They are really trying to take command over the whole "right to repair" thing.
The newest iPhone disables Face ID after a screen swap, unless you take it to Apple—or learn to microsolder. It’s a turning point for fixers everywhere.
Apple has been chipping away at iPhone repair work outside their control for years now. With new changes to the iPhone 13, they may be aiming to shatter the market completely.
The new iPhone 13 completely disables its flagship Face ID functionality when you replace its screen. We have confirmed this repeatedly in our lab, testing with many different phones on iOS 15 and 15.1, and our results have been replicated by numerous repair professionals.
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.
For shops that want to survive, their only options will be to join Apple’s onerous IRP network—not an option for shops that value their customers’ privacy—or work past the iPhone’s locks with microsoldering tools and training. This unprecedented lockdown is unique to Apple. It’s totally new in the iPhone 13, and hard to understand as a security measure, given that the Face ID illuminator is entirely separate from the screen. It is likely the strongest case yet for right to repair laws. And it’s all because of a chip about the size of a Tic-Tac, tucked into the bottom of a screen.
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.