Undertaking any repair on a modern phone is exceedingly difficult. But, Apple went out of its way with the iPhone as an iFixit teardown showed that only Apple-authorized dealers can replace the iPhone 13‘s display and maintain support for Face ID.
However, it seems that Apple is bending to the pressure that the right to repair community has put on it. According to The Register, an Apple spokesperson indicated that a future software update will allow any repair shop to replace an iPhone display without breaking Face ID (via ExtremeTech).
The original behavior is attributed to a display chip that only Apple and its authorized partners can transfer to a new display via a special software tool. It’s perhaps a bit surprising that “fixing” this is something that can be achieved with a software update, but it will be welcome news to iPhone owners that don’t have an Apple Store or authorized repair store nearby.
To be clear, replacing the display yourself is still likely out of the realm of possibility for the vast majority of users as there are adhesives, special screws, and of course, incredibly delicate internals of the iPhone to worry about. However, it will open up the ability for additional repair shops to replace iPhone displays.
While iFixit acknowledged that this is “a good day” and that it’s a “tactical achievement for the repair market,” it remains concerned about the general trend with Apple and others toward “parts lock-downs, more feature reductions, more reasons why only their profitable repair centers can do this work.”
The need to protect the security of our devices is more pressing than ever. However, iFixit rightly points out that doesn’t have to mean limiting repairability and they called out Google’s Pixel 6 fingerprint scanner re-calibration as a positive example of security and ease of repair.
The Apple spokesperson didn’t specify which update would remove the restriction. However, it may be as early as the iOS 15.2 update that is currently in its second beta release, so for now a broken iPhone display still means a trip to an Apple Store or other authorized Apple repair shop.