Apple is once again in news with its iPhones but this time not for a new launch but due to an software upgrade which is rendering users’ iPhones bricked. The issue is ‘Error 53’ which users around the world are reporting and there has been a fair amount of outrage against the Cupertino based company.
The issue is affecting iPhones which have been repaired by third parties and after update to iOS 9 the devices become dead. Regarding the issue Apple has released a statement:
“We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers,” an Apple spokesperson told iMore. “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.”
What is Error 53 and how is it bricking the devices?
The issue is not a new one, but is found happening now; Apple paired each individual Touch ID sensor cable to each individual phone and it is kind of a hardware lockdown for better security. By doing a hardware lockdown Apple ensured that even if someone gets their hands on your iPhone they cannot bypass the encryption and get at your data.
Now with the new update iOS9 checks for hardware security and when it finds a mismatch between components and raises the flag, which causes the phone to be bricked. So with iPhones having third party repairs where the parts have been changed or reworked the issue surfaces after update. This problem of ‘Error 53’ is coming up in iPhone 6/6Plus and iPhone 6S/6S Plus devices only and not with iPhone 5S owners.
The only option for people with bricked devices is to contact Apple support; if the phone under warranty and no damage is done to the phone Apple may replace the device, but for people with phone whose warranty has expired or if the phone is tampered in any way the only way is to buy a new phone. And the issue is with this last option as people are angered over being forced to buy a new phone, due to an update.
Apple’s latest update issue has shown the company considers a replaced Touch ID sensor as security risk but instead of bricking the phone Apple should tell the user about the security fallout and then let the user decide. If Apple do so it also leaves option for someone other to steal your data and this situation is likely also not good. But having to spent the money on a new phone which you don’t need is also a bad situation.
Legal issues for Apple
The ‘Error 53’ issue if not fixed is likely to get Apple in lot of legal cases, as the Guardian reported a London based barrister Richard Colbey says Apple to be breaking consumer law under Criminal Damage Act 1971
“It is hard to see how something which ceases to work in this way could be said to be of reasonable quality, one of the determinants of which is durability,”
Criminal Damage Act 1971 states:
“A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.”
PCVA a Seattle based law firm is investigating for potential class action lawsuit against Apple, the firm is offering to represent customers for free who have got their phones damages but the recent update. From the PCVA site for the issue listing:
“We hope to find out why Apple implements a policy where end users aren’t free to choose someone other than Apple to repair their devices. We believe that Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third party repair shops. Where you could get your screen replaced by a neighbourhood repair facility for $50-80, Apple charges $129 or more. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products.”
“Think of it this way: Let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself.”
These legal cases would put Apple into lot of trouble and will also damage company’s reputation among consumers as well. May be Apple is working on a fix for this ‘Error 53’ but till then for those who have got their phones repaired my suggestion is to hold on to updating your phone to latest software. It is easy to live with an old OS than a dead phone which will cost you money and pain both.