Apple kills off 3rd party iPhone 12 camera repairs thanks to proprietary Apple tool requirement

Nov 2, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Apple kills off 3rd party iPhone 12 camera repairs thanks to proprietary Apple tool requirement

Nov 2, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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If you’re one of those who’s jumped on the new iPhone 12 smartphones, be ready to take very good care of it because if you kill the camera, there’s no inexpensive repair option. It will have to go back to either Apple or one of the few (expensive) authorised repair centres, iFixit has discovered in some more extensive testing of the new iPhones.

A leaked internal Apple training guide suggests that this is intentional on Apple’s part, and also indicates that it’s true of all four models of the new 12 series iPhones, as they have to be tested through Apple’s proprietary software – although iFixit has only seen issues with the iPhone 12 so far. Oh, yeah, and screens can’t be user replaced without errors, either.

iFixit posted a video of an iPhone 12 with a swapped camera. It doesn’t seem to spit out any errors, although it does show that there are definitely issues when swapping out the camera module for one removed from another iPhone 12. Many modes seem to lock up or just show blackness, and there doesn’t seem to be any consistency as to which will work and which won’t when swapping between them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2UVpBrvrk4

iFixit says they’ve compared notes with multiple other repair technicians and they’ve all come to essentially the same conclusion. Only Apple can repair the iPhone 12 camera. iFixit is giving Apple the benefit of the doubt, believing that it may be a bug that Apple will address in the future. But they do also cite the possibility that Apple is simply locking people out of repairing their own devices – whether that be through a local (non-Apple-approved) repair shop or a DIY repair you might try yourself. Given the leaked training guide, I would suspect the latter.

The internal training guide suggests that the iPhone 12 variants require a technician to run devices through Apple’s proprietary cloud-linked System Configuration app to repair cameras and screens.

While this type of irreplaceable functionality has been true in the past of certain parts for iPhones, like the fingerprint scanner (which is paired with the main motherboard), killing off the ability for users or 3rd party repair technicians to replace the camera or screen doesn’t make much sense – beyond lining Apple’s pockets even further. iFixit says they did manage to swap a number of screens over, though, too, and while they did work, they say the phone popped up stark on-screen warnings that the displays may not be “genuine” (despite pulling them directly from other identical genuine Apple phones).

Non-swappable parts like the fingerprint scanner, designed primarily for security and that don’t break all that often you can understand. But the camera, as iFixit points out, isn’t exactly a security device. Sure, one could argue that the front-camera is, thanks to face unlock, but the rear camera? No, not really. And other than the screen itself, it’s probably the one part of a smartphone that’s the most prone to seeing damage.

I’m sure at some point, there will be workarounds, or perhaps Apple’s hand will be forced. But, for now, if you have an iPhone 12, just make sure to take care of it lest you risk being forced to pay an overpriced repair bill.

[iFixit via 9to5Mac]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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9 responses to “Apple kills off 3rd party iPhone 12 camera repairs thanks to proprietary Apple tool requirement”

  1. Marco Peixoto Avatar
    Marco Peixoto

    Keep supporting that Brand :)

  2. Sebastien Desnoulez Avatar
    Sebastien Desnoulez

    Buy a real camera.

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      You know it’s possible to own both, right?

      I’ve got over a dozen DSLRs and half a dozen mirrorless cameras. The phone’s still the one that’s always with me, wherever I go, though. :)

  3. W Douglas LeBlanc Avatar
    W Douglas LeBlanc

    ^shrugs^ micromanagers from Apple are banned from this household for all time. No device of theirs shall ever cross my threshold. Those that do shall be burned forthwith in the everlasting fires of Yomi.

  4. Jonathon Williams Avatar
    Jonathon Williams

    this is why every time someone says they have a iphone i say ewww, and every time someone asks me to help fix/do something with it i tell them i dont touch/know anything about flawed technology, anything apple is just bad, they cost like $90 to make over in Africa and china, yet they sell that same phone for $1300 and only half complete most of the time

  5. Michael Stevens Avatar
    Michael Stevens

    No worries, iDouches… The Chinese will have that “proprietary” tool knocked off and sold on Amazon/ebay within a week.

  6. Carlos D Avatar
    Carlos D

    Years ago I switched to android and have never regretted it. Apple doesn’t like to repair phones themselves anyways. They just want you to buy a new one. Throw away design company. Hopefully Samsung will put them out of business one day.

  7. Mark Norris Avatar
    Mark Norris

    Less hardware sales = more cash wanted from other areas. ?‍♂️

  8. Mr Stake Avatar
    Mr Stake

    not only the cameras and display. The same lock turns on if you replace the motherboard