iFixit tore down an iPhone 12 and Phone 12 Pro not too long after they launched and give it a slightly positive score. That, however, is based only on factual and technical merits and it may be considering changing its recommendation after post-teardown issues surfaced. While the iPhone 12 may be relatively easy to repair because of its modularity, Apple has apparently placed certain requirements that ensure that only iPhones repaired by authorized service providers will continue working without problems after being taken apart.
It’s really not news that Apple is no fan of third-party repairs so hearing that it has placed arbitrary restrictions on such activity is not a shock either. Just like with jailbreaking, third-party technicians and repair shops are playing a game of cat and mouse with Apple and the latest round seems to give Apple the upper hand.
While it is definitely possible to swap out iPhone 12 parts, even between two exactly similar models, it seems that random issues pop up when doing so. This was something that YouTuber Hugh Jeffreys reported and confirmed by iFixit. Issues include unresponsiveness, bugs when switching cameras and modes, and others. Curiously, the iPhone 12 Pro didn’t exhibit the behaviors when its cameras were changed.
While this may be a bug, Apple is making clear that authorized service centers have to run Apple’s proprietary, online System Configuration app when repairing iPhone 12 screens and cameras. Previously, this verification was only required for battery replacements. While this won’t stop iPhones repaired by third-parties from working, they will display warnings about parts being not genuine, even if they are official iPhone parts.
iFixit doubts that this official instruction is an error and worries about the growing trend of security through serialization. But while such a strategy may make sense for something like a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, screens, batteries, and cameras don’t pose any inherent security risk. And for a company that is preaching its lofty environmental goals, it’s disappointing that Apple is ironically tightening restrictions on third-party repairs that help it achieve that.