iPhone 12 camera module cannot be replaced by third-party repair technicians

Posted:
in iPhone
The iPhone 12 family introduces another repair obstacle that could limit third-party repairs even further with a new authorization step in changing out camera modules.

iPhone 12 camera system cannot be replaced without Apple technician software
iPhone 12 camera system cannot be replaced without Apple technician software


Apple has increasingly designed its devices with restrictions on what can be replaced or repaired by non-certified technicians. The iPhone 12 introduces a new hurdle for repair facilities which could impact a user's ability to seek out third-party repair options.

Technicians coordinating with iFixit have discovered that the iPhone 12 camera requires a software authorization after a part swap in order to function properly. Previous iPhones could have their camera swapped easily with no additional steps. iFixit says that the camera and display are among some of the most frequent parts needing repair or replaced by users.

This software authorization can only be carried out by using a proprietary Apple app called System Configuration. The app is only available to official repair facilities like the Apple Store or Best Buy. Such a change could further impact the third-party repair market, private repairs, and parts scavenging and resale.

The iPhone 12 camera, when replaced without Apple's official software authorization, appears to work fine at launch, but begins to fail in regular use. iFixit notes that the camera failed to switch to ultra wide, would only respond in certain camera modes, and would become completely unresponsive.

A technician performing a camera swap (source: iFixit)
A technician performing a camera swap (source: iFixit)


The issue was at first considered a bug, but has since been confirmed to be a point of practice suggested by Apple's repair manual. Requiring software authorization was previously reserved for repairs that could affect the security or safety of the device, and not the camera.

The camera is increasingly tied to the SoC for computational photography, which could indicate why Apple is forcing more precautions in software. iFixit is concerned that this is yet another attempt to force people away from repairing their own devices, and call on users to contact their legislators to force Apple's hand.

The right to repair movement is a complicated one, as they believe that any and all devices purchased by a consumer should be fully accessible, repairable, and have access easily sourced parts. The increasing complexity of hardware and software, and Apple's own control over the entire hardware stack and software experience get in the way of this belief.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    twokatmewMisterKitDan_Dilgermacplusplus
  • Reply 2 of 14
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    The issue is somewhat clouded by companies like iFixit who have their own business agenda - it's not about a random nerd.

    The broader movement is more about things like the creeping spread of locked in technology starting to affect things like the ability to repair a tractor - that didn't use to require specialized software, but now it does.
    elijahg
  • Reply 3 of 14
    XedXed Posts: 1,111member
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    I've repaired countless somethings "as sophisticated as a modern iPhone," which includes countless iPhones without every needing a soldering iron.

    The issue here has nothing to do with a soldering iron. These devices will become increasingly difficult to repair by the average user (the same way televisions, automobiles, and countless other man-made objects over the history of civilization).

    The question that I'm curious to know is whether the inoperability of a swapped camera module or Taptic Engine has to do with real security concerns (e.g.: the processor on the camera module could be used as a backdoor into the system if replaced with a purposely compromised component), a bug  (i.e.: HW, firmware, and/or SW), or an artificial move by Apple to limit repairability.

    Even if it's 
    artificial, that doesn't mean it's necessarily a hostile move by Apple. For example, Apple could have seen excessive costs with people thinking they can do their own swaps just to have them not work properly and then use Apple Care to have Apple replace their non-functioning devices at a highly reduced cost, which Apple wouldn't know until they did forensics on the device in a teardown. That also doesn't mean that it's not a hostile move to force customers to reduce the longevity of their devices. Without internal, damning documents I'm not sure we'd could make any such deflation with certainty.
    edited October 2020 chemengin1elijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 974member
    mknelson said:


    The broader movement is more about things like the creeping spread of locked in technology starting to affect things like the ability to repair a tractor - that didn't use to require specialized software, but now it does.

    Don't give "AppleCar" any ideas  :D
  • Reply 5 of 14
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,437member
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    Give me a break. I’ve replaced screens, batteries, buttons, etc on my iPhones in the past. When my daughter dropped my wife’s ipad, I took it to a local repair shop to get the screen replaced. They did a beautiful job and it was quicker, more convenient and cheaper than taking it to an ‘official’ apple repair facility. 

