Apple has said it plans to back off breaking the Face ID feature on iPhone 13s using aftermarket screens, the Verge reported Tuesday.
According to iFixit, the iPhone 13s screen was a right-to-repair nightmare that could destroy independent repair stores forever. iPhone 13 screens come with a small microcontroller that needs to be synced to the phone to allow Face ID to work. Removing the chip requires specialized skills many repair stores don’t have.
After Motherboard and others reported on the issue, Apple reached out to tell us it would make changes. “A solution will be available in an upcoming software update,” Apple told Motherboard in an email. It didn’t elaborate on what the software solution might be.
“Make no mistake: If it wasn’t for the Right to Repair campaign, Apple wouldn’t roll back its restriction against screen repairs on its newest iPhones,” Nathan Proctor, the head of USPIRG’s Right to Repair Campaign, told Motherboard in an email. “A lot of work goes into designing a new product and the decision to lock the screen in this way was no accident. I have talked to many repair shops that told me they would go out of business if they lost their ability to perform screen repairs on Apple phones.”
The news came right as the right-to-repair movement is gaining momentum around the world. Europe is pushing Apple to adopt a universal charger, Biden has signed an executive order paving the way for right-to-repair laws, and Apple has recently changed how it talks to its licensed repair shops about competition.
Proctor said this case highlights why these laws are necessary. “This time, Apple decided to roll its restriction back, but it could have chosen not to. That’s why we need Right to Repair in the force of law, now,” he said. “Fixing things saves money and cuts pollution. We should make sure that all Americans can all get the parts and tools we need to fix products. And when manufacturers restrict our access to what we need, we need our lawmakers to stand up for repair.”
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