Error 53: Apple warns iOS 9 bricks iPhone 6 in case of unauthorized Touch ID repair

By , Feb 5, 2016


The Guardian on Friday reported that unauthorized third-party repairs to the iPhone 6’s Touch ID Home button will brick the device as soon as iOS 9 is installed. Of course, we all know that using an unauthorized repair service not only voids warranty but puts oneself at risk of having a sub-par component that isn’t sanctioned by Apple.

But is deliberate bricking really necessary here? Should users be inconvenienced just because they trusted someone to change their phone’s Touch ID button or the cable connecting the Home button to the logic board? According to Apple, this is a security-related feature of iOS 9.

The affected customers see an “Error 53” after iOS 9 bricks their phone.

A completely bricked phone is reportedly unable to go past the “Connect to iTunes” screen and cannot be revived.

But this issue isn’t new.

“Though still largely a mystery to most, we now know that error 53 is the result of a hardware failure somewhere within the Home button assembly,” iCracked wrote back in November 2015.

Apple’s support documents mentions “Error 53“ in a section that details hardware issues, but does not detail what precisely it refers to.

“Your device or computer might have a hardware issue that stops the update or restore from completing,“ reads the document. This “feature” seems to activate itself only on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices upgraded to iOS 9.

All of the components used for Touch ID, including the sensor itself, the Home button and the cables, use unique hardware numbers to ensure that, for example, a person can’t steal your device and break into it by rerouting Touch ID to their own sensor.

“We protect fingerprint data using a Secure Enclave, which is uniquely paired to the Touch ID sensor,” a spokesperson for Apple has clarified.

Apparently, when your iPhone is serviced by an authorized Apple service provider or retail store for changes that affect the Touch ID sensor, the “pairing is re-validated” to prevent unwanted changes to Touch ID hardware.

“This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure,” insists Apple. “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.”

Web reports and a growing thread on the Apple Discussion forums indicate that many people are enraged at lack of communication on Apple’s part regarding “Error 53”.

“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,” wrote a customer from India.

iFixit founder Kyle Wiens told The Guardian that the “Error 53” page on their website had more than 183,000 hits, suggesting this is a big problem for users.

“The problem occurs if the repairer changes the Home button or the cable,” he explains. “Following the software upgrade the phone in effect checks to make sure it is still using the original components, and if it isn’t, it simply locks out the phone. There is no warning, and there’s no way that I know of to bring it back to life.”

On its part, Apple is asking the affected users to contact its support. One affected customer was told by an employee of Apple’s retail store in London that there was nothing they could do, “and that his phone was now junk.”

As a reminder, Apple’s standard 1-year warranty for the iPhone in the United States clearly states that the warranty does not apply to damage “caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider” or if the handset “has been modified to alter functionality or capability” without the written permission of Apple.

Source: The Guardian

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  • Temi

    I really don’t know why Apple will do this. I understand if your iPhone is still under warranty, you may not want to repair your iPhone through third party repairer. But I think, once you are out of your limited warranty, your property is yours to do how you like. Big corporations should not tell us how and not how to use our property. It’s mine. I paid for it simple.

    • ffg

      It makes it so that someone can’t steal your phone and break into it by replacing the TouchID sensor.

      If it’s truly yours, get it repaired by an authorized repair center. Simple.

      • If the Phone is turned off or taken apart and turned back on you’d need to enter a password before using the fingerprint anyway.

      • thunderqus

        Do you even know what you are talking, replace touch ID to break into phone?!?!?!?. finger print is part of secure enclave inside the Processor. Sooo NOOOOO you are wrong.

      • Shinonuke

        If I am correct, you’re telling me where I can and can not repair my iPhone? I wonder how this will feel when Ford bricks their cars if it was services at a third party vendor for security sake.

    • TJ

      Nobody is telling you where to get it repaired, but you make your choice and suffer the consequences. Touch ID is linked to the secure enclave containing all your fingerprint data, access to Apple Pay, etc. If you’d rather risk your personal data and security by installing a cheap Chinese knock off part then that’s up to you. Apple have put steps in place to stop this, can you imagine if someone installed a third-party Touch ID sensor and as a result were able to siphon off personal data, security details, your fingerprint and access your payment details! It would explode worldwide and Apple would come under immense scrutiny for such a lapse in security.

      You don’t have to use Apple to repair your phone but you can use an authorised repairer to ensure that you get legitimate parts.

