Apple making display repairs harder on iPhone 13 Pro is a step too far

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2021
Apple has placed a barrier to screen replacements on the iPhone 13 Pro by killing Face ID when a third-party display swap is performed. That's a step too far for the company.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Similar issues have come up in the past. Back in 2018, an iOS update killed the touch functionality on some iPhone 8 models if they were repaired by a third party.

Apple eventually fixed that issue, while simultaneously warning against third-party display swaps.

The iPhone 13 Pro mechanism, however, appears to be different. Here's what you should know -- and why Apple should reverse course.

Third-party screen repairs kill Face ID

Since the release of the iPhone 13 Pro, a number of repair-focused experts attempted third-party screen repairs. All of them killed Face ID.

Repair site iFixit, for example, discovered that Face ID stops working after a third-party display replacement despite the fact that the display assembly and the Face ID modules are now separate.

The site even attempted to transfer the Face ID hardware and sensors from the old display to a new one, but the repair still knocked out Face ID. This appears to be because a display is serial-locked to an iPhone.

YouTuber Phone Repair Guru made the same discovery after swapping the display on two iPhone messages.





Further work has proven that "chopping and swapping" a good iPhone 13 screen into another iPhone won't work either.

This is a change from previous behavior. Back in 2019, Apple added an on-device notification warning users after they used a third-party service for a screen repair. However, Face ID would still function, even if an independent repair shop swapped the display.

An iPhone display is not a simple component

There are perfectly valid reasons for a third party to think twice before performing an iPhone display repair. For one, the iPhone display module is not simply a piece of glass over the more sensitive components of the device. An iPhone display assembly is a complicated component itself.

The iPhone display module is actually made of several discrete components, including a sheet of tempered glass, a touchpad, backlighting components, and additional layers of sensors.

Despite the fact that screen swaps are among the most common repairs, it is not necessarily a simple procedure. Even iFixit notes that the cable linking the display module to the rest of the device is "scary thin and way too short." In other words, it's easy to mess up a screen swap.

We've said before that third parties should have access to non-security related parts, like screens, case parts, and batteries. Disabling Face ID when a third-party screen swap is performed -- which has zero impact on user security -- is arbitrary and a step too far.

Apple's repair problems

Apple's public messaging on repair is complicated. Even within Apple, reports have indicated that there's plenty of internal disagreement, debate, and uncertainty on the issue.

On the other hand, Apple has historically opposed and lobbied against right to repair legislation that would guarantee access to tools, documents, and resources for users and third-party repair shops. Its efforts have tabled and killed right to repair legislation in states like California.

Apple claims that opening up repair access to its devices would create consumer safety and security risks.

On the other hand, the company has expanded access to official parts and repair guides through its Independent Repair Provider program. The problem, according to technicians and repair shop owners, is that Apple's terms and requirements for the program border on totalitarian.

The company's environmental and sustainability stance also complicates the issue. Electronic waste is projected to become a major problem. Opening up repair access would undoubtedly help mitigate some of those waste issues. The question for Apple appears to be whether that balances out the supposed safety and security issues.

Killing Face ID in display swaps is a step too far, even for Apple

A 2018 report indicated that American consumers crack at least two smartphone screens each second. The total cost to repair those devices amounted to $3.4 billion a year. As with any financial costs, lower-income iPhone users will be the most affected.

Apple pairing its display components in software to stop third-party display repairs feels arbitrary. Unless the company has a compelling reason, it feels like a step to further restrict repair access. For a component that's as frequently broken as a screen, this becomes an even worse problem.

Warning users away from going to third-party repair services is one thing, but actively punishing users for doing so is another.

This isn't an argument to open up repair access to Apple's hardware entirely. Like any good debate, there are certainly valid points on both sides of the right to repair issue (despite the vagueness of the term). The average consumer isn't going to need schematics to perform logic board repairs. However, a screen glass replacement is a different animal.

As far as reports indicate, Apple is pairing display and Face ID components in software. It could easily reverse that behavior in an iOS update. It comes down to a question of whether it should.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid third-party or DIY screen repairs, and plenty of reasons to take those options. But, for such a commonly broken component, consumers should be able to make their own decision about it.

At the very least, Apple shouldn't arbitrarily punish users for making a non-security related repair decision about a device that they own.

Read on AppleInsider
williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingam
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    Good, if I get a part as critical as the screen w/ Face ID replaced, I wanna be DAMNED sure it's a vetted replacement that will be certified as legit, and not get replaced with some cheap knock-off Chinese junk that may do illicit things later.

