Replacing the iPhone 13 screen with a third-party repair shop would disable Face ID functionality entirely, new research from iFixit shows. This is supposed to be a deliberate move by Apple to discourage iPhone users from doing third party repairs. By introducing this screen swap barrier, Apple could shake the iPhone repair industry completely, iFixit says, calling it a “dark day for repairs, both for DIY enthusiasts and professionals”. Repairing third-party iPhones has become difficult due to a small microcontroller chip that connects the screen to the phone. This chip is hidden at the bottom of the screen.
iFixit detailed how the new iPhone 13 completely disables its flagship Face ID functionality when you replace the screen. It has a tiny microcontroller that needs to be paired with the newly replaced chip, and apparently this can only be done using secret software that only authorized Apple repair people have access to. This means that regular third-party repairers cannot fix iPhone screen without sacrificing important features. iFixit points out that this could have a huge impact on the professional repair industry, for which Apple is the dominant service brand. Small businesses could shut down and be forced to choose between spending thousands on new equipment or losing an important source of income.
Repair people who want to survive must either join Apple’s authorized repair network or physically move the soldered chip from the original screen to the replacement. iFixit says this will require new equipment like a microscope or high resolution webcam, hot air rework station, fine-tipped soldering iron, and the necessary BGA stencils, flux, and other accessories. Many repairers, reports iFixit, are also looking for a different area of work.
iFixit reports that the Face ID error occurs even after replacing the display on an iPhone 13 Pro Max with another original iPhone 13 Pro Max display. This was tested while the phone was running on iOS 15.1. Apple’s monopoly behavior isn’t new, iFixit says, it has been blocking repairs for years. But by blocking the most common repairs to their devices, Apple has put the source of income for many repair workers at risk. “If we want repair shops to exist in our communities, we have no choice but to enact repair law laws to protect them from this predatory, monopoly behavior,” says iFixit.