      • mrgerbik

        Apple/NSA does this anyways lol

      • gary

        Your tin foil hat is shining

      • mrgerbik

        Original and witty!

      • gary

        Just like your original comment hopping on the anti-NSA/Apple bandwagon? Please…

      • mrgerbik

        It was only a couple years ago that naive, weak-minded people like you would balk at the idea that the NSA/alphabet agencies was spying on people at all.

      • gary

        I think you’re assuming that I care if my government spies on my useless data – I don’t. It’s not a secret that they’ve been doing so for decades; it’s not a new suggestion, and there’s almost certainly nothing I can do about it other than staying off the internet altogether. Which is not an option.

      • mrgerbik

        No, my comment was aiming at your idea that the powers-that-be spying on their people is all wacky woo-woo BS.

        It isnt.

        Oligarchies, tyrants, dictators, monarchies, emporers, kings, and more recently, the ‘democratic’ corporate and banking world have all essentially functioned the same way for thousands of years – it dumbfounds me how so many people assume that today we are immune to abuses of power.

      • Tim

        This would be true if the Touch ID sensor stored anything, in actual fact everything is encrypted in the A8/A9 processor so changing the sensor doesn’t grant access. Apple just want to monopolize iPhone repairs.

      • thunderqus

        You realise that whole problem is that Apple is allowing your phone to get brick without warning , right? If they really wanted to make things this secure, they should have disabled booting of non authorised repair phone in first place, not at the time of updating iOS.

    • I know why they would and it is because as great as Apple can be, they do some of the most shady stuff I have ever heard any company doing.
      This issue, along with purposely making older iDevices run like garbage, the complete POS Lightning Cables they poorly make (that all inevitably tether or just quit working after months of light use) and the fact that they won’t at least allow expandable storage if they insist on looking like morons by still offering entry level at 16gb; are all things that disgust me about Apple.

      Don’t even get me started on the pathetic 5gb of free storage they give us from iCloud. That is really pissing me the F off lately, since all of a sudden I am running out of storage constantly.
      For a company that turns billions in profit each year, they sure don’t seem to be living in the modern world of technology (in the complaints I mentioned above). I deal with used Smartphones every single day and I can’t remember the time I have ever had a customer sell me a used Droid phone with a Micro USB cable that has ever had any of issues we have to deal with having Lightning Cables.

      • Lance Baker

        I stopped reading at the ridiculous comment about the lightning cables. I’ve had my same cables since the iPhone 5 came out. Never have an issue with them. I take care of my things.

      • Blip dude

        Cool, but some also take care of their expensive items and still come with defects. My early iPhone days were hell, and I sure as hell did my best to take care of it. Yet, I dealt with bad hardware, death strips and dead pixels. Luckily I never had an issue with the iPhone 4S and that’s why I ended up staying.

        Same thing goes for lightning connector, the official Apple cables never make it past a few months of light use, yet the Cable I purchased from Amazon 2 years ago is still going strong.

  • Rodney Coleman

    This is old news. Apple are dicks. Even with water damage… Your phone can work and you update it’ll lock it up. They have all these methods to make money.

    FYI to the idiots getting screen repairs… Take off the back panel that’s screwed on to the LCD back and connects to the Touch ID. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE BACK ON YOUR NEW LCD/ DIGITIZER COMBO AND YOU WONT GET A ERROR!!!!

    • No if you ever need to restore a device with out the original Touch ID button you will get this error. Fact.

      • Rodney Coleman

        That’s what I just said. You need the original cord as well. You can restore with the Touch ID alone. It won’t work. The mother board needs to read from Touch ID > ribbon cable> mother board. I’ve tried this myself and it worked.

      • No you need the original cord/home button flex… Just touch ID and board, Ive swapped ribbon cables and had no issues. The cable has no chips on it.

  • Rodney Coleman

    And it’s only on iPhone 6 and up

    I replaced the mother board on my 5s different Touch ID and updated to iOS 9.2.1 and didn’t brick. So it’s only iPhone 6 and up.

    • I can’t confirm at the moment but I it happens during an iTunes restore. I had a 5S that had this issue.

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      with the 5s you don’t get stuck, but the fingerprint reader wont work if it is not the original that came within the phone

  • nyangejr

    Now I’m worried, i cracked a screen last year and you know Touch ID had to removed for replacement, so now I wonder if I should upgrade

    • Morgan Freeman

      Sounds like you’ll be ok if the same Touch ID sensor was reinstalled. Only an issue if a different sensor was installed. But if you’re unsure what happened, then I don’t know.

