A followup about Error 53

Today, Apple released at least one statement which describes Error 53 as a factory test which was never intended to be released to customers – apparently, while disabling Touch ID was intentional, bricking the phones was not.

The article giving this information is http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/18/apple-apologizes-and-updates-ios-to-restore-iphones-disabled-by-error-53/, and it and others have referenced Apple’s KB article https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205628. Apple’s article makes no mention of error 53 being a factory test, nor of reimbursing out-of-warranty replacements.

I don’t quite know what to make of this. I’m certainly willing to believe that it was only intended as a factory test and that bricking was never intended; it seems far more in line with Apple’s general attitude. And despite the justifications I offered in my last post, I’m not surprised that it was possible to not brick the device while also maintaining reasonable security. I’m actually gratified to find that Apple had never intended such a blatantly awful UX. I have plenty of complaints about Apple’s UX in recent times, but nothing measured up to abruptly bricking devices without warning. It’s also extremely plausible that a measure such as that might have escaped QA, given that it’s an expected error when not seen in the wild.

At the same time, it took Apple quite some time to respond, to the point of a class action having been filed. Most likely that’s due to the sensitivity of the issue, especially in the wake of the recent well-publicized court order directing Apple to break a particular iPhone’s encryption. Certainly the existence of that issue only makes the timing more interesting.

I’m not trying to accuse Apple of anything here; I’m personally satisfied with how they’ve handled the Error 53 situation. While I favor “right to repair”, and strongly dislike the trend towards hardware that the customer doesn’t effectively own, security of a device carrying important data in the context of the infamous gullibility and technical inexperience of the majority of users is a knotty problem at best and Apple is walking a fine line with relatively few missteps (though the “few” here is a long, long way from zero). What I do wonder about is what more there is behind some of the decisions that were made, and the timing of those decisions. If nothing else, it’s a matter of curiosity.

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