As with all new iPhone releases, when the iPhone 13 was first released back in September, it too underwent the traditional teardown by third-party repair company, iFixit, and what they discovered, was… not good.
According to their findings, despite the decoupling of the Face ID module and the display, any display replacement will disable Face ID. What that means is that any screen replacement not authorized by Apple will result in a busted Face ID component.
After multiple tests, today, iFixit published an article confirming their initial findings and how it can “change the repair industry everywhere.”
“This is a dark day for fixers, both DIY and professional. One of the most common phone repairs that could once be done with hand tools now requires a microscope. This means you won’t be able to fix your iPhone screen yourself without sacrificing major functionality. It also has huge implications for the professional repair industry, for which Apple is the dominant brand to service. Small shops could be shuttered, forced to choose between spending thousands on new equipment or losing a major source of income.”– iFixit
They go on to explain how even a swap from one iPhone 13 display to a new iPhone 13 display results in an error message that says “Unable to activate Face ID on this iPhone.”
The problem appears to be a small microcontroller that pairs the iPhone 13 to its display. Apple does not have a tool or provide a way for independent shops or owners to pair up a new screen. Effectively, what this does is give Apple the ability to approve or deny each individual repair.
“The iPhone 13 is paired to its screen using this small microcontroller, in a condition repair techs often call “serialization.” Apple has not provided a way for owners or independent shops to pair a new screen. Authorized technicians with access to proprietary software, Apple Services Toolkit 2, can make new screens work by logging the repair to Apple’s cloud servers and syncing the serial numbers of the phone and screen. This gives Apple the ability to approve or deny each individual repair.“– iFixit
iFixit goes on to wearily explain how Apple’s decision to disable Face ID with third-party screen replacements could cause many small repair outlets to shut down and could also shatter the third-party iPhone repair market, completely.
“Tens of thousands of repair shops around the world support their communities by replacing screens for customers at competitive prices. And Apple is, with one fell swoop, seemingly cutting the industry off at the knees.”– iFixit
Other independent repair outlets iFixit spoke to believe that Apple has intentionally done this in an effort to ” thwart a customer’s ability to repair.”
“[This] is an intentional move to thwart a customer’s ability to repair,”– Carroll, of the Fruit Fixed chain
“Honestly, if every screen repair involved that much work, I would hang it up and we wouldn’t be able to help the thousands of people we do each month.”
While some repair shops have found a workaround, it’s not for the faint of heart. The process of removing a soldered chip [microsoldering] from the original screen to the replacement, is not only time-consuming but is also a skill “that requires thousands of dollars of equipment and extensive practice before you are proficient.”
Don’t know anything about microsoldering? That’s ok, me neither. Another option iFixit presents is to join Apple’s Independent Repair Program, something that they claim is “not an option for shops that value their customers’ privacy.”
Finally, the only other option left after that strenuous workaround and joining Apple’s Independent Repair Program would be to… get AppleCare+ and don’t drop your sh*t.
iFixit reached out to Apple for comment but they have not replied.
“Apple hasn’t said anything publicly about this issue. Dusten Mahathy, an experienced repair tech, said that a friend inside Apple’s Independent Repair Program was told by Apple support that the issue would be fixed in an iOS update. The only change we’ve seen is that in 15.0, the Face ID feature silently didn’t work, but in the latest version it displays the explicit error message. We reached out to Apple for comment, but they did not reply.”– iFixit