Repair world, we need your help.
Some iPhones with third-party batteries can’t update over the air. Apple support is telling people who encounter the problem (like iFixit user TheLidlMan) that they should’ve gone through Apple for repair—but that’s a cop-out answer. We don’t think Apple is intentionally sabotaging third-party repair here, but we’ve seen this kind of error too many times to let it go.
We know this error shows up sometimes, but we’re not sure exactly when. So we’re coming to you to get to the bottom of it. If this has happened to you, please let us know via this form.
Here’s What We Know
We got the first inklings of this problem over the summer, when some industry friends of ours in Europe told us that they were encountering an error when trying to update replaced-battery iPhones. Some iPhones wouldn’t update to the latest version of iOS, throwing a “no longer connected to the internet” error:
With some testing, our friends narrowed it down a bit: They only had the issue with over-the-air updates of iPhones 11 and up, and only on phones with EU serial numbers, not phones from the US or Asia.
We sent them a batch of our batteries for every phone since the iPhone 11, and some of them (but not all of them!) threw the same error. Still, though, the error only appeared on EU phones.
Then, this month, the problem hit closer to iFixit HQ home: Our community manager, Amber, tried to update her iPhone 12 Pro, which had a battery she’d replaced, to iOS 17.0.3. Ahoy, the mysterious “no longer connected to the Internet” error. Our tech writing team investigated by updating a “vanilla” iPhone 12 with a replaced battery—the same error popped up.
The first time she saw the error, Amber says, she figured it must have had something to do with her home internet connection. She tried again at the office, but no luck. Only after she’d tried redownloading the update and downgrading her phone (which resulted in the same error), did she find the actual fix: Installing the update via iTunes when her phone was plugged into a computer via a USB cable.
How to Fix It? Sideloading.
Luckily, the problem only seems to be with over-the-air updates. Amber was able to update her phone by sideloading the update via iTunes. She used a Mac, but you should be able to do the same thing with a PC.
The process is pretty simple: Plug in your phone to your computer, go to iTunes, click the Device button in the top left, click “Check for Update,” and then “Download and Update.”
Remember, it’s always a good idea to back up your device before you begin an update.
The Ghost of Error 53
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen iPhones with third-party parts throw an error when trying to update. Back in 2016, a bunch of iPhones were bricked by Error 53, which affected iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users who’d replaced their home button/cable on their own or through a third-party repair tech.
The story was similar: For whatever reason, someone would replace their display, including the home button cable. New display assemblies usually included a replacement home button cable because it sped up the installation. After the repair, everything would work great for a while. Then, when the user would go to update their phone’s operating system, they’d get the dreaded “Error 53” and the phone would be bricked.
Unfortunately, Error 53 couldn’t be fixed by sideloading the update. We could only advise that people reinstall their old home button and use a virtual home button instead. After months of frustration, Apple eventually released a software update that fixed the problem.
We’ve seen it happen again and again: In 2017, upgrading to iOS 11 broke the touchscreen input on iPhone 6s with non-original displays. At the end of March 2018, similarly, an upgrade to iOS 11.3 bricked iPhone 8s phones repaired with aftermarket screens until the problem was addressed in IOS 11.3.1 released four weeks later.
Is Apple Trying to Block Third-Party Repair?
When we looked into the iOS 11 bug in 2018, we concluded that Apple probably was only accidentally sabotaging third-party repair. Again, this “unable to verify update” error doesn’t seem to be a deliberate attempt on Apple’s part to block non-original batteries. It would be a very clumsy attempt, given that users can get around it by installing the update through iTunes. And, after all, requiring users to buy only Apple parts for repairs would be a violation of US law (specifically the Sherman Act; Kodak got in big trouble for this in 1992).
Still, they’re undoubtedly benefitting from the way it scares users away from third-party repair. We have similar complaints about parts pairing, which causes the function loss and fear-mongering warnings that pop up when you replace a battery, screen, or many other parts in modern iPhones, without having bought the part new from Apple directly.
Imagine you’re a repair shop that has spent years building up your reputation, standing by your work and going above and beyond to warranty your repairs. What do you say when a customer’s phone breaks a month after you repaired it? No matter how good you are at your job, that customer is likely to go to the Apple Store if you can’t guarantee the parts you install will keep operating.
Shame on Apple—especially since they just came out in support of a national US Right to Repair law.
We don’t have any idea what the underlying cause is here. But the “unable to verify update” is a clue that our devices are phoning home to the mothership more often than we think. This is an example of why we think repairs shouldn’t require internet access at all: A system that validates parts via the internet can cause unknown problems going forward. As much as we would like them to, Apple will probably never test a wide array of third-party parts when they test new software updates. Until then, the best way for them to ensure that this sort of problem doesn’t happen is to eliminate these sorts of checks.
Help Us Keep Track
If you’ve encountered this error, we’d love for you to tell us about what happened—what kind of phone you have, when you replaced your battery, what update you were trying to install, and whether you were able to fix it by sideloading via iTunes. If you’ve had other issues with third-party parts for any device, let us know by email.
It takes a village to hold manufacturers accountable to the more-fixable world we all want to see.