Error 53: Apple could get sued over iPhone bricking

By , Feb 9, 2016


‘Error 53,’ the infamous cryptic message that appears on an iPhone after iOS 9 renders the device inoperable due to an unauthorized Home button repair, is attracting attention of top law firms which are reportedly considering taking Apple to court over the snafu, reports The Guardian.

“At least one firm of US lawyers said it hopes to bring a class action against the technology giant on behalf of victims whose £500 phones have been rendered worthless by an Apple software upgrade,” the British paper said.

Lawyers point out that Apple’s “reckless” policy of bricking iPhones that use replacement Touch ID and Home button parts could be viewed as an offense under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which sanctions intentionally destroying one’s property.

“A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offense,” states the law.

The Seattle-based law firm PCVA is aiming to bring a class action suit against Apple over ‘Error 53,’ said the British paper.

Apple Store employees reportedly told the affected customers that nothing could be done and they must buy a new handset, prompting speculation that Error 53 isn’t as much a security measure as it is an attempt on Apple’s part to force people needing a repair to their Home button to service their handset in Apple Stores, which charge a premium for an official Home button replacement.

“We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops,” said PCVA in a statement.

“There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong,” reads a post on the PCVA website.

Error 53 denotes a hardware issue that stops the software update or restore from completing. In a nutshell, iOS 9 bricks the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices which have had their Touch ID modules or Home buttons replaced by an unauthorized repair firm using non-original components.

Apple went to great lengths to discourage bypassing the iPhone’s biometric cannot so the device only works if a Home button is paired to a specific Touch ID sensor and cables, based on parts’ hardware encoded serial numbers.

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

“This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used,” said the Cupertino firm, urging customers who encounter Error 53  to contact Apple Support.

Source: The Guardian

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  • Rodney Coleman

    Well if you yourself void the warranty and use a cheap store to get your phone fix that’s your problem not Apple. But I do think Apple should get sued for have a trigger on the mother board that if any piece of hardware has water damage it goes to the iTunes recovery if you restore or update although the device was still usable before the restore.

    • Wolff

      If it’s one of the first iphone 6, then you might allready be out of warrenty.
      You shouldnt be forced to use an original service store or shop for anything. Its your choice!
      One could go a step further and use a car as an example. Do you use an authorized repair shop every time? Should the manufacturer be allowed to render your car useless for having a third party suspension installed?

      • Rodney Coleman

        With my car yes.. And if you trust a store that charges you about the same as Apple does then you have issues.

        That’s like saying… I’ll go to a third party shop to get my work done only saving $20 from the actual manufacturer that knows what’s really wrong with my car.

        Most stores just remove the glass.. Leave the screen puckered up and you’ll have issues later with the device. Pay a little more and get it done right the first time. Make sense huh? Stop being cheap and get the stuff done right. Error 53 is stupid. If the person who replaced your screen doesn’t give you the right Touch ID that’s your fault.

      • Harsh Sac

        Well it’s kind of okay to pay that extra ‘premium’ to have the kind of security that Apple is delivering here…
        Say if your device was stolen and a malicious TouchID sensor was installed, that could potentially compromise the device’s encryption. Wouldn’t you want to have the device bricked so the thief cannot access the data at all?
        It’s kind of like enforcing the option of ‘Erase device after 10 failed passcode attempts’. It isn’t convenient for most people, but it’s necessary for the function it provides

      • Rodney Coleman

        Stores here in Houston charge 120-200$ to replace a 6/6S glass… Apple??? $135… See what I’m saying?

      • Wolff

        I think youre missing my point. It’s fine that Apple says its for security reasons. But changing the screen dosn’t represent a security breach. And its pure BS from Apples side. I know i’ll be getting a cheaper and maybe not as good a scrren as the original one, but its my choice.

        Changing the TouchID could of course be a security risk, but as far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but you cant change the Touch ID button without changing the main board of the phone.. so it wont work! If its a “walk in from the streets” shop they wil tell you that exact same thing. It won’t work. The it’s my choice to either let them change the button to a regular non Touch ID, and live without the Touch functionality, or pay Apple to fix it. Its my device, its my choice.

        Nothing of this justyfies that Apple makes the device useless.

      • Rowan09

        Changing the screen is not the issue. You could have always changed the Touch ID, but you’ll lose the fingerprint function and it will just work like a regular home button. Sometimes when people change your screen they damage the home button because it’s easy to tear it if you’re not careful. When people change the home buttons is when they are getting this new error. If anyone goes to a third party store and they mess up their home button, personally I would want a new phone not some discount because my Touch ID won’t work anymore. Apple triggering this error though in my opinion is a little too much.

      • Wolff

        I’m quoting WSJ:

        On its website, Apple says the Error 53 message means the phone’s fingerprint sensor is either broken or has been replaced. The company says that can happen after “an unauthorized or faulty screen replacement.”

