The latest scare for Apple users paints the iPhone maker as a greedy company set on getting every last dollar from you. And while that depiction may have its merits, it’s not supported by the latest evidence.
For months, users have been getting an Error 53 after upgrading their iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to iOS 9. The error message doesn’t really provide much detail, but a quick web search turns up plenty of others with the same problem, and they all seem to be pointing to a home button replacement by an unauthorized repair company as the root cause.
Does that mean Apple is trying to squeeze out those third parties who are just trying to keep iPhone users up and running on the cheap? That’s one conclusion presented in the Guardian article that brought Error 53 into the limelight.
A Guardian reporter who broke his home button while on assignment in Macedonia got it replaced at a local shop, both because he was far too far away from an Apple Store to go through the official channels and because he needed it fixed quickly to get his job done.
When he tried to upgrade to iOS 9 a short time later, his phone never completed the update and effectively locked down. The Guardian says this has caused data loss and forces people to buy new phones from the Cupertino-based company.
But it’s not really the third parties that Apple is trying to squeeze out, it’s scammers and thieves who could get into your phone (and all the payment data, passwords, etc. stored on them) by putting in a fake fingerprint scanner. Apple and their authorized repair companies take steps to authenticate new sensors when doing sanctioned repairs.
This is even clear from the statement Apple provided to the Guardian:
We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.
The lock-out does present a problem to those who don’t live near an Apple Store or an authorized repair company. While they can send their phones out to get repaired, that’s a lengthy process that is incompatible with many people’s daily lives.
But as we’ve seen in the past, Apple is pretty sensitive about turning over customer data to anyone, even government agencies. So this is just another step in keeping that data safe, not separating you from your money.