New iFixit investigation reveals that replacing the iPhone 13 screen at a third-party workshop will disable Face ID entirely. This is said to be a deliberate move by Apple in an effort to prevent iPhone users from seeking repairs from third parties. By introducing this barrier to screen replacement, iFixit claims that Apple could completely disrupt the iPhone repair industry, calling it “a dark day for repairmen, both home and professional.” IPhone repair by third parties is difficult due to the small microcontroller that connects the screen to the phone. This chip is hidden at the bottom of the screen.
iFixit has detailed how the new iPhone 13 completely disables its flagship Face ID feature when replacing the screen. It has a small microcontroller that needs to be paired with a newly replaced chip, and this can apparently only be done with secret software that only Apple authorized repairers have access to. This means that in-house third-party repairers will not be able to fix the iPhone screen without compromising basic functionality. iFixit notes that this could have huge implications for the professional repair industry, for which Apple is the dominant brand in the service industry. Small shops can be shuttered and have to choose between spending thousands on new equipment or losing their main source of income.
For repairers looking to survive, they will need to either join an Apple Authorized Repair Network or physically move the soldered chip from the original screen to a replacement. iFixit says this will require new equipment such as a microscope or high-definition webcam, hot air soldering station, fine tip soldering iron, as well as the necessary BGA stencils, flux and other consumables. Many repairmen, according to iFixit, are also looking for another line of work.
iFixit reports that the Face ID error keeps popping up even after replacing the display on the iPhone 13 Pro Max with a different original iPhone 13 Pro Max display. This was tested when the phone was running iOS 15.1. IFixit says Apple’s monopoly behavior is nothing new: repairs have been blocked for years. But by blocking the most common repairs to its devices, Apple has jeopardized the source of income for many repairers. “If we want to have repair shops in our local communities, we have no choice but to pass a right to repair law to protect them from this predatory, monopolistic behavior,” says iFixit.