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Apple confirms some iPad Pros ship slightly bent, but says it’s normal

Apple confirms some iPad Pros ship slightly bent, but says it’s normal

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple has confirmed to The Verge that some of its 2018 iPad Pros are shipping with a very slight bend in the aluminum chassis. But according to the company, this is a side effect of the device’s manufacturing process and shouldn’t worsen over time or negatively affect the flagship iPad’s performance in any practical way. Apple does not consider it to be a defect.

The bend is the result of a cooling process involving the iPad Pro’s metal and plastic components during manufacturing, according to Apple. Both sizes of the new iPad Pro can exhibit it. The iPad Pro ranges in price from $799 for the base 11-inch model up to $1,899 for a fully-loaded 12.9-inch device with 1TB of storage and LTE connectivity.

The response comes after some customers on social media and several on the MacRumors forums have claimed their iPad Pros developed a small curve or bend without any mistreatment or abnormal stress being exerted on the metal casing. There are posts from people who believe it happened gradually over the course of normal, everyday use — or after transporting the iPad Pro in a backpack. And I’ve seen others from folks who are insistent their iPad came that way out of the box.

Apple is now saying that in some cases, the latter is true. And I can personally vouch for that: my 11-inch iPad Pro showed a bit of a curve after two weeks. Apple asked if I would send it their way so the engineering team could take a look. But the replacement 11-inch iPad Pro I received at Apple’s Downtown Brooklyn store exhibited a very slight bend in the aluminum as soon as I took off the wrapper.

An 11-inch iPad Pro exhibited a very slight bend right out of the box.
An 11-inch iPad Pro exhibited a very slight bend right out of the box.

It’s an issue that seems to be more common on the LTE model, as there’s a plastic strip that breaks up the iPad’s flat aluminum sides; it’s where the antenna line divides two sections of metal that some users have noticed a bend. Apple did not say the perceived flaw is strictly limited to the cellular iPad Pro, however. Some buyers of the Wi-Fi model also claim to have bent units, but many are straight as designed. Even if only cosmetic, the issue is out of character for Apple, which has rooted its reputation in manufacturing devices with best-in-industry fit and finish.

Those who are annoyed by the bend shouldn’t have any trouble exchanging or returning their iPad Pro at the Apple Store or other retailers within the 14-day return window. But it’s not clear if swaps will be permitted outside that policy. I’ve asked Apple if it has communicated with stores about the issue, as I’ve read some accounts of employees telling people it’s accidental damage and warrants an AppleCare+ claim (and deductible) to replace. That shouldn’t be the case for a slight bend. Apple also says it has not seen a higher-than-normal return rate for the 2018 iPad Pro so far.

This controversy arose after a viral video from JerryRigEverything saw the popular YouTuber fold the newest iPad Pro in half with seemingly very little effort. Some have criticized the video as a stunt for views and as biased against Apple. Most tablets — both from Apple and other companies — will bend if you intend on bending them. They’re thin devices with a lot of surface area. The 11-inch iPad Pro weighs barely over one pound. And two months in, I haven’t seen any reports of iPad Pros failing as a result of the manufacturing quirk or bending to anywhere near the same catastrophic degree as that video. Apple says that concerns over the iPad Pro’s structural rigidity are unfounded and that it stands by the product.

Apple says that concerns over the iPad Pro’s structural rigidity are unfounded

That confidence suggests that this is not a repeat of the “bendgate” controversy that surrounded the iPhone 6 Plus and prompted the company to conduct media tours of its product-testing facilities in 2014. Its next iPhone switched over to a sturdier aluminum. But flex in the iPhone 6 Plus’ chassis was likely a factor in the so-called “touch disease” that later led units to fail due to unresponsive touchscreens. Apple eventually launched a repair program over the issue. So it has every interest in trying to assure consumers that this time, the fuss is over nothing.