While “right to repair” is being contested in numerous countries all over the world, very few big tech firms are bowing to public pressure. Now it appears that Apple may be making this battle more difficult than it already is by making it harder to perform third-party or DIY repairs. As reported by iFixit, the Cupertino firm has designed the display of the iPhone 13 in such a way that unless you know your way around microsoldering tools, you’ll end up breaking Face ID when performing repairs.
According to iFixit, the iPhone 13 display packs a microcontroller that is the size of a Tic Tac and is used to pair the iPhone 13 to the display and enable Face ID. This is soldered underneath the display which means that unless you physically remove this chip and solder it on to the replacement display, Face ID won’t work. This essentially ensures that a task that could previously be accomplished with hand tools in a few minutes is no longer possible without significant technical expertise and dedicated tooling.
iFixit notes that this problem does not apply to Apple-authorized technicians as they have access to proprietary software that can pair any replacement screen to the iPhone 13 by communicating with Apple servers. As such, this move purely impacts DIY technicians and the third-party repair business. These technicians would now be expected to join Apple’s Independent Repair Provider (IRP) program if they want to replace a screen, but that has some pretty invasive terms.
Given that this change is unique to the iPhone 13 and no other OEM follows it yet, this seems like a strategic decision to maximise profit and increase control over repairs rather than an unfortunate oversight. Now that most third-party repair shops don’t have the tools or the expertise to perform a rather complex piece of engineering, most people who value Face ID will be forced to visit Apple’s official technicians where the cost of repair may be higher than the third-party competition.