In a nutshell, it's an iTunes error encountered when updating your iOS or initiating a factory reset IF, and only if, the phone cannot detect the original home button and nothing else. That's right, you will only encounter error 53 if the original home button is not detected while making changes to the OS or resetting the phone.
“We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components."
“If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.”
“We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”
“When an iPhone is serviced by an unauthorised repair provider, faulty screens or other invalid components that affect the touch ID sensor could cause the check to fail if the pairing cannot be validated. With a subsequent update or restore, additional security checks result in an ‘error 53’ being displayed … If a customer encounters an unrecoverable error 53, we recommend contacting Apple support.”
1. Apple is a publicly traded corporation. Their first duty is to their shareholders.
2. They fulfill this duty by generating a profit.
3. As much as Apple's marketing may have you think otherwise, they're not your friend and they don't care about you as a person.
4. They care about one thing, and one thing only - making money.
5. They don't care about your baby, wedding, or vacation photos or videos. They don't care about the thousand people in your contacts list that isn't backed up. They don't care about your apps (but they do care if you paid for them because it adds to Apple's income, which in turn goes towards #1 on this list). They don't care about your notes or voice memos. And, they don't care if you didn't back up your phone before breaking it (unless you paid for extra cloud storage - they care about that).
6. So what does Apple care about? Money. Your money. Not your memories or anything else saved on your phone.
Apple claims error 53 is for your protection, "If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used."
This sounds great! Who wouldn't want to protect their data, especially if financial information is linked to Apple Pay?
What they won't tell you is that instead of merely disabling the Touch ID aspect (which they could do), they disable the entire device!
But wait, there's more!
1. Apple only disables your entire device AFTER you attempt to update the iOS or reset it.
So bear with me here - they claim they're protecting your data by disabling the phone, so correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a factory reset erase the phone - and your data? Yes, it does. I can hear it now, "even erased data can be recovered". Very well, why isn't Apple disabling ALL iPhones, Touch ID or not, on reset then? After all, it's about about protecting your information, right? Wrong.
2. Okay, so you're not resetting your device, you just want to update to the newest iOS. Original home button not detected - BOOM! error 53 brick. You know, because Apple wants to protect you from evil data thieves.
Okay, so why did they wait until I updated my iOS? Couldn't my data have been accessed and stolen before the update? YES, YES, YES! (although, Apple Pay does require a programmed fingerprint to be scanned and changing the original home button prevents this from being possible)
3. The iPhone 5S is immune to error 53. You can remove the home button, or replace it with another and still have a functioning home button, but no functioning fingerprint scanner. If this is about protecting consumers, why is the 5S excluded?
Because a hardware change beginning with the iPhone 6 allows error 53 to occur if the original home button is missing or damaged. Okay, so why isn't Apple recalling the 5S over security concerns? Because the concern is a fallacy that would cost Apple money to address, impacting their first duty - to their shareholders.
4. Did you know you can become the victim of an error 53, without warning, and without even having your phone opened or repaired outside of Apple?
It's true! Error 53 occurs on iOS update or reset if the device cannot detect a functioning (original to the phone) home button/fingerprint scanner. There have been cases of Touch ID failing on devices that haven't even been opened. Damaged perhaps, but opened or serviced by a DIYer or independent repair company? Nope! If anything disrupts the electrical pathways that relay information between the home button and logic board, on iOS update or reset, you WILL get an error 53.
I have a business and medical background. My father was an engineer. I like things that make sense. Apple's response to error 53 makes no sense at all. What does make sense is Apple's history of intentionally blocking customization modification (not to be confused with modification for nefarious intent) efforts by end users (that's you) and repairs by 3rd parties (that's me) paired with their latest attempt and blocking both custom modification and repair by independent repair shops.
As a repair shop, I've had requests for home button changes. These include swapping a black button for a white one or vice versa because the owner wanted to "be different" as well as having a "bling bling" (ie fake (or real) gemstones) home button. I have to tell them, "no" for any Apple device utilizing a fingerprint scanner.