    Let’s extend your argument a bit - cars are highly computerized now; how would you feel if Toyota suddenly said ‘the brake pads need to be calibrated with the computer’ or ‘the computer needs to measure the oil viscosity for the engine to run at optimal efficiency’ and suddenly required all service to be done at dealerships? I go to a local repair shop - the mechanics there are friendly and actually take the time to talk to me about the problem. It’s cheaper and more convenient for me to go there than the dealer. Now, if they suddenly had to start paying and extra $500 per year per mechanic per make to be ‘certified’ to work on those cars they would go out of business. Fortunately they don’t.

    Apple removed USB chargers under the ruse of it being environmentally friendly, but enabling repairs on a phone has potentially a bigger impact than a charger. Beyond this, there are countless people who don’t live near an ‘authorized service center.’ 

    You dismiss ‘right to repair,’ so my question is why do you defend any manufacturer’s right to prevent repairs?
    edited October 2020 chemengin1CloudTalkinmuthuk_vanalingamprismaticselijahg
  • Reply 6 of 14
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,823member
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    The "right to repair" has its roots with farmers battling with John Deere to allow access to parts/software to maintain their farm equipment.  For their case, it made sense.  A farm tractor and an iPhone, and the users are two entirely different things.


    MplsP said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    Give me a break. I’ve replaced screens, batteries, buttons, etc on my iPhones in the past. When my daughter dropped my wife’s ipad, I took it to a local repair shop to get the screen replaced. They did a beautiful job and it was quicker, more convenient and cheaper than taking it to an ‘official’ apple repair facility. 

    Let’s extend your argument a bit - cars are highly computerized now; how would you feel if Toyota suddenly said ‘the brake pads need to be calibrated with the computer’ or ‘the computer needs to measure the oil viscosity for the engine to run at optimal efficiency’ and suddenly required all service to be done at dealerships? I go to a local repair shop - the mechanics there are friendly and actually take the time to talk to me about the problem. It’s cheaper and more convenient for me to go there than the dealer. Now, if they suddenly had to start paying and extra $500 per year per mechanic per make to be ‘certified’ to work on those cars they would go out of business. Fortunately they don’t.

    Apple removed USB chargers under the ruse of it being environmentally friendly, but enabling repairs on a phone has potentially a bigger impact than a charger. Beyond this, there are countless people who don’t live near an ‘authorized service center.’ 

    You dismiss ‘right to repair,’ so my question is why do you defend any manufacturer’s right to prevent repairs?
    The iPhone is known for its security.  Certain parts that can be replaced and used without any kind of authentication could break that security model, example being the backlash with replacing the TouchID sensor.  I get replacing a screen, or some piece of cosmetic components without requiring Apple's intervention, but other pieces of tech I can understand.  That you feel it should be all open is irrelevant, and ignorant.

    What WILL happen is if Joe-Average repairs an iPhone for a customer, and that repair causes other problems... who do you think that customer will blame?  Joe-Average or Apple?  You know that's what's going to happen too but choose to ignore it.  With today's faux-outrage on social media, Apple would get skewered for "faulty iPhones" without actually having done nothing.
    caladanianmacpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    It’s not just related to security. Authorizing parts also helps to destroy the market for stolen phones. Because they can be authorized, thieves take them apart to sell off parts. If the stolen parts can’t be used, it erases a major motive for stealing. 
    fastasleepmacpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    I’ve fixed multiple “SoPhIsTiCaTeD” iPhones for myself, friends, and family members. Yeah, I’m that nerd but without the soldering iron. Let me tell you something...if some robot or random in China can assemble an iPhone, you can bet your ass that a dedicated “NeRd” will be able to take it apart and put it back together.
    tyler82MplsPprismaticselijahg
  • Reply 9 of 14
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,437member
    sflocal said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    The "right to repair" has its roots with farmers battling with John Deere to allow access to parts/software to maintain their farm equipment.  For their case, it made sense.  A farm tractor and an iPhone, and the users are two entirely different things.


