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Saturday 10 December 2016

Cheap screen repairs can leave your iPhone 'bricked' by Apple

iPhone-users who fit non-Apple parts will find devices disabled (Stock image)
iPhone-users who fit non-Apple parts will find devices disabled (Stock image)

Repairing your iPhone's screen on the cheap could disable your phone forever, thanks to a mechanism that Apple has deployed to "brick" handsets with non-authorised parts.

The mechanical mechanism permanently disables the high-end handset when certain non-Apple parts are used in repairing the phones, making it as useful as a brick.

The "bricking" mechanism can apply to phones with unauthorised replaced fingerprint sensors or screens, a process undertaken by thousands of Irish people each year.

The disabling process occurs when the owner of the repaired iPhone 6 updates the device to iOS 9, Apple's latest mobile software.

Once updated, the user then sees an "Error 53" message on the device's screen, after which the phone becomes permanently unusable.

Apple said that the measure is a security feature that prevents unauthorised tampering with the iPhone's sensitive screens and 'Touch ID' sensor equipment.

"When iOS finds an unidentified or unexpected Touch ID module, the check fails," said a section on Apple's website dealing with a deluge of users complaining about the problem.

"For example, an unauthorised or faulty screen replacement could cause the check to fail. This check keeps your device and the iOS features related to Touch ID secure."

Apple also says that using unauthorised parts to fix an iPhone automatically voids the warranty.

To make matters worse, Irish insurance companies are telling customers they are unsure whether replacing a broken screen on an iPhone will void the device's warranty or result in the disabling mechanism.

The issue has left Irish iPhone users unsure about whether claiming for a cracked screen under their insurance will cause their devices to stop working when they update the phones' software.

However, two mobile phone operators - Meteor and Three - confirmed that iPhones returned to them for repair are sent to Apple for replacement parts and not to third-party repair shops.

Facilities

A spokesman for CompuB, an Apple reseller chain in Ireland, also said that its stores send returned devices to Apple's own repair facilities.

Uninsured, a replacement screen for an iPhone 6 or 6S phone costs up to €300, with screens for older iPhones costing under €100.

Research suggests that as many as one in 14 iPhones gets cracked or broken screen from people dropping the devices.

In the US, a class action legal suit is being prepared by claimants who say Apple's 'Error 53' "bricking" process contravenes consumer law.

"We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers," said an Apple statement.

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