It took long enough, but Apple has finally done some explaining about the reported bending issues with the latest iPad Pros. In a new support page entitled iPad Pro unibody enclosure design, Apple cleared the air a bit about the device’s design, manufacturing process, and the line where warranties and returns kick in. Again, it took them LONG ENOUGH.
First off, Apple detailed the manufacturing process of the new Pro. Specifically, they explained how the plastic used for antenna isolation is injected into the device’s aluminum frame.
“iPad Pro cellular models now feature Gigabit-class LTE, with support for more cellular bands than any other tablet. To provide optimal cellular performance, small vertical bands or “splits” in the sides of the iPad allow parts of the enclosure to function as cellular antennas. For the first time ever on an iPad, these bands are manufactured using a process called co-molding. In this high-temperature process, plastic is injected into precisely milled channels in the aluminum enclosure where it bonds to micro-pores in the aluminum surface. After the plastic cools, the entire enclosure is finished with a precision CNC machining operation, yielding a seamless integration of plastic and aluminum into a single, strong enclosure.”
So it seems that this plastic injection process and/or results are the primary cause of bending in many iPad Pros, which is pretty interesting. I though it was odd that the cellular versions are more susceptible to bending, but this description actually explains it quite nicely.
Second, Apple has now formally weighed in on the acceptable amount of bend in an iPad Pro’s casing. The original word of 400 microns was from a leaked letter, but now we have it in official Apply form.
“This flatness specification allows for no more than 400 microns of deviation across the length of any side — less than the thickness of four sheets of paper.”
This is key, because a new tidbit was introduced in this new support page.
“If you believe your new iPad Pro does not meet the specifications described in this article, please contact Apple Support. Apple offers a 14-day return policy for products purchased directly from Apple. Apple also provides up to a one-year warranty on our products and will cover damage if it has occurred due to a defect in materials or workmanship..”
When the original statement of 400 microns leaked, I assumed that meant it would be the standard used for warranty and repairs. However, that was not made clear, and even if it had been, that was not a public statement. Well, now we have it.
This is very important going forward, because now anyone who takes their iPad Pro to an Apple Store or mails it back has a standard to go off of. Better yet, Apple’s Geniuses and support personnel have an official guideline to work off of. This should help prevent inconsistencies in how users get supported. There were already anecdotal stories of customers being charged for repairs for bent iPads. Now each customer should get the help they deserve.
This statement is just what the doctor ordered. Apple needed to clear the air to refute all the BS articles that were mixing and matching details and claiming that Apple thinks bent iPads are just fine. 400 microns is a strict enough standard to be considered reasonable in my book and most of the bent devices that were pictured and complained about online early on were far worse than that. So Apple doesn’t see them as being normal, after all.
There are still two problems with the statements on Apple’s new iPad Pro support page. First off, this is FAR too late in coming. Over a month too late. There just isn’t any valid excuse why this wasn’t handled sooner. None at all.
Second, there is still a little bit of wiggle room in this statement that could cause some support headaches. It is clear that any iPad Pro that comes out of the box bent more than 400 microns will be covered under warranty. This is good.
However, it is less obvious how Apple will determine the line between damage due to use and defect for iPads that have been in a customers hands a bit longer. While I think that cellular iPad Pros that show signs of problems days, weeks and even months after unboxing will likely be repaired or replaced as long as they are under warranty, a more complete clarification would have been nice.
Lateness and slight vagueness aside, this new support page is still a solid step in the right direction for Apple and their new iPad Pro.