    MplsP said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    Give me a break. I’ve replaced screens, batteries, buttons, etc on my iPhones in the past. When my daughter dropped my wife’s ipad, I took it to a local repair shop to get the screen replaced. They did a beautiful job and it was quicker, more convenient and cheaper than taking it to an ‘official’ apple repair facility. 

    Let’s extend your argument a bit - cars are highly computerized now; how would you feel if Toyota suddenly said ‘the brake pads need to be calibrated with the computer’ or ‘the computer needs to measure the oil viscosity for the engine to run at optimal efficiency’ and suddenly required all service to be done at dealerships? I go to a local repair shop - the mechanics there are friendly and actually take the time to talk to me about the problem. It’s cheaper and more convenient for me to go there than the dealer. Now, if they suddenly had to start paying and extra $500 per year per mechanic per make to be ‘certified’ to work on those cars they would go out of business. Fortunately they don’t.

    Apple removed USB chargers under the ruse of it being environmentally friendly, but enabling repairs on a phone has potentially a bigger impact than a charger. Beyond this, there are countless people who don’t live near an ‘authorized service center.’ 

    You dismiss ‘right to repair,’ so my question is why do you defend any manufacturer’s right to prevent repairs?
    The iPhone is known for its security.  Certain parts that can be replaced and used without any kind of authentication could break that security model, example being the backlash with replacing the TouchID sensor.  I get replacing a screen, or some piece of cosmetic components without requiring Apple's intervention, but other pieces of tech I can understand.  That you feel it should be all open is irrelevant, and ignorant.

    What WILL happen is if Joe-Average repairs an iPhone for a customer, and that repair causes other problems... who do you think that customer will blame?  Joe-Average or Apple?  You know that's what's going to happen too but choose to ignore it.  With today's faux-outrage on social media, Apple would get skewered for "faulty iPhones" without actually having done nothing.
    This “Apple getting skewered” argument keeps getting brought up and frankly, it’s a load of bull. Again, look at every other industry - it’s simply not an issue. Unless you’re looking for an excuse to justify Apple’s position, that is. 

    As far as security, I never claimed nothing should require an authorized technician, just most parts. There are plenty of parts that can be replaced without affecting security. Again - look at the automotive industry. There are certain things you need to go to a dealer for. No one disputes or complains about that, but even the dealers admit you don’t need to go there for everything. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 14
    Sarkany said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    I’ve fixed multiple “SoPhIsTiCaTeD” iPhones for myself, friends, and family members. Yeah, I’m that nerd but without the soldering iron. Let me tell you something...if some robot or random in China can assemble an iPhone, you can bet your ass that a dedicated “NeRd” will be able to take it apart and put it back together.
    With that said, it’s a very specialized skill set to be able to do complex repairs on an iPhone. That’s why the stores are limited on what they can repair. Before opening ANY device, one should educate themselves about the dangers of ESD and how static electricity can damage and even destroy sensitive components without you ever knowing it. 

    Joe six pack won’t be able to fix his iPhone, and he shouldn’t try.  Just read ifixit’s comments from people who tried to do their own repairs. One of them almost burned down his house because he ruptured the battery.

    Unless you have the skills AND the proper tools and training, just leave the repairs to Apple or Apple authorized repair places. It’s not worth the risk, or the cost if you fuck up.  
    macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,865member
    Very weird. I’ve replaced a lot of iPhone components over the years, but never a camera. One of the only “fails” I’ve had over the years was the most recent screen replacement of my wife’s iPhone 5s. I’ve done a successful TouchID swap before, but this time it didn’t take. Now of course she’s livid without it, so I’ll probably be getting a used X this weekend and reluctantly give her my SE Classic.

    I get the TouchID thing from the security standpoint, and I imagine there are similar safeguards in place for FaceID, and the new TouchID wake/sleep button(s), but I’m not sure, could there be some kind of security angle here? I’m guessing it would be a pretty long shot, but I reckon not outside the realm of possibility. Seems a bit extreme. 

