Third-party iPhone 13 screen repairs won't break Face ID after upcoming software update

Iphone 13 Review Hero
Iphone 13 Review Hero (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple is reportedly releasing a software update that will make Face ID work on iPhone 13 devices that have had their screens replaced by third-party shops.
  • Currently, any iPhone 13 display repair not carried out by Apple will cause Face ID to fail unless some specific and complicated hoops are jumped through.

The news that third-party repair shops would break Face ID when replacing iPhone 13 displays was disheartening, but there might be light at the end of the tunnel. According to a new report, Apple has a software update on the way that will get things back up and running.

The issue stems from a new chip that's attached to the iPhone 13 display. Unless that chip is also swapped, or some software reprogramming is completed, Face ID will refuse to work. That leaves third-party repair shops out of luck, at least for now.


This unprecedented lockdown is unique to Apple and totally new in the iPhone 13. It is likely the strongest case yet for right to repair laws. And it's all because of a chip about the size of a Tic-Tac, tucked into the bottom of a screen.[...]The iPhone 13 is paired to its screen using this small microcontroller, in a condition repair techs often call "serialization." Apple has not provided a way for owners or independent shops to pair a new screen. Authorized technicians with access to proprietary software, Apple Services Toolkit 2, can make new screens work by logging the repair to Apple's cloud servers and syncing the serial numbers of the phone and screen. This gives Apple the ability to approve or deny each individual repair.

But things are looking up. According to a report by The Verge, Apple has a software update coming that will remove the need for the new chip to be swapped over entirely.

Soon after the iPhone 13 launched, repair experts found that swapping out iPhone 13 screens would break Face ID unless you also moved over a tiny control chip from the original screen. It's a complex process that makes one of the most common types of repairs prohibitively difficult for independent repair shops. (Apple-authorized repair shops, on the other hand, have access to a software tool that can make a phone accept a new screen.) For indie repair shops, things may get easier soon, however, as Apple tells The Verge it will release a software update that doesn't require you to transfer the microcontroller to keep Face ID working after a screen swap.

There's no timescale on when that software update will arrive or why it's even needed in the first place, but the fact it's coming at all is good news. Now the best iPhone available today will also be one that can more easily have a cracked screen replaced, no matter who is carrying out the transplant.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.