Friday, 19 February 2016 14:54

iOS 9.2.1 'take 2' fixes Error 53 bug


The Error 53 issue that caused so much confected outrage in the blogosphere has been fixed by Apple.

The myth being peddled in some quarters (and admittedly repeated by iTWire) that the Error 53 problem affecting some iPhones following certain third party repairs was a result of a deliberate policy by Apple to discourage the use of unauthorised repairers has been laid to rest.

What the critics failed to notice was that the error condition only arose when an iPhone with Touch ID was updated or restored via iTunes to iOS 9.2.1. Devices updated 'over the air' were not affected.

Not that Apple's original statement helped clarify the situation, although the wording did provide a clue: "If iOS finds a mismatch [between security-related components], the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used."

So the company intended Touch ID to be disabled, which was a sensible idea. But Apple didn't (immediately) say "Error 53 is not supposed to happen." It just said "If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support" - and from what we've heard the only fixes immediately offered were an authorised repair or a replacement.

In line with Apple's tradition of saying as little as possible about problems until it has come up with a solution (as seen in the way it handled the iPhone 4 antenna issue back in 2010), the company has now told TechCrunch that Error 53 is the result of a test that was supposed to be for factory use only.

The statement, according to TechCrunch, went on to say:

"Today, Apple released a software update that allows customers who have encountered this error message to successfully restore their device using iTunes on a Mac or PC.

"We apologize for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers. Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement."

At the time of writing the statement had not been published alongside Apple's other press releases. Nor has Apple's support page dealing with Error 53 been updated since December 2015. And for that matter, the Download iOS 9.0 - 9.2.1 Information page does not explicitly mention the change either, and it is still dated 19 January.

But according to TechCrunch, a 'silent' update to iOS 9.2.1 (ie, a change has been made without incrementing the version number) avoids Error 53 when updating via iTunes, and will restore normal operation to iPhones that have already run foul of the problem.

Well, almost normal - Touch ID will still be disabled if the fingerprint sensor and other security-related components do not match. The solution to that, it seems, is still to have the phone repaired by Apple or one of its network of authorised service providers.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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