Woman using smartphone

On Friday 5th February, thousands of iPhone 6 users have had their devices, bricked (the name for a piece of technology which can only be used as a paperweight) after encountering the error 53 message.

The problem stems from the phones TouchID sensor, which is part of the home button and is used to read the users fingerprint to unlock the device, or purchase items through the Apple Pay service.

When having the phone repaired by a non-Apple authorised repairer and they replace the home button, an update of the operating system detects a non-standard component and shuts down the device.

iPhone owners have only become aware of the issue as they installed a routine update to iOS. It is unclear exactly how many have been affected, but the newer models of iPads which also feature the TouchID have been affected.

In a statement released by an Apple spokesperson, they said: “We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPad correctly matches your device’s other components.”

If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.

However, some users have also encountered Error 53 messages even though their device has not been altered or repaired in any way.

If you have had your phone repaired by a 3rd party, even if they did not replace the TouchID sensor, as third-party hardware has been installed on their devices, Apple deems its terms and conditions to have been broken and forced many owners to contribute towards the cost of a new phone.

One of our customers has reported “I had my iPhone 6 screen replaced by a 3rd party as Apple couldn’t do it in time for me, when it started to go wrong I decided to take it to Apple and get it done by them, however I was turned away at the Apple store as they told me because it had already been replaced they were unable to carry out any further work“. Readers of the Boing Boing Technology Blog said Apple should have advertised the fact rather than keeping it hidden.

“If they included a warning in the package ‘tamper resistance’ feature that works by non-Apple-authorised repair services may be mistaken for tampering attempts, and lead to the phone being disabled’, then it would be purely a feature … By concealing the feature prior to sales, and only even revealing it after being repeatedly pressured over it, Apple turned what could have been a feature into a landmine.”

In short – If you do have a problem with your iPhone 6 and above, get it repaired directly with the Apple store to avoid these issues.