iPhone 12 teardown reveals bad news for the camera

iPhone 12 review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Last week, the repair champions at iFixit got their hands on the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, and found both handsets to have a lot in common. The phones also seemed reasonably easy to fix, ensuring both achieved a 6/10 repairability score. But now a new development is making the site reassess things. 

It appears that while there’s no technical reason you shouldn’t be able to drop in a new screen or camera module from a hardware perspective, steps have been taken to prevent repairs from unauthorized third parties for the iPhone 12. Which is unfortunate, given the high cost of first-party repairs

The news once again comes courtesy of iFixit, which discovered that subbing in a different camera module to the iPhone 12 results in “extremely odd results.” While things initially seem to work fine, the camera will often fail in use, refusing to switch to ultrawide, responding only to certain modes or becoming completely unresponsive. 

One possible reason for this comes from internal training documents seen by iFixIt, which apparently state that authorized repair technicians need to use Apple’s cloud-linked System Configuration app for repairs to the iPhone 12’s camera or screen. 

“This doesn’t mean that an iPhone camera, or screen, will not work at all without an official tech’s touch,” the site writes, adding that it had “performed multiple screen-swaps between iPhone 12 models” without issue (other than an on-screen warning about the perils of counterfeit displays). The site also stresses that it had no issues with the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera when replaced, which might suggest this isn’t intentional after all — and could even be eliminated with a software fix. 

However, iFixIt isn’t convinced. “Taken together with the System Configuration document, and all the other bugs, tricks, and intentional lock-outs that Apple has put in the way of fully functioning iPhones, we take this as a sign that things won't get any better unless there is major change—from within, from customer demand, or from the law.”

For now, the 6/10 repairability score stands, but the site has stated it is “actively reevaluating” how to score iPhones from now on. It’s just as well the iPhone 12’s new Ceramic Shield protection has proved pretty efficient at preventing damage from ludicrously high drops, really... 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.