An Apple update will render your iPhone 6 unusable if a non-Apple technician has repaired its fingerprint reader component. Error 53 locks the user’s phone and makes the data contained therein irretrievable. While the update in question was released last year, the volume of affected users seems to be growing. As the Guardian reported this morning, “Thousands of iPhone 6 users claim they have been left holding almost worthless phones because Apple’s latest operating system permanently disables the handset if it detects that a repair has been carried out by a non-Apple technician.” 

The error affects iPhone 6 and 6S users who have had the Touch ID fingerprint component of the home button repaired by a third-party. Some users reported the error for iPhones in which the component was damaged but which still worked. Apple’s stated intention with regards to this error is that it is a security feature intended to protect devices which have been stolen. The feature would stop a potential criminal from tampering with the fingerprint component to unlawfully access the device. The result is that some users who have purchased third-party technical assistance for the Touch ID component or those for whom the component was broken  update their software and have their phones locked, as well as any data contained therein rendered irretrievable. The error has no known fix and users are advised by Apple to purchase a replacement. 

While the security and privacy aspects of this feature are understandable, releasing an update that breaks the functional smart phones of unsuspecting users is problematic. The aforementioned Guardian article suggests that Apple’s practices could constitute attempts at monopolizing the iPhone repair market: “Could Apple’s move, which appears to be designed to squeeze out independent repairers, contravene competition rules? Car manufacturers, for example, are not allowed to insist that buyers only get their car serviced by them.”

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