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 (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

[AUT] Thomas Avatar
12 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
12 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
12 weeks ago
The noose tightens just a little bit each year, with each new iPhone.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
and 1989 others Avatar
12 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
12 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
12 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

Top Stories 44 Feature

Top Stories: 'Thinner and Lighter' MacBook Air, Smaller iPhone 13 Notch, iOS 14.4 Incoming

Saturday January 23, 2021 6:00 am PST by
We continued to hear a lot more about Apple's plans for its Mac lineup this week, including word of a high-end redesigned MacBook Air and the return of an SD card slot as part of the upcoming MacBook Pro redesign. It also sounds like Apple has been working on Face ID for Mac, but it won't be appearing in a redesigned iMac this year as originally planned. This week also saw rumors about the...
magsafecasedangle

Apple Elaborates on Potential for iPhone 12 and MagSafe Accessories to Interfere With Implantable Medical Devices

Saturday January 23, 2021 2:42 pm PST by
Since the launch of iPhone 12 models in October, Apple has acknowledged that the devices may cause electromagnetic interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, but the company has now shared additional information. Apple added the following paragraph to a related support document today:Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain...
Flat MacBook Air Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on 'Thinner and Lighter' High-End MacBook Air With MagSafe, Could Launch in Second Half of 2021

Friday January 22, 2021 3:34 am PST by
Apple is working on a "thinner and lighter" version of the MacBook Air that the company plans to release during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022, according to a new report by well-connected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. It will include Apple's MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company's in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Bloomberg: Next MacBook Pro to Feature SD Card Reader

Friday January 22, 2021 7:50 am PST by
Last week, reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlined his expectations for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models later this year, including the return of the MagSafe charging connector, the removal of the Touch Bar, a new flat-edged design, and the return of more ports built into the notebooks for expanded connectivity. A concept of a modern MacBook Pro with an SD card reader Kuo did not...
airpods galaxy buds comparison

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Apple AirPods Pro

Friday January 22, 2021 2:34 pm PST by
Samsung in January unveiled new flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones and alongside the new phones, introduced the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro, which are priced at $199 and offer Active Noise Cancellation. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. These new Galaxy Buds Pro are clearly designed to compete with Apple's AirPods Pro, so we thought we'd compare the two sets of earbuds in our...
maxresdefault

Microsoft Touts Surface Pro 7 as 'The Better Choice' Over MacBook Pro in New Ad

Saturday January 23, 2021 11:02 am PST by
Microsoft yesterday shared a new ad on YouTube titled "Microsoft Surface Pro 7: The Better Choice," in which the company compares its tablet computer to Apple's 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, as spotted by MSPoweruser. The ad highlights the Surface Pro 7's touchscreen and included stylus as opposed to only a "little bar" (the Touch Bar) on the MacBook Pro. Other advantages of the Surface Pro 7...
iOS 15 icon mock banner

iOS 15 Rumored to Drop Support for iPhone 6s and 2016 iPhone SE

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:58 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iOS 15 operating system, which we expect to see unveiled in June, is rumored to be dropping support for a few of Apple's older iPhones. According to French site iPhoneSoft, iOS 15 will not be able to be installed on the iPhone 6s, the iPhone 6s Plus, or the 2016 iPhone SE, all of which have an A9 chip. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were introduced in 2015 and are now more...
maxresdefault

Video Demos macOS Catalina Running on iPad Pro via x86 Emulation

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:36 am PST by
A video demonstrating macOS Catalina running on a current 2020 iPad Pro has been shared on YouTube, giving us a look at an interesting hack that has a Mac OS up and working on one of Apple's iPads. There's limited information about how the process of getting macOS Catalina on an iPad Pro works, but it uses x86 emulation and was done through the UTM software that allows virtual machines to...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...
iOS 14

Apple Seeds iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 Release Candidate to Developers and Public Beta Testers

Thursday January 21, 2021 10:14 am PST by
Apple today seeded the RC version of upcoming iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new betas coming a week after Apple released the second betas. iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. Paired with the HomePod 14.4 beta that is...