Most of what I do as a repair shop is focused on micro soldering repairs. Screen flippers are everywhere. Ask anyone you know if they know someone who "fixes phones" and odds are good you'll get a handful of names. Ask anyone you know if they "know someone who does micro soldering" and you'll likely hear crickets.
Recently, a brick and mortar repair shop near me found out I do micro soldering (which involves component-level diagnostics) and asked if I could investigate why the fingerprint scanner on an iPhone 6 didn't work after repair. They knew error 53 would result, so they were doing right by the customer to track down the problem rather than simply hand the phone back and say, "don't update your iOS ever again", or worse, say nothing at all.
Below are 2 photos of my findings. On the left, highlighted in green, I found what appeared to be a tear in the home button flex cable. Disconnecting the cable and folding it open confirmed a tear about a millimeter long was preventing the Touch ID from working. This is because tiny electrical traces, thinner than a human hair have been severed and communication with the Touch ID sensor is halted. The button function still worked because the "button" clicking and Touch ID are separate functions with separate electrical pathways.
This has very little to do with security and everything to do with either having Apple, and only Apple, or Apple authorized repair centers repair your broken phone OR forcing you to by another phone. These options make Apple money. Taking your phone to an independent repair shop doesn't give Apple a dime. If there's only one thing you take away from this article, make it this: Apple only cares about money. They don't care about you, or your data.
Don't believe me? Take the Apple spokesperson's advice in the quote above and call Apple Support after turning your phone into an error 53 brick and see what happens.
If you're a repair shop technician, manager, or owner and you've read this far, then read this too: Please, for your customer's sake, your reputation, and for the reputation of the repair industry, if you aren't already doing this, start doing checklists before and after a repair that includes verifying that the home button and Touch ID are working BEFORE and AFTER the repair. If it doesn't work before, it's your call on how to proceed, but do yourself, your customer, and the rest of us a favor and INFORM the customer of the situation and the problem (regarding non-functioning home buttons/fingerprint scanners). Personally, if I can't verify both work BEFORE the repair, I won't touch the device (for most repairs). The last thing I want is someone to go and update their phone, get an error 53, then blame me. Exceptions are made for data recovery. Generally, in those cases, nothing works so it doesn't matter if Touch ID doesn't work after I retrieve the data. If Touch ID (or the home button) doesn't work after the repair, but did before, then figure out why and fix it (sometimes the problem is the extension flex that connects the home button to the logic board). If you can't fix it, DO NOT LIE to the customer and BE honest with them, then "make it right".
If you run a repair shop, or are in the mobile device repair industry and have a website or blog, please make a professional post about error 53 and help separate truth from fiction. Apple would have the average customer believe that only Apple is qualified to work on their devices when the reality is, many repair shops, myself included know more about repairing and how the device actually functions than most Apple "geniuses". In fact, if you take your phone to any Apple store for repair for any problem aside from a broken screen (buttons don't work, headphones don't work, speaker doesn't work, etc), they will tell you your only option is to replace the phone and this IS NOT true. There is nothing inside an iPhone that cannot be fixed, though some things eventually don't make financial sense to fix due to the age of the device.
Please share this anywhere you can.
By way of disclaimer, I personally own 2 iPhones, 2 iPads, and a MacBook Air. I love their products, their ease of use, their sleek design, and their overall performance. What I don't love is the bullying-type efforts on behalf of Apple that their customers only have one option for repair, when that simply is not the case, unless they designed it to be that way - such as error 53.
Below is a photo of the home button connector on an iPhone 6. Clearly, it's damaged and will not allow the original home button to function with the phone, forcing an error 53 (top left). This could have been caused by a DIYer or another repair shop. To Apple, it doesn't matter. You didn't bring the phone to them for repair and now it's broken so your only option is to replace it - or is it? The lower photos show the same phone after I replaced the damaged connector (top right). On the lower left, it shows that the Touch ID is working, on the lower right, it shows the home button is working with the, "oops you clicked" message. This phone was "saved" from error 53 for less than $75, far below the cost of replacing it.