Technology / The Way I See It: Why Apple’s ‘Error 53’ iPhone update actually makes sense

The Way I See It: Why Apple’s ‘Error 53’ iPhone update actually makes sense

Apple came under fire recently over an iOS update that made some users' iPhones practically useless. Matt Smith explains why this was the lesser of two evils.


There was a social media outcry last week when an update to Apple’s iOS mobile operating system disabled the home buttons of some iPhone users whose devices had been serviced by third-party technicians, rendering them close to useless.

The latest on Monday was that lawyers were considering a class action lawsuit over the ‘Error 53′ codes, on which Reddit users’ opinions ranged from “a massive argument for doing a backup before clicking update” to… well, things I can’t repeat in this column.

But somewhere amongst the noise, Apple actually had a reasonable explanation for the move: the error is produced when iOS detects that the Touch ID sensor, which processes fingerprint data and authorises Apple Pay transactions, doesn’t match an iPhone’s other components.

“If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled,” the firm explained. “This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used.”

I’m not a die-hard Apple fan – in fact I’ve previously disagreed with them on issues like the rumoured removal of the headphone socket on the iPhone 7 – but this seems a perfectly reasonable move to protect users’ security and, at the end of the day, their wallets.

Let’s consider for a second what damage a rogue Touch ID sensor could potentially do.

At best, if something was amiss a criminal would be able to access your iPhone data and use Apple Pay – either through a low-quality replacement component failing or a fraudulent one allowing them to bypass security – giving them free reign over your wallet and anything else you keep on your phone (which is a lot, if recent surveys are to be believed).

At worst, a fake Touch ID sensor installed by an unauthorised dealer could work in conjunction with malware to steal your fingerprint data and send it to cyber criminals. Each of us is stuck with the same set of fingerprints for life, and biometric authentication is on the rise, so it’s easy to see what a huge problem that would present in future.

So while users are understandably upset about their “bricked” iPhones – and perhaps the update’s consequences could have been more clearly communicated beforehand – paying around £600 for a new device is probably the lesser of two evils.

After all, if the cyber criminals manage to get hold of your financial information through a security flaw, it could end up costing you every penny you have.

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