Error 53: Apple’s Monopoly on Repair or a Security Feature?

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Error 53 can turn Your iPhone into a Brick without Warning, and Almost No One Knows Why

 photo: Forbes – cc

edit: As of 2/18/2016 Apple has remedied Error 53 and “bricked” devices should be functional after update iOS 9.2.1 

Error 53 isn’t New York’s hottest new nightclub, nor is it an obscure German cold-wave band from the 80s. The mysterious iPhone error message is something much darker… and much less understood. Not long after the iPhone 6 and 6 plus’s release, people started experiencing a cryptic error popping up that seemed to occur after their phone had been worked on, and often when it hadn’t. The error came up when users tried to update to a newer iOS only to find that halfway through the update they were sent into an endless Recovery Mode loop that displayed the following:

error 53 is no fun photo: ikream – cc

It wasn’t long before outrage followed. With almost no information online, many took their devices to Apple only to be told their data was not recoverable and that they now owned a very expensive-looking paper weight. When pressed for more information about the error, few if any Apple employees could offer an explanation. 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.

Though still largely a mystery to most, we now know that error 53 is the result of a hardware failure somewhere within the home button assembly. While the iPhone 5S allowed you to replace your home button at the cost of only the finger scanner’s functionality, the iPhone 6 and 6 plus aren’t as forgiving. If the iPhone detects an error anywhere along the signal path, from the scanner itself to the opposite end of the internal home button cable, it halts all functionality and won’t even respond to a hard reset. Where many take issue, however, is that an iPhone 6 with a faulty finger scanner will otherwise function just fine right up until the iOS is updated. Apple makes no mention of this prior to you updating.

There are a couple different viewpoints regarding error 53, neither of which are too favorable to Apple. The first, is that Apple designed the iPhone 6 and 6 plus (and presumably the iPhone 6S) to make life particularly harder for independent repair shops (warning: language) as well as those hoping to repair their devices themselves. As far as making repairs significantly harder, they’re absolutely right. A chip in the actual hardware ensures that it’s literally the only home button in the world that will work with its paired iPhone. While Apple reportedly has the means to reprogram a new home button to a pre-existing iPhone, this appears to be pretty rare in practice.

Others more sympathetic to Apple see Error 53 as nothing more than a new security feature that may or may not have gone a little overboard. Data security, many tech enthusiasts insist, is a bigger concern than ever before and is the sole reason behind the finicky nature of the home button assembly. Add on to that Apple’s history of remaining unusually “hush hush” on almost all of their device hardware errors and it appears their secrecy in this instance is really nothing new. Frustrating? Yes. Malicious? Not necessarily.

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While I’ve long been opposed to overpriced proprietary replacement parts (looking at you, Keurig, and every printer manufacturer ever), I can’t say that the security feature argument is without merit – and that’s coming from an Android user. Where I take a bit of an issue, however, is in Apple not disclosing the potential “bricking” of an iPhone prior to customers updating their operating system. Some sort of notification at least hinting at something very wrong happening after an update could have saved a lot of irreplaceable pictures and documents. While I’m all for security on personal devices, I’m not sure losing my valuable data is quite trumped by the possibility of thieves stealing naked pictures of my nonexistent girlfriend.

Is there a fix for Error 53?

While the ethics on Apple’s error 53 are still contestable, we can at least leave you with something a bit more useful in the meantime. If you encounter error 53, you should know there’s a very good chance your phone is toast – and I don’t mean the good kind. There is, however, a slight chance that the signal error can be remedied and your error message will disappear. Check it!

error 53 could be caused by a faulty home button assembly.

1. First things first, your iPhone 6 will not be fixable without the original home button assembly it came with. Aside from the rare instance Apple reprograms a home button, there are no exceptions. If any part of the assembly pictured above is damaged, you’re most likely completely out of luck. I’m sorry, you did everything you could…

2. Next, your only real hope is that the problem lies somewhere in the internal extension cable connecting the part above to the iPhone’s logic (cable shown below).the iPhone 6 extension cable could also cause error 53This cable runs internally along the length of your iPhone. You’re going to have to replace this and hope that your phone doesn’t register anything out of the ordinary when it powers back on. A very small tear could mean the difference between an iPhone and a beer coaster.

While it is possible to replace only the cable above, I’m showing it mainly for demonstration purposes. You’re far better off replacing the entire thermal plate it’s adhered to (shown below). There’s a lot of ripping potential otherwise. It’s also much easier this way.

iPhone 6 thermal plate with extension cable

3. Once this cable is swapped, the issue will hopefully be resolved. If not, the problem is likely in the home button scanner, and we won’t judge you for crying.

There you have it. You can find the parts and tools to solve the error in a few different stores, not the least of which is our very own iCracked Store. Happy Repairing and good luck. Oh, and backup those photos!

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Reuben is a content contributor for iCracked. He claims to have a degree in English but no one's ever seen it. When not eating sushi he can be found ambling around San Francisco, most likely lost. Join him as he takes you places both magical and strange.

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6 Comments on "Error 53: Apple’s Monopoly on Repair or a Security Feature?"


February 14, 2016

Error 53: A group action will be taken against Apple see here http://bit.ly/1VeeuHJ

Dr. Anonymous
February 6, 2016

If a single, fragile part can brick an $800-$1500 dollar “handheld, multi-computer,” then I believe the “merchantability fitness for a particular purpose” (etc) has been violated, and the FTC needs to get involved.

I, and many other consumers, are fed up with this racket….and it *is* a racket!

B-
December 22, 2015

This to me should be the basis of a class action against Apple