Apple has removed an unpopular feature, and it’s great news for screen repairs. iOS 11.3.1, a free software update for recent iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches that launched on Tuesday, fixes an issue that affected phones that have received screen repairs from unauthorized third parties. Earlier this month, repair stores reported that devices running iOS 11.1 or later disabled the ambient light sensor during the boot-up process.
It’s a big relief for a thriving industry, which had expressed concerns about Apple’s future policies. One repairer said earlier this month that they saw the issue as “as a test-case to see how it works, to see if they can link hardware with logic boards so if they were repaired outside of the Apple network it loses functionality.” The new update notes explain that, alongside improvements to security for the iPhone and iPad, it “addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 8 devices because they were serviced with non-genuine replacement displays.”
It’s not the first time Apple has made a similar move. When the iPhone 5S launched in 2013, repair stores found that switching out the fingerprint scanner could trigger an “Error 53” after it detected a mismatch of components. The company claimed the check was meant to take place at the factory, but some stores saw it as a testbed for expanded checks. Apple has shipped a machine called “Horizon” to some 4,800 authorized third-party repair stores to switch out the Face ID, a scheme criticized as locking out smaller companies.
The company isn’t totally on board with the idea of third-party repairs, though. The update notes claim that “non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly,” and that “Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts.”
While the release is a minor update, Apple is expected to take the wraps off its next major release this summer. The company has a tradition of announcing the next major iOS version at the annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference, scheduled for June 4, where it’s expected to unveil iOS 12.
Expected features for iOS 12 include unified apps, improved Siri integration — and hopefully the same level of support for unauthorized screen repairs.