      • Rowan09

        I understand but what I’m telling you as an old owner of a repair store and current repair tech, you cannot repair the Touch ID once it’s damage. If it’s broken you can replace it but you’ll lose your fingerprint function and it will only work as a regular home button. If someone damages your Touch ID sensor they should be also replacing your device. I agree those that the measures taken by Apple is a little too much though.

      • Alain Bastien

        When you lodge in a 5 star Hotel you do ask “How much is a tot of Jack Daniels ? ”

        You just says “Two Jacks without Ice …my room number is XXX”

      • Harsh Sac

        Well it’s kind of okay to pay that extra ‘premium’ to have the kind of security that Apple is delivering here…

        Say if your device was stolen and a malicious TouchID sensor was installed, that could potentially compromise the device’s encryption. Wouldn’t you want to have the device bricked so the thief cannot access the data at all?

        It’s kind of like enforcing the option of ‘Erase device after 10 failed passcode attempts’. It isn’t convenient for most people, but it is necessary for the function it provides

      • Jesus Villarreal Herrera

        But at the end it’s your choise, either erase the devide after 10 failed passcode attempts or not to erase it.
        If they want to desable another funtion, it fine, but not the whole phone, maybe just apple pay or other security funtions

      • Harsh Sac

        If they are able to access your data on your device by performing a swap of a ‘relatively cheap’ component, then that’s a major flaw…
        The best to protect against such a hardware attack from scam repair shops, is to just make the phone unusable, so that you bring it to an Apple store, where they can verify the owner before taking additional measures…

      • Jesus Villarreal Herrera

        Make sense

      • Tim

        In this case when it becomes unusable the Apple Store can’t help you either, it’s as good as a brick. Anyway changing the Touch ID sensor doesn’t change the fingerprint encrypted data on the A processor. There is no security risk here because when you switch on your phone it requests a passcode before you can utilize Touch ID.

  • Jim Hart

    Maybe Apple should just disable Apple Pay and Touch ID instead of bricking the phone. Apple could then offer a replacement ID button replacement for like $30-$40 to replace and your phone would regain the use of the Touch ID and the Apple Pay.

  • Burge

    If the Touch ID is on then the device is password protected also. You can not re-read a finger print to open the device till you enter the password to open the device and then you can scan a new finger print to open the device with the new Touch ID button. So in other words no can open the device until you enter your own password and at that point it’s back in your hands, so no one can open the device except for the original owner.

    • Satyam Panchal

      You still don’t get it. virus iD touch so when device start if Touch ID virus get into iPhone n bypass or unlock password

      • Burge

        Who said it “would get a virus” It’s up to the owner of the device who puts a new Touch ID button on the device. Apple are stopping people from there basic rights to choose who fixes there device. I’m would never let a 3rd party fix my device but that’s my choice not Apples. It’s up to the end user, it should just disable Touch ID and Apple Pay not the device.

      • George

        You don’t understand much of anything.

  • Chris

    Forget about repairing for now, but what about if the home button is damaged somehow? (Water in the home button, cracked screen that may crack Home button, etc.) You can now no longer update the iPhone because you will receive the error 53. Limits the life of these devices.

  • Jackson Grong

    The device could work without Touch ID….

  • Maybe it’s just me, but knowing Apple will brick my phone unless it is taken into Apple for authorized repairs is actually highly comforting. My problem (and maybe I’m alone here) is that I have access to my device enabled via Touch ID along with Apple Pay, my banking app, 1Password and several other apps such as Amazon that allow scanning of the fingerprint to purchase items and view account info. Not to mention the App Store itself.

    If I knew that my phone could be stolen and the Touch ID sensor taken out and replaced by one that would always return a positive match to the phone then I would stop using Touch ID immediately as I would never want to deal with the nightmare of trying to fix that mess. Honestly, if Apple hadn’t implemented this sort of fail safe protection I could see someone loosing everything and suing Apple because they didn’t protect against this. But I guess you can’t please everyone.

    Anyways, just my thoughts for what they’re worth.

    • Ethan Humphrey

      I was going to write something like this but you have already said the same thing. I don’t think it’s a smart choice but I get where they are coming from because of what you have said.

    • Tim

      The Touch ID isn’t the one validating your finger prints, the A processor does and it’s encrypted. Also when you switch on your iPhone is requires a passcode before Touch ID works.

    • jp2002

      The secure enclave, which has your fingerprint data is inside the phone’s microprocessor. If someone were to access the prints, then its the processor that they need to get hold of.

      Secondly the matching is done again by the processor and not by the touchID sensor.

      The TouchID sensor on the home button is just an input device that captures your fingerprint. It serves no other purpose. Stealing a MacBook’s keyboard would not give you the user’s password!

