Error 53: Latest iOS Update May Brick Your Phone If You Did This

If you’ve had the screen or home button replaced on your iPhone and the work wasn’t done by someone at the Apple Store, you may want to skip the latest iOS update.

Apple’s iOS 9 update has a little-known feature that will render your iPhone 6 and 6 Plus about as useful as a brick if you’ve had it repaired by anyone but an Apple technician.

There are numerous accounts online from users who have had their screens or home buttons repaired by a third-party, and when they try to upgrade their software, the update gives an error message that reads: "The iPhone '[device name]' could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (53)."

Image: Iphone Error

Needless to say, iPhone users who receive this message are frustrated.

"Bricking [disabling] the phone so that you can't even recover the photos on it is ridiculous. Imagine, for example, you go on honeymoon to somewhere really pretty that doesn't have an official Apple store. You take some pictures of you and your beloved with your iPhone. Unfortunately you drop it, and break the home button. You get it fixed at a local repair place and take a few more gorgeous photos. Then the phone updates and [...] YOU GET NOTHING," user iey404 said on Reddit.

“I work for a company that repairs iPhones and we refurbish thousands of iPhone 6. We have tried everything under the sun to get around this error but it is simply not possible. If someone brings in an iPhone 6 for repair and the home button is damaged in any way, we tell them up front the phone is unrepairable and we won't take it,” user Facebomb Wizard also said on Reddit.

Jenna Burdett, who runs a website called iPad Rehab, fixes Apple devices for a living and blogs about it. She posted a YouTube video titled “iPhone6 Error 53 Solutions.” In it, she says the iPhone’s Touch ID sensor inside of the home button is married to the CPU on the motherboard, which means you can’t take a home button from one phone to another and retain the Touch ID function.

“If you had your screen replaced and the shop that replaced it for you did no keep the original home button, that’s where the problem comes in.”

“There is no amount of restoring that will clear error 53 to get rid of it — you have to have the original home button,” Burdett said.

Some observers have speculated that Error 53 is the company’s way of imposing a monopoly on repairs. Others say it could be Apple’s way of trying to prevent theft of your data after security is tampered with. h

Until now, Apple’s only official statement on the issue has been that the issue is real and that it is due to security for fingerprint data that relates to Touch ID. But in a statement to NBC Friday, a company spokesperson 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 iPhone or 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."

Apple’s statement suggests this is the price iPhone users must pay to secure their fingerprints, which can provide access to a slew of sensitive data.

If you’ve encountered this problem and your phone is still under warranty, your best bet is to visit an Apple store and give them your phone to be repaired. They have special software to pair the home button with the motherboard, and can fix the error.