    My assumption therefore, is that they’d prefer the replacements be Apple approved bits to ensure quality images are always created. Also probably has some or possibly more to do with all the computational photography stuff and calibration between the hardware and software. Such is the March of progress I suppose. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,865member
    Very weird. I’ve replaced a lot of iPhone components over the years, but never a camera. One of the only “fails” I’ve had over the years was the most recent screen replacement of my wife’s iPhone 5s. I’ve done a successful TouchID swap before, but this time it didn’t take. Now of course she’s livid without it, so I’ll probably be getting a used X this weekend and reluctantly give her my SE Classic.

    I get the TouchID thing from the security standpoint, and I imagine there are similar safeguards in place for FaceID, and the new TouchID wake/sleep button(s), but I’m not sure, could there be some kind of security angle here? I’m guessing it would be a pretty long shot, but I reckon not outside the realm of possibility. Seems a bit extreme. 

    My assumption therefore, is that they’d prefer the replacements be Apple approved bits to ensure quality images are always created. Also probably has some or possibly more to do with all the computational photography stuff and calibration between the hardware and software. Such is the March of progress I suppose. 
  • Reply 13 of 14
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    Just because you're clueless about how to repair a device isn't is a reason to block right to repair legalisation. You don't need a soldering iron to repair an iPhone. Nor do you need an Apple Store. A replacement part, pentalobe and torx screwdrivers and you're golden for pretty much everything Apple charges a $50 premium for. It's my device, why shouldn't I repair it myself, especially if it's out of warranty?
  • Reply 14 of 14
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member

    sflocal said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    The "right to repair" has its roots with farmers battling with John Deere to allow access to parts/software to maintain their farm equipment.  For their case, it made sense.  A farm tractor and an iPhone, and the users are two entirely different things.


    MplsP said:
    loopless said:
    This “right to repair” issue is a made up issue pushed by a vocal minority of users. Does any really expect something as sophisticated as a modern iPhone to be repairable by some nerd with a soldering iron? That ship has sailed.
    Give me a break. I’ve replaced screens, batteries, buttons, etc on my iPhones in the past. When my daughter dropped my wife’s ipad, I took it to a local repair shop to get the screen replaced. They did a beautiful job and it was quicker, more convenient and cheaper than taking it to an ‘official’ apple repair facility. 

    Let’s extend your argument a bit - cars are highly computerized now; how would you feel if Toyota suddenly said ‘the brake pads need to be calibrated with the computer’ or ‘the computer needs to measure the oil viscosity for the engine to run at optimal efficiency’ and suddenly required all service to be done at dealerships? I go to a local repair shop - the mechanics there are friendly and actually take the time to talk to me about the problem. It’s cheaper and more convenient for me to go there than the dealer. Now, if they suddenly had to start paying and extra $500 per year per mechanic per make to be ‘certified’ to work on those cars they would go out of business. Fortunately they don’t.

    Apple removed USB chargers under the ruse of it being environmentally friendly, but enabling repairs on a phone has potentially a bigger impact than a charger. Beyond this, there are countless people who don’t live near an ‘authorized service center.’ 

    You dismiss ‘right to repair,’ so my question is why do you defend any manufacturer’s right to prevent repairs?
    The iPhone is known for its security.  Certain parts that can be replaced and used without any kind of authentication could break that security model, example being the backlash with replacing the TouchID sensor.  I get replacing a screen, or some piece of cosmetic components without requiring Apple's intervention, but other pieces of tech I can understand.  That you feel it should be all open is irrelevant, and ignorant.

    What WILL happen is if Joe-Average repairs an iPhone for a customer, and that repair causes other problems... who do you think that customer will blame?  Joe-Average or Apple?  You know that's what's going to happen too but choose to ignore it.  With today's faux-outrage on social media, Apple would get skewered for "faulty iPhones" without actually having done nothing.
    They'd blame the person who fixed it. I've repaired all sorts of devices for people, iPhones, batteries, Macbooks, iMacs, PCs, projectors etc, and if something doesn't work, they don't go to the manufacturer, they come back to me. What on earth makes you think they'd go back to the manufacturer? Legally their contract for the repair is with me, not with the manufacturer. Going back to Apple over a third party repair is a straw man that you know is complete crap.
    muthuk_vanalingam
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