      I just see this as either a bug, or an evil attempt by apple to slowly clamp down on unauthorised service centres that repair apple products at a cheaper cost.

  • Anthony

    I ran into this error. The digitizer behind my screen broke, not the glass itself so I ordered a new lcd and reused my original home button. After installing the phone worked but touch ID didn’t. So I thought a restore might fix it (before reading about this error, didn’t know it existed). So I called apple support and told them the issue. They told me as long as everything was original on the phone they could replace the sceeen/lcd assembly for $109. So I put my original parts all back on and sent it in. I paid almost that amount for the assembly by itself. Learn from my mistake, if you have an issue, just have apple fix it. And before you ask, yes, I have a lot of experience fixing and replacing parts on both iPhone and ipads, even to the point of replacing both the screen and back of an ipad after it had been dropped destroying both sides. And this is the first time I have ever had an issue with any repair.

  • Adan

    ABSOLUTELY. And I hope Apple losses. They need to be brought back down to earth!!!

  • the hood

    The car analogy does niot apply (at least in Australia) if the mechanic is a qualified mechanic and uses genuine OEM parts or parts which exceed OEM specs. Nothing mentions here about a 5S being bricked for the same issue. Seems discriminatory towards 6 and above handsets.

    • smtp25

      Car analogy also doesn’t work, as an alternator is not security related. Better analogy is you try and replace your keyless entry with an unapproved one, the car won’t start. For security.

      • the hood

        Absolutely. like I said as long as long as a genuine part is used.

      • Tim

        The car won’t start but as soon as you walk into an authorized dealership they can fix it, interms of Apple they are poisoning your engine, breaking down the gearbox, wrecking the transmission not forgetting shuttering your windows, tearing off seats and then blow up your entire car. Not even apple can help you after error 53, it’s iPhone robbery.

  • Kit Kit

    The touch Id sensor is part of the home button itself, replacing the entire home button and an ios update will trigger the error 53. I repair currently iPhones and I’ve seen these problem with customers who tried to replace their broken screens.

    Error 53 can occur when Home button is damaged or the home button extension cable torned considering that its very fragile. If the latter is the problem then its fixable, just replaced.

    Worst scenario is the home button itself is the problem then thats the time to bring it to Apple. Removing home button is easy without ruining it as long as you use heat that softens the adhesive that attached it to the back of the screen.

  • ProllyWild

    I appreciate the potential concept of error 53. Beyond repair shops, risk could come from someone who buys an iPhone online thinking its direct from Apple, only to realize someone has tampered with the Touch ID and its security. While perhaps unlikely a scenario, the strength of Touch ID is important. So repairs at authorized shops only. No prob.

    • George

      Hahaha no.

      • Alain Bastien

        There are two SMS services, among others, which banks provide to prepaid mobile users in my Country. it’s called REFILL or TOPUP. You just send “REFILL 100” and your bank account is debited by Rs100 (about US$3.00) and your prepaid phone account is reloaded by the amount you sent. This could range between Rs50 to Rs1000 !! (US$1 to US$30).

        The second service is you can transfer credit to a friend’s prepaid phone of the same provider, Just send “100 XXXXXXXX YYYY” where 100 is the cash Amount, XXXXXXX is your friend’s mobile number and YYYY is a PIN code.

        it happend that someone misplaced his phone and his Bank account was emptied with REFILLS only !!! and then the credit was then retransfered to several other mobile phones.

        His phone did not have a TIGHT SECURITY LOCK on his phone.

        So Apple is RIGHT ON DOING SO.

  • Mark S

    Sue away. Gut the company if you can.

  • Meatball

    Lol you fanboys really back apple for every little thing even when they’re completely wrong

  • paresh

    how about if you get it replaced then instead of bricking the phone just have the features of it disabled. in this case you can not use any touchID features like ApplePay or purchases.
    this way the phone still works but also they learn that the features you require from a £600 phone is worth the repair from apple and not 3rd party

  • babiloe

    Apple. Please make sure you have all authorized service centre all countries before you do that. Be aware that touch id and its components are not replaceable, and its flexible is can be broken easily when you open the iphone too much for iPhone 5s and newer even for changing battery. Broken say bye bye touchid, and now even your whole phone with error 53.

  • Rahimo

    My iPhone 6 screen cracked, and replacing it means replacing the Touch ID sensor too !!and there is no Apple store in my country !!! What should I do ?? please help me!

    • Alain Bastien

      There should be a POST OFFICE at least …you ship it to Apple Store.

  • iPhoneWINS


  • Jorge Diaz

    Add me to the lawsuit. Ill testify. I spend my device to change the battery, broke the ribbon cable. Basically FORCES me to use Apple, and they won’t even touch it since I opened it. I HOPE that is illegal. Big companies need to be held accountable, and lawyers do just that.