If You Fix Your Own iPhone, It Will Never Work Again Thanks to Apple


Despite the fact that I think most mobile devices are practically indestructible when used normally–instead of wrecked in some ridiculous fit of rage–things still do break, especially over time. iPhones in particular, the favorite of college students (it would appear), are often being broken because, well…college, most likely.

And instead of having mommy and daddy hash out another $800 for an iPhone, or for themselves being unable to hash out $800, they’ll often pay some enterprising fellow student a small fee to do the repairs (and of course all of this could happen at work, no college or college students required, I’m just being crass). The “repair guy” will order some parts off of eBay, or will just make a minor adjustment that makes everything work hunky-dory on the iPhone once again. It was a great solution, and fair business for those that were willing to do the fine work required. And there was always that small comfort that at least to some degree, when you lay down shy of $1000 on an iPhone, you could still get in on it and do some repairs if need be. After all, why call something a “computer in your pocket” if you can’t actually repair the thing yourself? That has been one of the historical beauties of computers.

However, those days are over.

It has been reported that any third-party repairs done on an iPhone will now effectively brick the device, causing an “Error 53”, making it unusable. What do you do in the case of this? According to Apple (who finally admitted that they pushed a software update to the iPhone 6 line which causes this behavior), you’re going to need to contact Apple Support. And, of course, contacting Apple Support ends up in you admitting that you broke warranty by cracking open your iPhone for an independent, non-Genius Bar, repair of something you laid out good money for and should be able to do what you want with without an interruption in functionality in the first place.

Not surprisingly, Apple is claiming that not allowing independent repair of iPhones is for your own good. What if your iPhone was stolen and someone tried to crack into your device to get your oh so precious nudie pictures (I’m not judging, I have nudie pictures on my phone, too)? What if someone tries to crack the (supposedly, but we know for a fact not actually) impenetrable TouchID system by making a change on the fingerprint reader (and notice that Apple is admitting here that fingerprint readers are hackable, as I’ve said on this blog over and over again)? You need to be protected from such horrors!

Personally, I think that’s all horseshit.

Forcing these kinds of security “features” on the populus isn’t unethical, but as a consumer I would consider it bad business practice. Make the “Don’t Allow Third-Party Repairs” a checkbox either in the software itself, or to be the most secure, make it an option at checkout when I buy my iPhone. Giving people the option/options is what good business is all about. Taking away choices from them is tyrannical business. And I don’t support tyrannical businesses as much as I can help it. The fact that:

  1. Apple didn’t make this is an optional “feature”,
  2. Didn’t tell anyone about it until the mainstream media got wind of it…

…really highlights the reality of what is going on here with this no-third-party tampering.

This is Mother Apple wanting absolute control of its platforms. Not a new dream or desire for Apple, as the late Steve Jobs notoriously didn’t want people to open up their Macintosh computers, either. This is about not allowing you to do things with your device, that YOU paid for, that doesn’t include Apple making money in the process. And this is probably about Apple getting you hooked into its iPhone-leasing program, too.

SIDE NOTE: If I wanted to wax conspiratorial, I could say that this is so that you can’t remove certain…shall we say…”human rights encroaching” hardware in the device, or keep from future forms of “jailbreaking” the device. It’s a little known fact that the Israel Defense Forces use iPads exclusively…and when they purchase them they immediately open them up and make hardware changes. What exactly does the IDF do to their iPads? I have no clue, but it must be important. And I wonder if they’re going to get an “Error 53” when they do it? 

And before you say that owner repair of devices is dying, actually quite the opposite in most sectors of the computing industry. Laptops are now often coming with bottom panels that are fully removable to able to repair and replace parts. Desktop PC cases are becoming far more spacious to allow for user control. Serious devices that people actually get shit done on (which is what you’re supposed to be able to do with mobile devices now, if Silicon Valley’s rhetoric is to be believed) are becoming more user-configurable and repairable, not the other way around.

Is Apple doing anything unethical here? No. Not unless they are putting rights-infringing software or hardware baked into their devices that this whole thing keeps you from removing. But I don’t have much in the way of evidence for that, so it’s (kinda) moot. So there’s nothing wrong with Apple taking total control of their platforms in this way.

But then there’s nothing wrong with me not buying their bullshit products because of my new inability to repair them myself. I’ll stick with Android and PCs for now, thank you. Not to say that I wouldn’t put it past Alphabet/Google to want to do this sort of thing with Android, but I think other than on their own Nexus devices, this would be near impossible since unlike Apple, the OS upgrade scheme for Android is incredibly fragmented and inconsistent, making it difficult (this time in a good way, in my opinion, see this post for the “bad way”) to implement a new security “feature” (it’s important that I put that word in quotes) like this in any way that would affect the millions of Android users.

But let’s be real clear on this, the inability to tinker and repair devices that your lay down hard-earned money for is not a “feature”…it’s a problem.

Carpe lucem!