's camera module will not be completely flat, but each lens will protrude...
french website repairability score

Apple Rolls Out Device Repairability Scores in France

Friday February 26, 2021 5:38 am PST by
Apple has begun adding repairability scores to its website and Apple Store app in France to meet the demands of new Right to Repair laws (via MacGeneration). The scores, displayed on purchase pages for a range of Apple products, give devices a rating out of ten for how easy it is to repair, much like iFixit repairability ratings. The scores are intended to inform customers about "whether...
european parliament

European Parliament Votes to Support Right to Repair

Friday November 27, 2020 9:00 am PST by
The European Parliament has this week voted to support the recommendations of the EU Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection on the "Right to Repair," including a system of mandatory labelling on consumer electronics to provide explicit information on the repairability and lifespan of products (via iFixit). The motion will compel the EU Commission to "develop and introduce ...
airtags teardown tile mat galaxy smarttag

iFixit Shares AirTag Teardown Revealing 'Impressively Compact' Design Compared to Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag

Sunday May 2, 2021 4:54 am PDT by
iFixit has shared the first of its two-part series in tearing down Apple's AirTag item tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout. For comparison, iFixit compared Apple's AirTag to the Tile Mate and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, AirTag is the smallest in size, with the...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
ifixit imac teardown 1

iFixit Tears Down 24-Inch M1 iMac [Updated]

Monday May 24, 2021 1:13 pm PDT by
Apple last Friday released the first M1 iMac models to customers and began selling them in stores, and iFixit has now started one of its traditional teardowns on the new machines. iFixit is tearing down the mid-tier purple iMac model with an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, and 8GB RAM. It's worth noting that the internals of this model will look different than the internals of the base model with ...