    These articles are so stupid.
    RudolfGottfriedStrangeDayswilliamlondonmike1patchythepiratepeterhartbloggerblogomar moralesscstrrfpscooter63
  • Reply 2 of 43
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,927member
    So you’re blaming Apple because the component swap doesn’t work how unauthorised/untrained ‘repairers’ assumed it would?

    If I try to replace a component on my car and lack the tools/expertise to do the job properly, I don’t blame the manufacturer.

    Did if ever occur to these idiots that, contrary to troll propaganda, Apple doesn’t just use generic parts with unmodified firmware. These fake repairers should be taken to court for fraud.
    RudolfGottfriedwilliamlondonmike1patchythepiratemagman1979omar moralesscstrrfpscooter63baconstangDetnator
  • Reply 3 of 43
    As usual, I very much doubt this is a waxed mustache-twirling ploy by Apple to generate some couch cushion change revenue, and is more likely related to authentic security components. I recall a similar story about Touch ID years back.
    williamlondonmike1patchythepiratemagman1979scstrrfpscooter63baconstangsdw2001watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 43
    Good, if I get a part as critical as the screen w/ Face ID replaced, I wanna be DAMNED sure it's a vetted replacement that will be certified as legit, and not get replaced with some cheap knock-off Chinese junk that may do illicit things later.

    These articles are so stupid.
    Agree, especially this particular article. It leaves many important details and facts out that I have read on other sites. Unlike the other write ups I have read, this article offers no explanation as to why the screen and Face ID module are linked. If you have that information it makes more sense even if you still disagree.

    The power of the media to create distortions, little or big, is always there.
    williamlondonmagman1979omar moralesscstrrfpscooter63watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 43
    Apple believes in delivering a quality product. Would BMW OR MERCEDES, allow third party actors to push their work on their products?
    scstrrfwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 43
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,316member
    Did I miss where this article was tagged as an opinion piece?
    magman1979peterhartscstrrfStrangeDayspscooter63baconstangwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 43
    The lengths to which people will go to excuse anti-consumer behavior by Apple is stunning. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondoncuriousrun8haikuspscooter63elijahgbeowulfschmidtjony0
  • Reply 8 of 43
    Typical responses from the usual suspects, blaming AI author for a well reasoned article. Most of the posters above should be "Apple shareholders" who do NOT care about "consumer rights" or what is in the best interests of Apple's customers. As long as Apple is able to make more money which would help to increase AAPL's prices, they would defend ANY decision from Apple with impunity.

    For a question as simple as - "Why should owners of iPhone 13 generation phones pay a huge amount to Apple (ONLY to Apple and no one else in the world) to repair if the screen in their phone is broken due to accidental drop (which is not covered in warranty and they don't have accidental damage coverage)?", the response from posters above is "Why not? Apple can make more money that way and it will help in increased stock price for us to enjoy". Absolute nonsense.

    Any reasonable consumer would expect to be able to fix the screen in their phone (out of warranty repairs) in the least amount of cost as possible and Apple is blocking that from happening by blocking competition for repairs.
    edited September 2021 williamlondoncuriousrun8haikuspscooter63Rangounchainedelijahg
  • Reply 9 of 43
    All this 'right to repair' stuff is such nonsense. I don't want the quality, capability, or security of any products compromised by this crap. I hope Apple never gives in to any of this. As technology improves, products are invariably going to get more complex and difficult to repair. My future, hermetically sealed iPhone can't come soon enough!
    magman1979scstrrfpscooter63baconstangwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 43
    mcdave said:
    So you’re blaming Apple because the component swap doesn’t work how unauthorised/untrained ‘repairers’ assumed it would?

    If I try to replace a component on my car and lack the tools/expertise to do the job properly, I don’t blame the manufacturer.

    Did if ever occur to these idiots that, contrary to troll propaganda, Apple doesn’t just use generic parts with unmodified firmware. These fake repairers should be taken to court for fraud.
    It’s not rocket science. It isn’t as if Apple has a team of engineers doing their repairs.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 43
    tylersdad said:
    The lengths to which people will go to excuse anti-consumer behavior by Apple is stunning. 
    Oh, you are a hoot, might as well call the entire site here fanbois (same with M_v and his "usual suspects" comment). [rolls eyes]
    peterhartmagman1979scstrrfStrangeDayspscooter63baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 43
    tylersdad said:
    The lengths to which people will go to excuse anti-consumer behavior by Apple is stunning. 
    The lengths to which trolls try to spin positive direction from Apple to PROTECT consumers in a negative light is stunning...
    williamlondonStrangeDayspscooter63baconstangwonkothesanewatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 13 of 43
    So Mike writes a thoughtful article on an important issue and goes to great lengths to present a balanced view of the issue.

