Tuesday, Nov 09, 2021, 15:36 iOS: Hardware

iFixit – Face ID Stops Working After Display Swap By Independent Repair Shops

Despite the best attempts of both Apple (ceramic shield) and third parties (protective cases) to prevent damage to iPhone displays, it's still quite easy for the glass on the front of the iPhone to crack – in fact, this is quite often the most common iPhone "injury". A quick fall to the ground can quickly result in a bare iPhone's display being scratched, and even with a case on a crack – should the fall be hard enough. In the worst cases, the display is rendered completely unusable and a replacement is necessary. Apple charges a pretty penny for display replacements – which has led many in the past to seek service from independent repair shops that may or may not be certified by Apple. For the vast majority of iPhone users, these repair shops (even the uncertified ones) could quite quickly and cheaply replace a broken iPhone's display without complication. As of the iPhone 13, however, we strongly advise against doing so. As per iFixit, the rumors that Face ID stops working after uncertified display replacements have been confirmed.

Display Repairs Ruin Face ID
Shortly after the release of the iPhone 13, rumors began circulating that display repairs could somehow disable the Face ID feature of the device. These rumors concerned all release models of the iPhone 13. Experts tested the theory out, confirming rumors that Face ID would stop working after swapping or replacing an iPhone 13's display. Even when the display of one iPhone 13 was transferred to another, Face ID still stopped working. This is especially surprising given that the iPhone 13's TrueDepth module is responsible for Face ID's sensors and the Secure Enclave is built into the SoC – in short, there really shouldn't be a problem with replacing displays from a mechanical perspective. The Face ID process is directed by a microcontroller built into the display panel that pairs the display with Face ID. Several experts, including a team from iCorrect simply assumed that the problem was the result of a bug in iOS 15 and also considered the chance that Apple may have "accidentally left" the bug in the system in order to win a sneaky upper-hand in the current right to repair battle facing many tech companies.

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Source: iFixit


Broad-reaching Consequences For Independent Repair Shops
iFixit has now confirmed the existence of the phenomenon in question and come to an entirely different conclusion. The "bug" is actually not a "bug" at all – it's a "repair trap" which could change the independent repair industry for forever. To perform a display swap on an iPhone 13, repair techs need to use a special microscope, meaning that repair shops will need to be certified by Apple in order to even have the ability to buy the highly expensive equipment used to perform what would normally be an otherwise simple repair. The coupling of a new display with an iPhone 13 occurs over Apple's cloud server – an option which independent workshops don't have. Instead, independent repair techs and professional repairmen need to buy special tools from Apple, which they can only do if "approved" by Apple, and then remove the display old or broken display, desodder a chip from it, only to resodder the chip back onto a new display. All of this leads to higher costs for repair shops, meaning higher costs and fewer options for customers.

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