The error usually occurs if you save a few [hundred] dollars by having a third party replacement of the glass, screen, home button, or touch ID sensor regardless of whether genuine parts are used. The iPhone goes into a continual boot loop after attempting a future iOS software update.
But the issue does not stop there. The software update – and there are many that occur at irregular intervals – sets off ‘security checks’ that trigger Error 53. This puts the phone into an unrecoverable (at least from a user’s perspective) boot loop that can only be fixed by – you guessed it – an approved service provider e.g. Apple store, for a fee (in England is £270 - A$600). No, a user cannot roll back to an earlier version of iOS as the phone is stuck in a boot loop. Apparently all data, photographs, music, etc., on the phone may be lost as well.
Users also report that Apple have stated that an Error 53 will invalidate the devices warranty.
iFixit has a blog by expert Kyle Wiens that says this is a major issue and it is unclear whether this is a deliberate move to force iPhone owners to use Apple for a repair. “All along, Apple’s view is that it does not want third parties carrying out repairs to its products, and this looks like an obvious extension of that. What it should do is allow its customers to recalibrate their phone after a repair. Only when there is a huge outcry about this problem will it do something,” he says.
“In the early days of the Error 53 run, Apple stores were uninformed about the issue, and could occasionally be convinced to replace the device. Nowadays, Apple refuses to fix the problem in stores, which means owners have to buy brand new (and very expensive) phones,” he adds.
Apple says its protecting the user fingerprint data which is tied closely to the touch ID sensor. If serviced by an authorised service provider e.g. an Apple store – they have the ability to re-validate the pairing. It states that without this a malicious touch sensor could be installed.
Apple aficionados say that iPhones should always be repaired by Apple – not some ‘low rent’ repairer and that Error 53 is a measure to protect user’s security. That may be a motherhood statement but it does not take into account those who may be unable to get to an Apple store or those who simply cannot afford to pay Apple rates for repairs – allegedly from two to ten times the cost of third party providers.
Apple’s statement follows:
"We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device's other components. If iOS finds a mismatch, 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. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support."
From an Australian Consumer Law perspective, it is akin to the issue of car makers wrongly stating that manufacturer’s warranty is only valid if the car is serviced by one of its approved dealers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will likely have something to say about what is loosely termed ‘line forcing’.
Indeed, the US Digital Right to Repair Coalition (now The Repair Association) is taking this matter up via the legislators asking that owners and independent repair shops be given mandatory access to service information, schematics, and repair manuals; fair market access to diagnostics and tools; spare parts for a fair price; and critical updates.
Wiens sums the issue up well, “If you lock your keys in your own car, AAA can open it back up for you. If you lock yourself out of your house, a locksmith can get you back into it. No one is going to make you throw your apartment away because they’re afraid of the locksmith. Their ability to unlock things for owners doesn’t pose an unnecessary security risk.”