    And the responses are filled with personal insults and claims that these types of articles and their ideas are idiotic.

    Is it that difficult to respond to the points made in the article in a respectful manner, without resorting to vitriol?

    it’s a wonder anyone tries to write anything thoughtful anymore.


    williamlondonpatchythepiratecuriousrun8pscooter63elijahgbeowulfschmidtjony0
  • Reply 14 of 43
    geomac25 said:
    Apple believes in delivering a quality product. Would BMW OR MERCEDES, allow third party actors to push their work on their products?
    Mostly they believe in having customers with limited technical skills who cannot do the simplest things for themselves.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 43
    JonGJonG Posts: 24unconfirmed, member
    The previous comments on this seem to be non-sensical.  It is 100% arbitrary to disable FaceID when a 3rd party replacement is done.

    Look at the car example.  What if Ford/Volvo/Nissan (or anyone with a Pilot Assist System with a front camera) said that if you got a 3rd Party Windshield replacement that they would disable Traffic Aware Cruise Control in your vehicle without any testing. They do have warnings that if you get the wrong windshield you could end up with the system not functioning, but that is up to be as the vehicle owner to decide my own risk.  And that is a direct risk of my life and those riding in my car, not just that someone might be able to look at my web-browsing history.

    Putting up a warning that you have used recognized 3rd party parts for a repair and that you have to absolve Apple of any liability for security breaches due to that would be one thing.  Removing functionality that I already paid for is something else.

    If they want to do this, then increase the cost of the phone and require AppleCare as part of the purchase, or just reduce the price of screen repairs at any certified center to a small fixed amount with no profit to prove that they aren't soaking people.
    edited September 2021 williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamcuriousrun8Rangounchainedshareef777
  • Reply 16 of 43
    JonG said:
    The comments on this seem to be non-sensical.  
    Nice self-own comment.
    pscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 43
    Is this an opinion piece? Because it makes zero sense. What this article advocates is for Apple to put it’s customers at risk somthat some bottom feeder random repair shop can service Apple products their way.  🙄🙄🙄 
    williamlondonStrangeDayspscooter63baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 43
    Is this an opinion piece? Because it makes zero sense. What this article advocates is for Apple to put it’s customers at risk somthat some bottom feeder random repair shop can service Apple products their way.  🙄🙄🙄 
    What "risk" are you talking about? I have had a lot of third-party repairs to my iPhones all these years, should i be worried?
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 43
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,891administrator
    Is this an opinion piece? Because it makes zero sense. What this article advocates is for Apple to put it’s customers at risk somthat some bottom feeder random repair shop can service Apple products their way.  ߙ䰟鄰 

    Yes, it is Mike Peterson's opinion piece, and it does nothing of the sort.


    edited September 2021 williamlondonelijahgpatchythepirateOpenSourceGeekR2R
  • Reply 20 of 43
    IreneW said:
    Is this an opinion piece? Because it makes zero sense. What this article advocates is for Apple to put it’s customers at risk somthat some bottom feeder random repair shop can service Apple products their way.  ߙ䰟鄰 
    What "risk" are you talking about? I have had a lot of third-party repairs to my iPhones all these years, should i be worried?
    Maybe you're not worried but Apple certainly is. Apple holds their products to a high standard, even to a 2nd or 3rd hand owner. So if their phone was repaired by Bob's repair and they did a shitty job because they don't know wtf they're doing and it goes to a 1st time iPhone buyer with issues, none of which are Apple's doing that harms Apple's image. The 2nd or 3rd owner of the phone may have no clue what so ever the phone was repaired by a 3rd party. It can also make the phone insecure after the repair. Who knows what a 3rd party did to that phone, where they get their parts from, etc. They can inadvertently install a malicious piece of hardware.

    So in my eyes the "risk" is someone owning the iPhone that is now possibly insecure and possibly with inferior 3rd party hardware installed. 

    Lets not forget that Apple designs the phone to have the owners personal information on it from their credit cards, health information, drivers license, COVID-19 vaccination status cards, insurance cards, etc, etc. If this gets breached because of a non-Apple part installed, who gets the blame? Apple does. It doesn't matter if the owner allowed it to happen. Apple is the one who catches the crap in the end with news articles, lawsuits, etc. This results in negative perception that iPhones are not secure which can make owners (or potential owners) not use the phone to its fullest capabilities. 

    Apple could fix this by giving 3rd party repair shops an opportunity to be an Apple Authorized Repair Center so they can get proper training and get genuine parts only from Apple directly.  
    edited September 2021 williamlondonomar moralesmagman1979watto_cobra
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