After customer outrage and a lawsuit, Apple has relented and will provide a fix for Error 53-affected iPhone 6 devices.
The error disabled devices on which the home button, of which the Touch ID fingerprint reader was part, had been replaced by a non-Apple repairer.
When users attempted to install an updated version of iOS, the iPhone operating system, they received the Error 53 message and their iPhone died – any data in it gone forever as the device has effectively been bricked (as in “as technologically useful as a … “ ) by Apple.
Apple’s reported response to disgruntled customers was that the bricked phones couldn’t be fixed under warranty and were a “problem the consumer created” in using third-party repair services, according to PC Magazine.
A lawsuit was filed Feb. 11 in California by the Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala law firm on behalf affected consumers. The suit sought to stop Apple from disabling the phones, for the company to provide a software update that will bring the bricks back to life, and for it to pay for repairs under warranty.
As tech writer Reuban Esparza, wrote: “There was no part they would replace, no software fix, and no way to access the phone’s memory. The fix was a new iPhone. All along, Apple’s view is that it does not want third parties carrying out repairs to its products, and this looks like an obvious extension of that.”
One issue with the Error 53 problem was the cost of getting an iPhone repaired by an official service versus a third-party provider, most often much more expensive at the former than at the latter. Moreover, Apple-approved repair services aren’t to be found on every corner. Drop your iPhone in a location that’s off the beaten path and you have no option – short of doing without.
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And that’s not really an option these days, especially given mobile’s role as a multi-purpose lifeline. Antonio Olmos, a freelance photographer for The Guardian newspaper, was shooting in the Balkans when he dropped his iPhone 6. He needed it for work, and no Apple dealers were to be found in Macedonia. A third-party service did the job and he didn’t think twice about it. Until he accepted a notice to update his software – and his phone died, a victim of Error 53.
After originally calling Error 53 a security feature to protect customers, Apple now says it was a “factory test,” according to The Guardian.
“This was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers,” Apple said in a statement to the technology Website TechCrunch. Apple apologized for the customers’ inconvenience and asked that customers “who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement.”
Apple has issued another update, iOS 9.2.1, designed to resolve the Error 53 issue.
It’s not been an auspicious start to 2016 for Apple on the legal front. In addition to the class action suit, the Cupertino, Calif.-firm (along with AT&T) also has been sued for patent infringement by Immersion, a leader in developing applications for haptic, or touch feedback technology.
Immersion, which lays claim to over 2,100 issued or pending patents involving haptic technology, says three of its patents are infringed on in the latest iPhone models and Apple watches. Immersion is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban imports of the phone and watch models involved and also is looking for financial damages.
In addition, Apple is embroiled in a standoff with the FBI over its refusal to unlock the iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the shooters responsible for the December killings of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.