Apple Hardware Chief Responds to Criticism Over iPhone ‘Parts Pairing’ Process

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Apple announced this week that customers and independent repair shops will soon be able to repair iPhone 15 and newer models with used genuine Apple parts.

The used parts include screens, batteries, and cameras, and the new policy will also apply to used biometric sensors required for Face ID and Touch ID. Apple’s traditional parts “pairing” process will still be employed to determine whether or not a used part is a genuine Apple part and can be used to perform repairs.

Following the announcement, Apple’s hardware engineering chief John Ternus discussed the company’s controversial “parts pairing” process with TechCrunch.

Apple has been criticized for years over its parts pairing process. Repair website iFixit has been among the most vocal of its critics, lowering its iPhone 14 repairability score from 7/10 to 4/10 thanks to Apple’s post-repair parts pairing requirement. Meanwhile, the state of Oregon recently passed a law that will ban Apple from using the process in the northwestern state for devices manufactured after January 1, 2025.

Ternus insisted that most third-party parts will still work with iPhones:

‘Parts pairing’ is used a lot outside and has this negative connotation. I think it’s led people to believe that we somehow block third-party parts from working, which we don’t. The way we look at it is, we need to know what part is in the device, for a few reasons. One, we need to authenticate that it’s a real Apple biometric device and that it hasn’t been spoofed or something like that. … Calibration is the other one.John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering

Ternus said one exception is third-party parts used to repair Face ID and Touch ID, which will not work for important security reasons:

You think about Touch ID and Face ID and the criticality of their security because of how much of our information is on our phones. Our entire life is on our phones. We have no way of validating the performance of any third-party biometrics. That’s an area where we don’t enable the use of third-party modules for the key security functions. But in all other aspects, we do.John Ternus

Customers are alerted when their iPhone contains parts that are non-genuine. On repaired iPhones running iOS 15.2 or later, a Parts and Service History section appears in the Settings app under General > About, listing any replacement parts used in the current iPhone and warning users if non-genuine parts have been installed.

Ternus said this transparency surrounding repairs is important:

We have hundreds of millions of iPhones in use that are second- or third-hand devices. They’re a great way for people to get into the iPhone experience at a lower price point. We think it’s important for them to have the transparency of: was a repair done on this device? What part was used? That sort of thing.John Ternus

Apple plans to expand the Parts and Service History section later this year to let users know when a genuine used Apple part has been installed in the device as opposed to a new one.

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