Apple is reportedly walking back a policy that might have put many small phone repair shops out of business. It promised to stop disabling Face ID on iPhone 13 units that have had their screen replaced by anyone other than Apple-authorized techs.
The change will come in the form of a software update.
No Face ID for you, cheapskate!
Not long after the iPhone 13 launched, the word went out that third-party replacements break Face ID. According to the repair experts at iFixit, the culprit is a tiny chip that is part of the handset’s display circuitry. If the device detects this chip is not the original, it kills Face ID — even if the new chip is a genuine Apple part.
Thing is, the handset’s facial scanners scanners are separate from the screen being replaced. There’s no security reason that swapping out a display should disable Face ID. And Apple techs and authorized repair partners have software that makes the iPhone accept the new chip. Unauthorized repair shops do not.
Apple seemed to be blocking independent companies from simply swapping out a broken screen with a good one. iFixit called the change a “dark day for fixers, both DIY and professional.” This is exactly the sort of move that has many U.S. states deliberating Right to Repair laws that would block companies from deliberately making their products hard to fix.
Cheaper iPhone 13 screen repairs survive… for now
But Apple has apparently backtracked. The Verge reports being told by Apple that “it will release a software update that doesn’t require you to transfer the microcontroller to keep Face ID working after a screen swap.”
When this will happen is not known. iOS 15.2 is currently in beta testing — if the change appears in this version then small third-party repair shops should be able start fixing iPhone 13 screen in a few weeks.