Apple will no longer break Face ID on repaired iPhone 13s.

Enlarge / The message “Failed to activate Face ID” appears after changing the display.

Apple says it will withdraw its plan to crack Fees ID on independently repaired iPhones. The company’s often-disputed relationship with the repair community was re-examined when the “unauthorized” iPhone 13 screen replacement began, resulting in a breakdown of the Face ID system. A new report from The Verge states that Apple will release a “software update” that does not require you to move the microcontroller so that Fees ID will continue to work after the screen changes.

Screen replacement is the most common smartphone repair. Apple has added a new microcontroller to the iPhone 13’s display that connects each screen to other components of the phone. As reported by iFixit, if a third-party repair shop replaces the iPhone 13 display, Apple will disable the phone’s Face ID system.

The repair community has begun calling this partial reliance “serialization.” Basically, each saved component notifies the OS of a serial number, and the software tracks what serial numbers the device should have. If you change a part, one of the serial numbers will change, and the OS will know about it. In the event of a third party iPhone 13 screen change, the phone will say, “Unable to enable Face ID on this iPhone.”

Authorized repair shops have access to proprietary Apple software that adds a new display microcontroller to the rest of the phone to reactivate Face ID. It is possible to replace display microcontrollers for unauthorized shops, but this is a dramatic increase in work to repair the most common phone and requires the delicate work of microscopes and desoldering. The Face ID on the iPhone 13 is a completely different component from the display, so there is no clear justification for locking the Face ID after a display swap. The end result, however, was an “unprecedented lockdown” that, according to iFixit, “gives Apple the ability to approve or deny each individual repair.”

Following the wave of bad press, this “crisis is over” for the repair community. It would be nice if it could never be a problem in the first place.

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