Apple Makes Unauthorized iPhone 12 Camera Repair Difficult Without Proprietary App

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 30 Oct 2020

iPhone 12 camera swap test

When iFixit first did a teardown of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, it noted that the camera modules between the two devices were actually interchangeable. However, on further testing, a more worrying change from Apple’s part has come to light. The Cupertino company is looking to block all unauthorized display and camera repairs starting with the iPhone 12.

After “exhaustive testing” and reviewing Apple’s leaked training documents, the iFixit team says that Apple has “by design or by neglect or both” is making it “extremely hard” to carry out unauthorized repairs on iPhone 12 lineup. The team swapped one iPhone 12 camera module with another and while this repair seemed to work initially, they soon ran into issues. The ultra-wide camera did not work, the primary camera only worked in selected models, and the camera app overall became buggy and unresponsive on the iPhone 12.

On previous iPhones, the iFixit team has been able to carry out such part swaps between identical iPhones without any issues. In fact, they were able to carry out a similar camera swap test on the iPhone 12 Pro without a hitch.

Apple’s leaked internal training documents also tell authorized technicians to run Apple’s proprietary System Configuration app for fully carrying out display and screen repairs on any of the iPhone 12 variants. iFixit did do a display swap test on the iPhone 12 and the device worked just fine, though it did show a warning that the display used might not be genuine even though it was from another iPhone 12 itself.

iFixit is not ruling this out as a bug on Apple’s part especially since it did not face any issues on the iPhone 12 Pro. Previously, iPhones have had issues with display swap due to Apple sourcing components from different suppliers that led to ghost touch issues on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The report highlights that it is actually common for iPhones on which unauthorized repairs have been performed to misbehave. However, such shops and repair techs are able to fix the issue using tools that can change the serial number stored on the tiny EEPROM chips.

Our Take

Apple has opened its repair program for out-of-warranty iPhones to third-party repair shops in the United States. However, it’s clear that the company is trying to curb unauthorized repairs on iPhones even if there is a genuine part swap involved. Many other decisions from Apple have also made it a nightmare to repair many of its products including expensive MacBooks that end up in a landfill thanks to the T2 chip.

[Via iFixit]