Apple has not had a good week. The launch of iOS 13 has been a mess with security concerns and the rush of updates are not much better. Millions of iPhones were hacked and the company’s radical 2020 iPhone redesign was also leaked just as Apple is trying to tempt users to its new, more iterative models. And now comes an official Apple warning which will affect millions of users.
Apple has published a new support document entitled ‘About genuine iPhone displays’ in which it confirms new warnings will be issued to buyers of the iPhone 11 (guide), iPhone 11 Pro (guide) and iPhone 11 Pro Max (guide) if they don’t use an official Apple certified technician to repair or replace a damaged display. And this could have serious financial implications.
Explaining its decision, Apple states that “The iPhone display is engineered together with iOS software for optimal performance and quality. A nongenuine display might cause compatibility or performance issues.” It then produces a long list of potential problems including input, colour, brightness and battery drain.
Consequently, should your iPhone detect a third-party repair you will see a new warning prompt: “Important Display Message. Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple display. Learn more.” A warning will also be pinned to your lock screen for the first four days after a repair.
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On the surface, it can be argued Apple is only trying to protect its customers but problems arise with this when you look closer.
Apple states “Only technicians who have completed Apple service training and who use Apple genuine parts and tools should replace iPhone displays.” The flashing red light here is “tools”. In short: even if a genuine Apple display is used by your repairer, you will receive the warning message if the technician didn’t purchase their tools from Apple.
As you might expect, Apple tools are significantly more expensive than third-party ones which push up running costs and, in turn, push up prices for the customer. Unsurprisingly, Apple recently launched a new Repair Provider Program.
Moreover, this is part of a wider trend. Just last month, Apple performed a similar move to lock down battery replacements even when official batteries are used. Acclaimed repairer iFixit declared it “user-hostile” and their argument about batteries also applies to displays:
“This is an ongoing trend, and Apple is making repair increasingly difficult. Back in 2016, they completely bricked iPhones that had been previously repaired, displaying an opaque ‘Error 53’ if you replaced your Touch ID home button, since they’re paired to the logic board. In fact, DIY home button replacement will still result in Touch ID functionality completely ceasing to exist. More recently, Apple started disabling TrueTone on replacement screens, even if you’re using a genuine Apple screen. Sound familiar?”
Furthermore, iFixit makes the point that user-repairs (an increasingly popular trend to save money) will be hit hardest:
“This pattern of behavior proves, once again, that Apple is out to stop all repairs performed by anyone except Apple themselves. The company claims that using third-party components can compromise the integrity of an iPhone’s functionality, but when genuine Apple parts have the same problem, then clearly it’s not really about third-party components at all: it’s about preventing you from having any autonomy with a device you supposedly own. You bought it, you own it, you should be able to fix it. It’s that simple.”
Right now, Apple charges $199 to replace an iPhone 11 display, $279 to replace an iPhone 11 Pro display and $329 to replace an iPhone 11 Pro Max display. You can bring this down to $29 with an AppleCare+ plan, but the plan will cost you $199 upfront or $9.99 per month for two years ($240).
Needless to say, third party repair shops can do this for less and users themselves for a fraction of the cost. Or they could before these new requirements to attain official Apple certification and buy official Apple tools. Self-repairers may put up with the new warnings, but I can’t see mainstream customers being happy to have paid for an official Apple display only to have a display warning sit on their lockscreen for days after they get their device back.
Given these warnings have been baked into Apple’s latest iPhones I suspect it also means we can expect this to become company policy with all its devices moving forward. Something which puts Apple squarely on a collision course with growing attempts to introduce Right to Repair legislation.
Needless to say, your loyalty to Apple and the size of your bank account will determine how much the company’s latest lockdown attempt concerns you. But the warnings are now live and every customer deserves to know what they are signing up for when they purchase a new iPhone. +