Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and that rock doesn’t subscribe to any tech news)—you’ve probably heard about Error 53. The error has a nasty habit of killing iPhones that have undergone third-party or DIY repairs to their home buttons and/or flex cables. Initially, Apple defended the error as a “security measure”—and implied that “unauthorized” repairs and shoddy parts were the real problem.
Obviously, that explanation didn’t sit well with us—because it’s wrong.
The situation didn’t sit well with a lot of our community either. No one should get to remotely destroy your property, just because you got it repaired somewhere the manufacturer doesn’t approve of.
There was a lot of public backlash—apparently enough for Apple to do something about it.
This morning, Apple apologized and admitted that Error 53 was indeed a mistake as opposed to a deliberate security feature: “this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers,” Apple said to TechCrunch. They also released a patch to iOS 9.2.1 that purports to fix Error 53—”unbricking” phones disabled by the problem and preventing it from happening in future phones repaired outside of Apple’s network.
Uncork the champagne! But wait, let’s verify that the fix actually works before we celebrate.
Apple’s repair procedure for Error 53 is refreshingly straightforward. Following Apple’s guidelines, we grabbed our bricked iPhone 6S—still packing its non-paired Touch ID sensor borrowed from another 6S.
We force restarted it, and connected to iTunes on a MacBook Pro. As expected, we were prompted to restore the iPhone to factory settings.
We’d tried this in the past, but the restore had failed and left the iPhone in a recovery mode spiral of death. This time though, the process went off more smoothly. iTunes quickly had the iPhone sorted out and restored to factory settings on iOS 9.2.1. From there, we had the option to restore our data from a previous backup.
Fingerprint recognition remained disabled of course, which is exactly what we expect on a phone with non-original Touch ID hardware—but, in all other ways, our little 6S was back to its old self.
So, there you go: Error 53 unbricked! Of course, if you don’t have your data backed up, you’ll have an empty phone—but at least you’ll have a working one.
We’re happy that Apple reversed its position on this one and rolled out a fix. It’s a win for consumers, a clear concession that independent repair is an important part of the ecosystem, and a victory for your right to repair your stuff.