iOS 11.3 Update Shamelessly Bricks iPhone 8 Devices With Third-Party Display Repairs

Yet another day, yet another report of Apple prematurely sending an iPhone to an early grave. Last month, Apple released iOS 11.3, which brought a number of feature updates including a new battery health meter and new Animoji. However, some iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus users were greeted with an unexpected and infuriated side effect of the iOS 11.3 update: touch support on their devices immediately ceased to function.

The problem stems from users that sought third-party repairs for their broken iPhone 8 displays. It's almost an inevitability that you will at some point drop your smartphone, resulting in a cracked display -- iPhone 8 users aren’t immune from these realities.

iphone x 8

According to Michael Oberdick, who runs an iPhone repair shopped called iOutlet, the problem stems from the fact that every iPhone display is linked to a micro-controller, which authenticates its presence. In the past, Oberdick and other repair shops were able to replace displays without incident. However, Apple has made a change within iOS 11.3 that is causing the display micro-controller to reject displays that are not Apple certified.

By failing to authenticate these third-party displays, repaired iPhone 8 devices that have been upgraded to 11.3 no longer have touch functionality. In other words, while the display itself is in essence "functional" and outputs content, you cannot interact with it using your fingers. This means that your repaired iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus is now a $700+ paperweight.

What is infuriating to many iPhone 8 owners who sought third-party repairs is that their devices were perfectly functional prior to the update, so it's almost malicious that Apple would take this step to cripple their devices. 

But some may ask, why not just go through Apple to make sure that you're getting genuine parts that are fully supported? For starters, not everyone lives within driving distance of an Apple store or an authorized repair shop. This is especially true in rural areas of the United States. Further compounding matters is the astronomical price of repairing a cracked display through Apple.

If you want an extended warranty, AppleCare+ will cost you $129 upfront for an iPhone 8 or $149 for the iPhone 8 Plus. If you crack the display, you will have to pay $29 per incident (up to two). An out-of-warranty display replacement from Apple will cost you $149 and $169 respectively for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

Third-party outfits charge a fraction of that cost for a display repair, and until recently, those repairs resulted in fully functionally devices. We should note that Apple made a similar move with the iPhone 6, but eventually relented and pushed an update to "unbrick" repaired devices. It remains to be see if Apple will have a change of heart in this instance.

Its incidents like these that are causing more states to join “Right to Repair” legislation bandwagon these days. “A lot of people crack their phone screens. Yet, Apple doesn’t make the replacement screens available to the thousands of repair shops that people take those phones to in order to be fixed. Many people live far from an authorized repair location, or just need their phone fixed quickly," said U.S. PIRG’s Nathan Proctor, Director of the campaign for the Right to Repair. “U.S. PIRG is working with states across the country to pass Right to Repair reforms to give customers and independent repair shops access to the tools, parts and schematics necessary for repair. The news that the latest iOS update makes the touchscreen inoperable on iPhone 8s with an aftermarket screen replacement is just another example of why we should have access to the right parts.

“The fact that people need their screen fixed shouldn't be an afterthought to these companies. We know it happens, and we should be able to fix them without a big hassle. It’s clear that this kind of thing will keep happening until we stand up and secure the Right to Repair. To date, 19 states have introduced legislation -- I’m hopeful legislators will take the necessary action.”