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Apple moves to grab monopoly on screen repairs

One of the most common issues with the iPhone might have just gotten more expensive to fix.Source:Supplied
One of the most common issues with the iPhone might have just gotten more expensive to fix.Source:Supplied

IF YOU are someone who constantly cracks their iPhone screen, you are not going to like a new feature of the iPhone 8.

Apple's forthcoming device is tipped to have a full-screen OLED display without a physical home button, meaning the tech giant is going to have a monopoly on screen repair.

It all has to do with the Touch ID fingerprint-reading sensor being moved from the home button into the screen itself.

As it currently stands, the Touch ID sensor is the only part of the iPhone that has to be replaced by Apple because it is paired with the Secure Enclave - a chip providing all cryptographic operations for data protection, including Touch ID, Apple Pay and passcodes.

Given the fingerprint data is actually stored on the Secure Enclave, it is impossible to get replacement Touch ID sensors to work on your existing phone.

"[The secure data] is encrypted and authenticated with a session key that is negotiated using the device's shared key that is provisioned for the Touch ID sensor and the Secure Enclave," Apple wrote in a security document.

So, essentially, new touch sensors will not be able to work as the component cannot be paired with the existing Secure Enclave in your phone - a feature needed to ensure someone can't take data from your encrypted phones by simply putting in a new button assigned to their finger.

HOW DOES THIS WORK WITH APPLE?

If the Touch ID is located in the screen of the iPhone 8 and can't be paired with a new button how is Apple able to fix the issue?

According to one former and one current Apple employee, the tech giant has a "calibration machine" located in every flagship store that is capable of recalibrating the new sensor to work with your existing phone.

The former employee told Motherboard: "The calibration machine was a rather big device (imagine something roughly the size of a fairly large microwave) that phones had to be inserted into after replacing the display.

"It took about 10 minutes per phone to calibrate them, and the device would run a battery of pressure-sensitive tests in addition to registering the display with the secure enclave. An iPhone had to be secured in the device, naturally, and a mechanical arm would perform the necessary functions."

The machines are believed to cost between $20,000 and $60,000, and are hidden from the public - the current Apple employee said it's impossible to even photograph one.

"There's never a moment when you're not with somebody else, and there's cameras everywhere but the bathroom," the employee said.

"Apple is so secretive that they don't even want us wearing our Apple shirts outside."

Both sources added that the calibration machine only works once phones have been unlocked by owners using their passcodes.

Renowned iPhone jailbreaker Luca Tedesco said while Apple might have the stronghold on the recalibration of iPhones, he doesn't believe the machine would be 100 per cent necessary.

"You probably don't need any hardware to do it," he said.

"I wouldn't think there is much more required than some software running in the Secure Enclave Processor."

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

In several states across America there is currently "Right to Repair" legislation being proposed, which would require manufacturers - such as Apple - to give third-party companies and the general public the tools needed to fix any issues they might face.

"[The manufacturers] shall make available for purchase by owners and independent repair providers all diagnostic repair tools incorporating the same diagnostic, repair, and remote communications capabilities that such original equipment manufacturer makes available to its own repair or engineering staff," the proposed legislation reads.

"[Manufacturers] may not exclude diagnostic, service, and repair documentation necessary to reset a security-related electronic function from information provided to an owner or independent repair provider."

So if the legislation passed, third party repairers would be able to purchase the calibration machine needed for screen repair.

While Australia has right to repair laws on the books for the car industry, there is no such mandate for other industries like manufacturers of electronics or other sectors.

And while ambassadors are currently working to introduce the laws to Australia, there is now word of when this might happen.

Apple declined to comment.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  apple editors picks iphone iphone 8 screen repairs



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