The iPhone 14 Continues Apple’s Digital Repair Lockdown

The iPhone 14 Continues Apple’s Digital Repair Lockdown

Here are all the parts you can and can't swap out.

Since the iPhone XS, Apple has engaged in the practice of installing software locks on each of its phones, in order, it says, to prevent users from attempting “unauthorized” repairs. So, whenever you use your iPhone, the device reads each internal component’s unique serial number to determine whether that component is officially permitted to be inside your phone or not. If it’s not, the consequences vary: you could get a notification, see certain functionalities voided, or have something work initially only for it to break after an update. By design, no one can remove these software locks other than Apple and their authorized representatives.

The process of fingerprinting each component is called “serialization,” and it enables pairing a serialized component to a device, which we call “parts pairing.” Apple has continued the discouraging trend of serializing an ever-expanding number of parts in their devices. Naturally, we were curious to see if the iPhone 14, which made such strong improvements in other parts of the repair process, has been restricted by Apple’s ever-expanding parts pairing program.

iPhone 14 battery error message
Swapping components between the same model generates a “genuine parts” warning and may disable certain features.

And yes, as a company that sells parts, we have a horse in this race—but so does everyone that owns a gadget. When your stuff breaks, you should be able to fix it or take it to a shop of your choice. Parts pairing threatens that choice, by making independent and self-repair impossible or unreasonably expensive. Together with the support of the repair community, we’ve raised the alarm over parts pairing, which many view as an attempt to monopolize repair at the expense of customers and independent repair businesses. 

But wait, you might say. Doesn’t Apple have an Independent Repair Provider program? Didn’t they just launch a Self-Service Repair program? Aren’t they selling parts directly to consumers now? You’d be right. They do, they did, and they are. When those programs were first launched, we were ecstatic; we had such high hopes for both Apple and for the rest of the electronics industry. Yet they’ve fallen short of our expectations, and it has everything to do with parts pairing.

A stack of pelican cases full of Apple tools with an iFixit toolkit leaning against it

Independent shops under Apple’s program can’t do what they’ve been doing since cell phone repairs first began—taking parts from old phones, saving them, and putting them into new phones. Instead, to keep all the features their customers expect and not introduce any scary warnings, they have to buy parts directly from Apple, paying the full new part price (if the customer surrenders their old part, the shop can get a small rebate for sending it in). They then have to pair that new part with the device’s serial number using special software.

Self-Service Repair laid bare that reality for everyone. You can’t buy a stack of Apple-certified iPhone batteries to bring to the Christmas party and expect to be able to put them in your family’s phones—not unless you ask everyone for their serial numbers in advance.

That’s why we’re keeping such a close eye on which parts, specifically, you can and can’t swap between iPhone models. It’s Apple’s best strategy for keeping repair behind their own lock and key, and we keep finding more parts that can’t be swapped.

So, recently, we tried swapping components between two base model iPhone 14s and two iPhone 14 Pros to see if Apple has dreamed up any new parts pairing inconveniences for us.

Again, most components inside the iPhone have a unique identifier. So for example two iPhone 14 front facing cameras will be identical in every way except for their digital fingerprint. The System on Chip (SoC), which is the brain of the device, stores that unique identifier in a locked down and encrypted part of its memory that is only accessible by Apple service software. As a result, the system knows if you replace the front-facing camera because the digital fingerprint changes. So now you need to “pair” the new digital fingerprint with your Logic Board’s SoC, and that’s why the final step of the Self Service Repair program requires that you call in to “initiate System Configuration.” 

System Configuration is a euphemism for a piece of Apple software passing a set of decryption keys to the SoC to enable overwriting the component’s stored digital fingerprint.

The method of our experiment is mostly trial and error testing. To test if the front facing camera from a donor phone will be accepted by the recipient phone requires that we physically swap these parts out. We need to do this with every single component.

Before attempting our parts pairing experiment, we waited several weeks to ensure Apple had time to iron out any software issues with the new devices. This test was conducted on iOS 16.0.3 which till now has included two rounds of bug fixes since the launch of the iPhone 14 line of phones.

It’s also worth noting that the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro devices are structurally very different. While similar in size and appearance, the internals of the Vanilla iPhone 14 have been completely redesigned. The phones are also using different Logic Boards with the base model 14’s using last generation A15 SoC’s and the Pro models packing Apple’s latest A16 SoC.

We decided not to penalize the phones on compatibility between each other given that they are for all intents and purposes completely different designs. With this in mind, all the following parts swapping tests occurred between same-model devices i.e. an iPhone 14 Pro camera placed inside a different iPhone 14 Pro.


Mostly functional: The screens are interchangeable  but with True Tone and Auto Brightness disabled and a “genuine parts” warning is present.


Mostly functional: The batteries are interchangeable but battery health and statistics have been disabled and a “genuine parts” warning is present.

Back Glass + Wireless Charging Coil

Functional: No adverse effects have been reported thus far.

NFC (not tested)

Front Cameras

Not functional: FaceID is no longer functional and the selfie camera is non-operative.

Main Cameras

Mostly functional: This component continues to function as intended but with a “genuine parts” warning appearing on screen on every boot.


Functional: No adverse effects have been reported thus far.

Taptic Engine

Functional: No adverse effects have been reported thus far.

Logic Board

Partly functional: The Logic Board houses the SoC so, as would be expected, none of the components will report a serial number that is recognised and all the above issues will come into play.

So there you have it. While we can’t report any improvement in relation to parts pairing, we’re relieved that no new restrictions appear to have been implemented.

All in all, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus’ removable back glass increases the number of replaceable components by one. On the face of it, this might seem like a small change, especially since the Pro models retain the same glued in back glass as previous generations. It’s nevertheless significant given the massive internal redesign that was required to achieve it.

Credit where it’s due—this is a step in the right direction. The modular design facilitates quicker, cheaper, and more profitable repairs, whether that’s at an Apple Service Center near you or elsewhere.

As for parts pairing, well, there’s plenty of reasons why you should care about your ability to freely exchange components on your device without having to endure a screen that won’t automatically adjust brightness (or any other artificial barrier to functionality for that matter). 

Here’s one that stands out for me.

Steve Jobs didn’t want people to be able to get inside his devices saying that they’ll just “screw things up”. When viewed from this lens, it’s easy to see how Apple might justify serialization and restrictions on repair. It’s all done in order to bring us, the ignorant and incompetent masses, the perfect smartphone-cum-fashion statement.

Of course, this attitude ignores the fact that independent repair shops hire from the same labor pool as Apple stores and have equivalent repair expertise and quality (as a two-year investigation by the Federal Trade Commission concluded). It ignores the fact that millions of regular people around the world have fixed their own Apple products using iFixit guides, usually with no problems aside from those introduced by parts pairing. You don’t need an Apple logo on your shirt to replace an iPhone screen or change a MacBook battery, getting your device back to that fresh-from-the-factory state of shiny perfection. 

But some of us aren’t after perfection; in fact we find it suffocating. What we want is to modify a device to give it character or maybe even create art from what was once a mass produced object with no distinguishing feature to separate it from all the others rolling off that same assembly line. Likewise, repairing a device gives it depth and character; it imbues the object with a story all its own. Repair is the antithesis of conformity and can be fashioned into the ultimate statement of individuality—an attitude core to the Japanese art of kintsugi and its modern cousin, visible mending.

Whether done to restore the polished factory perfection of a device or emphasize the story of the fixer, repair should be available to all. Parts pairing threatens that reality, and we’ll keep looking for it, swapping one part at a time.