What is “error 53” on my iPhone all about?

Chris Burns - Feb 5, 2016
What is “error 53” on my iPhone all about?

Today Apple has confirmed that there is, indeed, a trackable reason why some unique users are receiving an “error 53” on their iPhones. It is, apparently, people who have gone out and gotten their devices repaired by non-certified Apple technicians or have DIY’ed their device repairs at home. Not just any repairs, mind you – repairs to their home button. In this home button, a button with Touch ID, is a failsafe that can brick your whole device (or at least disable it) upon software discovery.

Here’s why Touch ID may not be working for you in the App Store

So you’ve gotten the error that’s dreaded. You see “An unknown error occurred (53)” on your iPhone. You’re lost and you don’t know what to do with yourself because your best buddy that knows all about iPhones doesn’t know where to begin.

There’s an answer out there.

According to an Apple spokesperson, Error 53 is a security measure. It’s not to much a “glitch”, as some have called it, as it is an anti-theft mechanism meant to deter criminals who’ve stolen your iPhone.

A spokesperson from Apple told SlashGear: “We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components.”

“If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.”

If you have an iPhone and it is stolen, the process might go like this:

1. iPhone is stolen
2. Thief finds you have a fingerprint lock
3. Thief attempts hardware bypass, removing Touch ID sensor
4. Phone detects tampering
5. Phone bricks with Error 53

Simple stuff. Some iPhone users are not especially pleased with the fact that their devices have been bricked after they’ve gotten repairs done to their devices. They are not pleased!


It may be true that Apple could have been more up front about requirements for repair once a user has their fingerprint attached to the lock of the device. It may also be true that, with all of the effort Apple has put in to making certain your iPhone cannot be accessed by a thief, that a user should have expected that they could only go to Apple to have any hardware repairs done at all.

What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=9300004]

What can you do if your iPhone shows Error 53?

Not much. You can contact Apple support to see if they’ll be able to cover you under Apple Care, but you’ll probably be out of luck.

What can you do if your device needs repair and you’re using Touch ID?

You can contact Apple and send your device in to an Apple repair facility, or head in to an Apple Store. You must do this if you use Touch ID – or even if you don’t, and your device comes from the last several generations of releases and has a Touch ID sensor.


Because each time an authorized Apple service provider repairs your device, they validate and re-validate the device’s Touch ID sensor. Each time an authorized Apple service provider validates your Touch ID sensor, that validation is unique, and can only be authorized by Apple.

“This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure,” said the Apple spokeswoman.

“Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”

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