Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Error 53, and why Apple isn't getting a Christmas card this year

Another day, another Big Tech Company behaving badly. Come along for the ride, shall we?

Who this affects: Owners of relatively recent Apple iPhones and iPads that have the Touch ID fingerprint scanner/home button (iPhone 5s and newer, and iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 and newer.)

The problem: If you've broken your screen and had it repaired by a non-authorized repair shop, you'll want to pay attention. If the Touch ID component - which is part of the screen assembly - is not an Apple-authorized part, then the device will lock up with something called at Error 53 when it is later upgraded to iOS9. That's because iOS9 checks all the hardware, and if the Touch ID module isn't recognized, it deliberately locks the device as a security measure.

The real problem: Error 53 basically "bricks" the device, turning it into a very expensive - and useless - doorstopper. Data and apps are lost, and it cannot be recovered or reset. Users must buy a new device.

What it means: While Apple claims its policy is aimed at maximizing the security of its products - it essentially wants to make it difficult-to-impossible for the Touch ID sensor to be replaced by something less secure, that might allow hackers to gain access to the device - the cynic in me sees this as a huge cash grab.

The net effect will be to, ah, encourage iPhone and iPad owners to seek repairs from the Apple Store or similarly authorized repair outlets - which is more expensive and not always convenient or even possible for customers who live away from major urban centres.

It's as if Toyota, GM and Honda decided to "encourage" owners to bring their cars ONLY to the dealer by threatening to leave them stranded permanently by the side of the road with a destroyed engine if they dared get their oil changed by the friendly neighborhood mechanic. That kind of consumerist bullying wouldn't stand in the automotive industry, and it shouldn't stand here, either.

The issue has caused thousands of devices to be essentially destroyed - admittedly a relatively small number considering Apple sold 75 million iPhones last quarter. But already lawyers in the U.S. and the UK are gearing up to launch class action lawsuits against Apple.

In the meantime, if you have a relatively new iPhone or iPad and your screen breaks, be very careful about where you bring it to be fixed. Although it'll probably cost you more for an off-warranty repair, stick to an Apple Store or an Apple-authorized retailer or repair outlet, just to be safe. If you've already had your device repaired, you may want to hold off on upgrading to iOS9 until this whole mess is cleaned up.

Your turn: Does this tick you off as much as it ticks me off?


Unknown said...

Thanks for the short and to the point update on this, I would never have known and hopefully never have to make the repair. Be interesting to see where a class action will go...

Pat Tillett said...

Very interesting...
To me, it's all about the money. I'm going to pass this along to few people in my family.
Thanks Carmi!

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I can understand your view on this, how ironic, cuz I am typing on a MacBook Air... From what I have learned, people who have bought an Apple laptop know up front that its best repaired by Apple.. From the amount of folks who go to Apple for workshops, and visit the Genius Bar, many just bite the bullet and pay..