Following reports earlier this month that certain unauthorized repairs made to iPhones were causing device failures, Apple has now issued an updated version of iOS — version 9.2.1 — that will restore any iPhones that have been “bricked” with this error message as well as preventing future iPhones from being disabled in the event of third-party repairs. Apple has also issued a support document detailing the error and the process to update or restore devices that are affected by the issue.
Earlier reports and comments from Apple suggested that the problem was related to Touch ID security, and the authentication process used between the Touch ID sensor and the secure enclave used to store sensitive information such as fingerprint and Apple Pay data. Improper repairs to the Touch ID sensor have, in the past, disabled all Touch ID and Apple Pay features on an affected device, but the recent “Error 53” issues are the first time that an iOS update has actually resulted in a device completely failing to operate. Affected users will need to download and apply the update over a USB connection using iTunes in order to restore their iPhone functionality; the report notes that users who get their updates over-the-air from Apple should not have been affected by the issue in the first place. Although the iOS 9.2.1 update will not restore basic iPhone functionality, Touch ID will continue to be disabled, as it would have been prior to applying the problematic iOS update — users wishing to restore Touch ID will need to have their Touch ID home button replaced directly by Apple.
Apple also issued a statement to TechCrunch, clarifying the situation, apologizing for the inconvenience, and suggesting that customers who were required to pay for out-of-warranty replacements for their devices can contact AppleCare to be reimbursed.
Some customers’ devices are showing ‘Connect to iTunes’ after attempting an iOS update or a restore from iTunes on a Mac or PC. This reports as an Error 53 in iTunes and appears when a device fails a security test. This test was designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory.
Today, Apple released a software update that allows customers who have encountered this error message to successfully restore their device using iTunes on a Mac or PC.
We apologize for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers. Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement.