askST: What is Error 53 on Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus?

Over the long Chinese New Year weekend, "Error 53" became a buzzword as news broke that Apple has been permanently disabling repaired iPhone 6s after software upgrades. Deputy Tech Editor Trevor Tan answers some frequently asked questions about the issue.

What is Error 53?

The cryptic Error 53 shows up when an Apple iPhone user restores or updates his or her phone or tablet's iOS firmware.

This happens to people whose devices have been repaired by shops not sanctioned by Apple. The most common case is the replacement of cracked screens at the neighbourhood mobile phone repair shops, inadvertantly tampering with the Touch ID module on the screen.

According to Apple, Error 53 is the result of a security feature designed to protect its customers. When a user restores or updates his or her phone or tablet, the firmware checks the Touch ID sensor to ensure that it matches with the device's other components. If it finds a mismatch, the Touch ID and other functions including for Apple Pay will be disabled.

What Apple devices are affected?


PHOTO: REUTERS

Any iOS devices with a Touch ID sensor can be affected.

But The Straits Times' check on the Apple Support forum online shows that Error 53 affects mostly Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The newer iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are believed to have a different cable design, which makes them less susceptible. Only iPhone 5s devices are not affected. Rumour has it that this is because iPhone 5s devices do not support Apple Pay.

How do I prevent Error 53?

Go to Apple authorised shops to repair your cracked screens. Visit https://locate.apple.com/sg/en. Click on Service tab. Fill in your postal code, product and telco in the empty fields to find the nearest authorised iPhone servicing providers.

If your device has already been repaired by unauthorised shops, then avoid updating the iOS firmware.

How to fix Error 53?

According to Apple Support (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205628), you can force restart your iPhone and try to restore your device again. If you still see Error 53, you have to contact Apple Support (see above). If this doesn't work, you might have to get a new device.

More askST stories here.