iPhone 13 was recently found to completely disable its Face ID functionality if a user goes for its third-party screen replacement. That particular move by Apple was believed to be deliberate and one of its latest attempts to limit third-party repairing. The Cupertino company now seems to be addressing those concerns over rigid repairability restrictions by bringing a software update for the iPhone 13. It will enable Face ID to continue to operate in case the screen is replaced with a third-party replacement.
Apple told The Verge that it will release an update that will allow users to continue using Face ID on their iPhone 13 handsets after a third-party screen replacement. The exact timeline of the update is yet to be revealed.
DIY tutorial website iFixit earlier this month found that Apple was restricting iPhone 13 users from replacing its screen at a local shop by disabling Face ID. The site said that the issue was not limited to a particular iOS version and existed even on the latest iOS 15.1.
The lockdown is unique to the iPhone 13 and is difficult to understand as the Face ID module is entirely separate from the screen. Interestingly, Apple uses the microcontroller available on the display to help determine third-party replacements, and then disable Face ID. This would force an iPhone 13 user to visit an Apple authorised repair centre if they didn't want to lose the unrelated functionality. Authorised service centres have the software tool that allows the new microcontroller to be associated.
The team at iFixit found a workaround where the repairability is possible by moving the original microcontroller from the original screen onto its replacement. But that process requires a sophisticated repairing setup where microsoldering is available. It isn't something that you will commonly get at most of your nearby repair shops.
iFixit calls Apple's back off a “tactical achievement” for the repair market as it will allow local shops to fix the displays of the iPhone 13 — without breaking Face ID and directing consumers to visit an Apple authorised service centre.
“Apple — and the many companies it inspires — will advance again with more parts lockdowns, more feature reductions, more reasons why only their profitable repair centres can do this work. Repair shops are still looking at a future that involves more microsoldering, more time, and possibly tighter profit margins, as they compete against a company that can fix its own firmware blocks from the cloud,” the site said.
This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss iPhone 13, new iPad and iPad mini, and Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean to the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts. Affiliate links may be automatically generated - see our ethics statement for details.