October 22, 2016

What to Do If a Touch ID Error “Bricks” Your iPhone

iphone lego bricks

A new error message that’s rendering iPhones useless and unusable has caused a stir on the Internet and beyond. Thanks to Error 53, thousands of iPhone users from all over the world have been left with a bricked device. 

What is Error 53? 

Error 53 occurs when a user — who has had his/her Home button/Touch ID fingerprint sensor replaced by a third party — updates their iPhone to iOS 9 or beyond.

There are, however, some iPhone users who claim that they have not tampered with the button but still are getting the error. Worse still, there are users who claim that they got error message 53 after replacing the screen (and not the Touch ID), which is a very common repair carried out by third parties.

Indeed, Error 53 is Touch ID related.

“If your iOS device has Touch ID, iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor matches your device’s other components during an update or restore,” Apple says on its error info page. “This check keeps your device and the iOS features related to Touch ID secure.”

This simply means that if the home button, which includes the Touch ID sensor, is not the one originally shipped with your iPhone, then you run the risk of getting the dreaded “Error 53” on your phone.

Many Apple users come across the Error 53 while trying to update their Apple devices to iOS9 or beyond. The worst part of it all is that once the error occurs, there’s no going back. The error completely bricks the phone, making it unusable.

To this point it’s clear that iPads with Touch ID, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are affected, but iPhone 5 and 5s aren’t. We will have to wait for Apple’s official word on whether iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are affected or not.

What Causes Error 53? 

Apple says that Error 53 is a security measure. The Touch ID is designed to keep your iPhone secure, allowing you to use Apple Pay, so when Apple detects an unauthorized Touch ID sensor it deems the iPhone unsafe and  subsequently kills it.

In a statement to The Guardian, an Apple spokeswoman said, “We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the Touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorized Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the Touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to Touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious Touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, Touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”

The Touch ID sensor is without a doubt an important security feature. Apple uses Secure Enclave to keep your fingerprint data safe. That information is stored within the chip on your iPhone and you can only access it using the Touch ID sensor, so from that point of view then you can understand Apple’s concern over the use of an unauthorized Touch ID sensor.

On the other hand, even with a dead home button, iPhones still ask for a passcode (PIN) for access. So if someone is able to magically unlock a locked phone with an unauthorized Touch ID, they’d still need to know the user’s PIN. This is why bricking the iPhone (without prior warning) may feel a little bit extreme to some users.

How to Avoid Error 53 

One sure way of avoiding the error is by taking your iPhone to Apple Store or an authorized Apple service provider for repair and replacements. However, if you opt to use a third-party repair technician then you need to make sure that he/she uses the original Touch ID sensor and cable. If your home button is faulty then you should take it to Apple’s suggested centers for replacement. If it is a must or you have already replaced your home button then do not try to update your phone’s OS.

What Next for Already Bricked Apple Devices?

If you are already a victim to Error 53 then you should try reinstalling your original home button cable and home button if they weren’t faulty. If they were, then you have no other option than to contact Apple Support about pricing information for out-of-warranty repairs. Keep in mind that out-of-warranty repairs can cost you $200 or more depending on what is being repaired.

iPhone LEGO Photo via Shutterstock

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Antony Maina

Antony Maina Antony Maina is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. His beat includes social media, general business reporting and exploring how people relate to technology. With a background in freelance writing, he is a contributor to other tech websites and can be found at Word4Bloggers.

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One Reaction

  1. Aira Bongco

    This is the reason why I have this habit of not really updating my iOS. For some reason, I just don’t trust the future updates. I wait around and see if people are getting errors before I go ahead and update my device.

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