iFixit: Replacing iPhone 13 Screen at Third-Party Repair Shop Disables Face ID

With the iPhone 13 series, Apple has reduced the Face ID notch. However, one change that hasn’t been made public is that each phone’s screen panel is tied to the Face ID system – if you replace the screen, Face ID will stop working.

The culprit is a Tic Tac-sized chip that now lives on the flex cable connecting the screen to the motherboard. Such a chip did not exist before, so it was not a problem. Of course, official Apple repair centers and stores that are part of Apple’s independent repair program have access to proprietary tools that reprogram the chip to accept the new display.

The new chip next to a grain of rice

However, repair shops unrelated to Apple have only one way to make Face ID work: unsolder the chip from the broken screen and solder it to the new one. And that’s the tricky part. As mentioned, the chip is tiny, above is a photo next to a grain of rice.

And here’s a photo of the chip being removed. This grid of points is called a Ball Grid Table (BGA) and is used for complex chips that require a lot of connections. Considering the scale, this is not the kind of thing that can be hand welded.

iFixit: Replacing iPhone 13 Screen at Third-Party Repair Shop Disables Face ID

A few repair shops have developed tools and trained their technicians on how to do it, but only a few. And it is still a tedious and delicate job compared to what was before.

There is always the possibility that this behavior is unintentional and that Apple will release an iOS update that will clarify matters. It’s not as impossible as it sounds, in fact something very similar happened last year with the iPhone 12‘s replacement cameras – at launch, the traded cameras declined to work, but an update came a few months later that reactivated them (although it showed an alert message).

If you want to learn more about what this could mean for the future of third-party iPhone repairs, head over to detailed drafting by iFixit. It includes an interesting look at how independent stores transfer the chip and the difficulties that entails.

About Michelle T. Friesen

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