Control freak Apple makes iPhone 13 the 'strongest case for right to repair'

Control freak Apple makes iPhone 13 the ‘strongest case yet for right to repair’

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iPhone 13 display repairs kill Face ID
Way to go, Apple.
Photo: iFixit

The teardown experts at iFixit have confirmed that unauthorized display replacements break Face ID on iPhone 13. They also warn that Apple’s rather unscrupulous move has “huge implications for the professional repair industry.”

The only way around the change is to employ incredibly complicated micro soldering practices to transfer the display chip from the original screen over to the new one. It is “the strongest case yet for right to repair laws,” iFixit says.

A major setback for third-party repairers

Apple has employed some shady tactics to block third-party iPhone repairers in the past. And while we can accept the company’s arguments for some of them — like blocking Touch ID when the sensor is replaced — others make no sense.

The latest change falls into that second category. Apple has made it so that if an iPhone 13 display is changed by anyone other than Apple or an authorized repair partner, Face ID stops working — even if the Face ID sensors are untouched.

We feared that this was the case when a display replacement video surfaced on YouTube back in September. Now the move has been confirmed by iFixit, which calls it a “dark day for fixers, both DIY and professional.”

Apple’s move means it’s no longer possible to swap out an iPhone display yourself “without sacrificing major functionality.” You can’t even have the work carried out by a professional repairer unless they’re approved by Apple.

No good for anyone

“This unprecedented lockdown is unique to Apple and totally new in the iPhone 13,” iFixit notes. “It is likely the strongest case yet for right to repair laws.”

What makes this move particularly harsh is that display replacements are by far the most common repair carried out on smartphones. And Apple is one of the biggest brands. That makes fixing broken iPhone screens big business.

And professional repairers around the world will, in the coming years as this change rolls out to other iPhone models and older devices are replaced, lose out on that business. And there’s no good reason for it.

The problem all boils down to what iFixit calls “a chip about the size of a Tic-Tac,” which is part of iPhone 13’s display circuitry. When the device detects this chip is not the original, it kills Face ID — even if the new chip is genuine.

But this chip has nothing to do with Face ID. So, unlike the Touch ID sensor in earlier iPhone models, which could be compromised by non-genuine parts and therefore should be blocked, iPhone 13’s display has no impact on security.

‘It’s a disaster’

The only explanation for this decision, then, is to (once again) push out unauthorized repairers and force iPhone owners into getting their display replacements from Apple or one of its approved repair partners.

Obviousl,y those repairs tend to cost a lot more, so the move isn’t just a kick in the teeth for other repair shops, but for customers, too.

“It’s a disaster, and we definitely need to fight it, 100 percent,” repairer Justin Ashford told iFixit. “This industry was built on iPhone screens, but it won’t be much longer.”

It’s really difficult to defend Apple when it pulls bullsh*t moves like this one.