iFixit confirms iPhone 13 display replacement makes Face ID unusable

In short: Most people buying an iPhone 13 are probably unaware of the fact that Apple has made repairs difficult through independent repair shops. When it comes to the screen, choosing a cheaper repair now comes at the expense of Face ID functionality, and Apple has yet to explain the reason for this change.

Back in September, we learned that replacing your iPhone 13 the display will make Face ID unusable unless you choose to send it back to Apple for repair, which can get quite expensive.

iFixit took gaze on Apple’s newest iPhone and confirmed that if you decide to replace your iPhone 13 screen with a third-party repair shop, Face ID will indeed stop working. The company calls the change “a dark day for repairmen, both home and professional.”

According to the analysis, Apple did it in such a way that you would need a microscope and a few delicate instruments to perform one of the most common phone repair procedures, which traditionally required only hand tools. If you have a small repair shop, you may have to buy new equipment to stay in business. And if you’re just someone who loves to fix their devices when they break, this change means you’ll have to contact Apple if you still want to be able to unlock your iPhone with Face ID.

The problem stems from the fact that every iPhone 13 connects to its own screen with a small microcontroller that effectively links the part to the device. Maintenance technicians call this practice “serialization,” but it’s not the only practice that makes them angry. The worrying aspect is that in order to perform screen repairs on a new iPhone, authorized technicians will need to access the Apple Services Toolkit 2, as well as the proprietary software needed to sync the serial numbers of the spare part and the damaged iPhone.

As noted by iFixit, this gives Apple “the ability to approve or deny every single repair.” In theory, repair shops can join the company’s independent repair program, but that effectively means giving up the privacy of their customers. Another option is to use a recently discovered workaround, but this is a rather complicated process that involves replanting a tiny microcontroller from an old, damaged screen to a new one.

At the time of writing, Apple has not publicly commented on the reasons for the change. Those advocating for the right to repair devices you own won last month thanks to the US Copyright Office, but we’re still a long way from real reform.

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