Ifixit reports that the iPhone 13 has a feature that completely disables its Face ID functionality when you replace its screen through a third party. This could mean the end of “one of the most common phone repairs”, and the end of independent repair shops in the long run.
“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,” wrote Kevin Purdy from Ifixit.
With this new feature on the iPhone 13, Face ID will stop working when you place the iPhone 13’s display through a third-party repair. This is because the phone is paired to its screen using a small microcontroller, in what repair technicians would call “serialisation”. Apple has not provided a way for owners or third party shops to pair a new screen.
Authorised technicians are the only ones with access to Apple Services Toolkit 2, a proprietary software. It 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 means that only Apple has the ability to approve or deny each individual repair.
“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,” continued Purdy.
However, some repair shops have found a workaround—but it requires physically moving a soldered chip from the original screen onto a replacement, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. Apple hasn’t publicly said anything about its new feature—there’s a possibility that the issue would be fixed in an iOS update, according to someone inside Apple’s Independent Repair Program.
But having people turn to just Apple or Apple Authorised shops to fix their devices will only benefit the company. Third party repair shops around the world support their communities by replacing screens for customers at competitive prices. Apple’s move is seemingly going to negatively affect the future of these independent shops.