      • nyangejr

        Thanks Morgan, i reinstalled the original Touch ID

  • Rami Tabaa

    Reading this made me laugh so hard. Last Summer i got my iPhone 6 replaced because of a defect. My refurbished iPhone 6 that i got from Apple gave me an error 53 ( just 2 weeks after i got my replacement iPhone) while i was updating and had my iPhone bricked which is ironic since the refurbished iPhone i got was from Apple. Since i live in a country that has no Apple Store, i had to wait for 2 months (switched to android at that time & had the worst time of my life) to get my iPhone 6 sent to the USA & get a replacement. Luckily, my 2nd replacement had no issues.

  • Jared

    Seems like a lame excuse for Apple to claim it’s to prevent unauthorized Touch ID access. Surely in the event that someone swaps out the Touch ID sensor, they could just have the software allow passcode only entry until the new sensor is configured. Makes no sense to lock the phone entirely.

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      thats the case with iphone 5S, if you change the sensor you still can use the phone, but only with passcode and no fingerprint

  • iPhoneWINS

    there explanation is logical

  • Fanboy 

    Double edged sword, I get why people get pissed at Apple and whatnot but at the same time they state not to do any unauthorized repairs. Can you imagine if Apple had to answer for every device every time somebody tried fixing something on their own and then jacked it up? They are in the business to MAKE money after all not lose it, just covering their bases.

  • Vince Reedy

    I prefer this to be the case, especially when you are now using it to pay for things. If you don’t like it, get another phone. If you can’t afford the lump sum to make repairs, get insurance. There are numerous solutions out there to avoid this trouble BEFOREHAND.

  • garry b

    well just to give everyone who already didn’t know there is already a solution to ERROR 53 replacing the home button with a brand new button from a NON ACTIVATED IPHONE .google and you will come to know.

    • That Guy

      Can you send the link? I did some quick google work couldn’t find any info on it.

  • Mohammed Aarif

    what will void iphone warranty?
    Can anyone pls explain me properly?

  • Antzboogie

    Wow this is a big blow to #Apple. I should be able to fix my iPhone wherever I want its my iPhone. This is a #Monopoly at its finest and probably will not survive doing business like this. Its like a dictatorship!! Apple your awesome but come on!!

    • Mariah Andrews

      Obviously, you don’t know what a monopoly is. If Apple were one, Samsung, Windows, and Nokia would not be here in the first place.

  • It’s perfectly logical and has only the purpose of the users’ safety. It only happens if they took it upon themselves to get an unauthorized repair. I find it extremely laughable that people are trying to argue against this.

  • Saeed

    you lose your original touch id sensor and stuck on error 53
    Send me email for solution
    Your phone will restore without ori touch id and error 53

    • Blip dude

      Why not just post the solution here instead being a bit shady about it.

  • Austin

    Does anyone know how to get an iPhone 6s Plus screen fixed from Apple without losing my jailbreak :/

  • This is so apple. Apple d*ckmove.

  • utsav koju

    That mean if your country hasn’t got any service center nearby then you shouldn’t buy apple product. Because this is not only the case with Iphone they will expand that to other product as well. Even if we love apple products if they want us turn it into a junk. Bye Bye apple

  • just another of apple’s money-making schemes

  • Blip dude

    It’s a double edge sword, like someone else on here mentioned. On one hand, I get why Apple is doing this and they are simply covering themselves. On the other hand, I should be able to do whatever the **** I want with my $900 phone, even if it means risking my personal info. At the end of the day, it’s my problem, not theirs. But because people don’t see it this way, that’s why Apple probably took it upon themselves to do this. . . And for the money of course.

  • Chris

    Why do people defend Apple so much what’s next error for not having the correct screen procector ( made by Apple) and not forgetting the case another error. We don’t own the iPhone this just goes to prove that

  • Benjamin J Schwartz

    This deliberate bricking makes perfect sense. I find it rather reassuring that security is in place to prevent the kind of unauthorized access that replacing the TouchID would allow.

  • Harry Bangalore

    Yes my #iPhone6+ is a dead brick now, apple iCare service said the same thing as above mentioned – “nothing they could do, “and that his phone was now junk.” Disgusting…i don’t no what to do….