Apple and “right to repair” are two things that never go together, but it’s only now that I realize exactly why Apple does things their way.

I was scrolling through my YouTube feed and saw this video made by a Korean YouTuber:

To translate briefly: scammers are picking up broken iPhones and swapping out the broken OLED screens with LCD screens. Then they sell these iPhones to unsuspecting consumers who don’t know the difference.

I was always aware that this was possible, as there are cheap LCD screens available on AliExpress and eBay, but I didn’t know sellers were actively trying to scam people using this tactic. Apparently, it’s extremely profitable, since LCD screens are significantly cheaper than OLED screens.

Except, this kind of “repair” scam won’t fly at all on an iPhone. On recent models, all iPhones check the serial of the display and make sure it is an authentic part. If not, then a big warning shows up on the lock screen and shows up multiple times for several days. And a permanent display warning is shown in the Settings app. See this link for more information.

So it seems like iPhone X and iPhone XS models are affected, since they might not have this authenticity check. From the 11 series onwards, all devices have this authenticity check baked in.

Also, this is not something that scammers can bypass by using display re-flashing tools from China. These only copy over the essential bits to get True Tone functionality working again. The iPhone will still be able to tell that the display is not original.

This is why Apple serializes parts. The scammers are why we can’t have nice things like independent repair. It’s quite unfortunate, but I’m finally beginning to understand why the measures put forth by Apple are necessary.

I know you’re probably thinking: “Oh, come on! Who would fall for that? And what about repairing my own device? I should be able to use whatever parts I want!”

Honestly, I think quite a lot of people would fall for it, myself included. Because at a cursory glance, it is really hard to tell OLED screens and LCD screens apart. Sure, you could go into a dark room and load up a black screen and see if it emits light, but that’s hard to do outside when trading with the seller. In contrast, the display warning messages are visible anytime and can be quickly used to determine if the screen is genuine or not.

And for repairing your own device, it is still possible. You’ll get a warning, but if you know that your display is authentic, who cares? If you’re only going to use it yourself, then the warning shouldn’t bother you, and it only persists for a couple of days on the lock screen before retreating into the Settings app. And if it bothers you so much, you could get your display swapped at Apple and they’ll re-serialize the display for you.

I still don’t agree about some practices, like soldering and gluing devices shut, but I’m starting to understand why Apple implements these kinds of things. Sure, independent repair takes a big hit, but at least regular consumers aren’t affected and directly benefit from these authenticity measures.