Error 53 redux – Apple’s apology and explanation

Recent reports indicate that iPhone owners who get their Touch ID sensors replaced can run into an “Error 53” problem, at least if the repair is done by someone who isn’t an authorized Apple service provider, or an Apple store. I’ll let Apple explain in this support document that’s been posted to their web site.

The company has released an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 that fixes the problem. It was released on Thursday and is available as an over the air download or an update using iTunes on Mac or Windows.

Touch ID is Apple’s technology that unlocks iPhones and iPads using a fingerprint in place of a passcode. It’s a convenient feature, and Apple’s gone to great lengths to make sure that the fingerprint data and its corresponding connection to your iPhone’s passcode remains secure. It does this by storing the information in a special cache of memory called Secure Enclave. It’s walled off from the rest of the device, and it isn’t stored in the cloud. It’s all by itself.

So Error 53 is a good thing. It’s your device protecting your data. The problem is that it’s a really inelegant error report. 

The trouble has led some to think (and report) that Apple is trying to punish people for using unauthorized means to fix their devices. Turns out the answer is a little more prosaic and mundane. In a statement provided to Techcrunch:

We apologize for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers

Hanlon’s Razor strikes again!

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