The iPhone 13 screen is a repair nightmare that could destroy repair shops forever


State of Repair is motherboards exploring the home improvement culture, device repair, property, and the forces struggling to lock down access to the things you own.

A long-predicted and feared improvement in the repairability of the iPhone has finally occurred, leading to a breathtaking new urgency for legislation that makes repair more accessible: the iPhone 13‘s screen cannot be replaced without special software controlled by Apple will. This is a devastating blow to independent repairers who make most of their money replacing screens, and especially who make most of their money doing it iPhone Screen replaced.

Corresponding i attach it, Replacing the screen on an iPhone 13 disables the Face ID feature. That’s because the screen itself is coupled to a small microcontroller that is attached to the display. Replacing a broken screen with a new one will disable this pairing, thereby destroying a core part of the phone’s functionality. An Apple Authorized Repair Technician can pair a new screen to an iPhone in just a few clicks using Apple proprietary technology. Everyone else will have a much harder time.

“This is a clear case for a manufacturer using its power to stave off competition and monopolize an industry,” said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, in an email about Motherboard Choice Than Highest Price for Repairs to pay or to replace your device. “

This is similar to a design choice Apple made with previous versions of the iPhone that paired TouchID with the actual device. Apple used a so-called “Horizon Machine” to pair new TouchID home buttons with defective devices, but independent repair companies could not do this. The difference is that TouchID very rarely broke (or when the repair person made a mistake and cut a certain wire while doing another repair), while phone screens kept cracking.

This is due to a microcontroller the size of a Tic-Tac that is attached to the screen itself. The chip is paired with the phone and without it, the phone deactivates Face ID. Repair shops that have booted up phones with their screens replaced see a “Unable to activate Face ID on this iPhone” error. Apple stores or independent repair shops that use the nightmarish certification Authorized repair process can quickly couple a new screen to a phone using special software and send the customer on their way.

It’s not that the chip is important to the Face ID process. iFixit’s teardown of the iPhone 13 revealed that the Face ID scanner is quite separate from the ad. This appears to be a deliberate design decision by Apple to discourage people from repairing the iPhone themselves or taking it to repair stores, which often charge much less for basic services.

It still is possible to change a screen on an iPhone 13. The difference is that this microcontroller now needs to be removed from the broken screen and soldered to the new screen (after the existing microcontroller has been turned on). the Screen is removed). This requires micro soldering, which requires the use of a microscope and a highly skilled technician. Micro soldering is most commonly used for data recovery and a wide variety of highly specialized repairs. It’s a specialized skill and repair that requires micro-soldering can take hours. Apple itself doesn’t even do that type of work. Most iPhone professional repair experts can currently change a screen in 10-15 minutes.

“This is earth-shattering for the repair industry: the screen of the iPhone 13 is connected to the phone”, Vienna said on twitter. “Apple technicians have a secret software tool to install new screens. This will destroy local repair shops. “

Other workshop owners agree. “[This] is a deliberate move to thwart a customer’s repair ability, ”said Justin Drake Carroll, CEO of the Fruit Fixed repair chain in Virginia said iFixit. “Honestly, if any screen repair was that much work, I’d hang it and we couldn’t help the thousands of people we do every month.”

According to Carroll, it’s about exchanging screens 35 percent of his business. “A few years ago it was 60 percent. We worked really hard to bring that number down so a source of income wasn’t that big a part of our job. Obviously, it’s still an incredibly important part of our business model.

Apple’s goal is to discourage people from having their devices repaired by someone who is not Apple. It once released an iOS update warning users that it would replace this camera on your iPhone 12 that you have not used an original Apple part. Leaked Videos revealed how Apple trains its repair partners to discourage customers from getting cheaper repairs outside of its network.

This design change makes repair rights laws that would prevent man-made anti-repair software lockdowns and require companies to make software and tools that their own technicians use available to the public more urgent than ever. Wiens told Motherboard a few years ago, just before the battle for the right to repair began, that the movement was racing against time to pass legislation before Apple implemented such a design decision against repairs. With so many repair shops relying on screen replacement as their primary source of income, it was thought at the time that such a change would potentially put many of them out of business and further normalize manufacturer-driven repair monopolies.

The right to repair is more popular than ever. The FTC did accepted a platform with the right to repair, said the Commerce Department, we need fewer repair restrictions, and President Biden signed a comprehensive supreme command aims to make it easier for people to fix their own things. Companies like Apple and John Deere don’t want people to fix their own things, they want to have repair monopolies that make it expensive and difficult for people to fix their equipment when it breaks. The problem with the iPhone 13 is just Apple’s latest attack in its long war with the right to repair.

“Society needs more competition, not less,” said Wiens. “It is clear that Apple will continue to abuse its monopoly power until our legislature takes action and passes rights repair laws.”

Apple did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

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