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

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
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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.

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.

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.

Comments

This is not a big deal, except it kind of is.

I hate people that invoke Steve Jobs at every turn, but here we are: I don’t think Steve Jobs would’ve stood for this. It’s not that he didn’t ship flawed products, but I really think he would’ve told anyone with a bent unit that absolutely couldn’t stand it to bring it in for a replacement. This is the sort of detail that I’m sure would’ve driven him up the wall. Bend it yourself? Fuck off. Out of the box bent? No way.

But it’s made of 100% recycled aluminum so it’s green and recyclable and thus worth it in a $1000 device even if there only like 150 grams of it in the entire product.

No it isn’t. Only the MacBook Air and Mac mini are made of recycled aluminium.

I was being sarcastic. Didn’t know the iPad Pro isn’t made of recycled aluminum though, so it has even less justification for how soft and bendable it is.

The Aluminium recycling is more Apple marketing than an actual achievement. About a third of Aluminum in the USA comes from recycling for instance and it is higher elsewhere. It doesn’t lose strength through recycling as far as I am aware as it’s refined back to pure aluminium.

Aluminium recycling is relatively straightforward and far less energy intensive than extracting Aluminium from ore via electrolysis.

I’m by no means an aluminum expert, but I have helped design a few aluminum products, and can say that there are a million different types of aluminum alloys. It could have all sorts of different additive elements and in various percentages. So, recycling aluminum in order to achieve high quality aluminum is seemingly difficult. If Apple is getting a really high quality aluminum, I’d say they’re very specific in their choice of recycled aluminum, or they did something pretty special in their refinement process, or it’s not high quality aluminum.

I’m not familiar with the industry specifically, but I would expect that the aluminum recycling industry would generally stream their inputs by the expected grade. While there will be minor deviations, this seems like a pretty easy starting point and would significantly improve quality and presumably the selling price of the recycled output.

A lot of the major products are fairly straightforward. i.e. Drink cans and many other sheet products are 3xxx series. The majority of structural and architectural aluminum (and probably most Apple products) are 606x series, as is piping and electrical. These are by far the two most common commercial grades of aluminum.

What is commonly called "aircraft grade aluminum" in advertisements is almost always just commodity 6061. Ultra-high strength alloys like 2024 that are used for aircraft body panels have too many liabilities (not weldable, prone to corrosion without treatment, expensive) and 7075 and scandium-based alloys are simply too expensive for consumer products (except high-end sports equipment like bicycles). This is especially true for a company like Apple that is famously extremely margin-sensitive and cuts production costs religiously.

Actually, no.

There are basically 9 series of Aluminum alloy classes, each series has specific properties and sometimes specific metals it alloys with.
Apple uses aluminum for 2 reasons: It´s very cheap (some alloys are cheaper than plastic in fact) and it feels premium because it feels cold. The better a metal conducts heat the cooler it feels because it transports heat away from your fingers.
If Apples intention were indeed to build a durable and premium device they would use Magenesium alloys. Lenovo and Microsoft (Surface) use magnesium alloys exactly for that reason. Magnesium is very light (aournd 30% lighter than most aluminum alloys), it´s alloys (some) offer more strength than aluminum used in most electronics.

There are however some cons:
- it´s a lot more expensive. Aluminum can easily be cast, magnesium ist a lot harder to work with. Magnesium crystalizes in contact with oxygen, so it has to be cast in the absence of oxygen.
- most subjects think magnesium feels like plastic. It has a lower heat conductivity and will thus feel warmer, more like plastic.

These 2 are the main reason Apple cheaps out and uses one of the cheapest material (remember beer cans? Yeh….those made out of aluminum because it´s so goddamn cheap). Even if (and from what I know, noone knows) use 7000 series aluminum, it´s still a very cheap option.

Apple started the trend telling us that one of the cheapest metals around is premium.
I respect Lenovo and Microsoft for the use of magnesium because it is a superior and a lot more expensive metal. They do so although the average joe will think it´s plastic, and that shows even more that those 2 companies seem to care more about the products quality rather than tell the customers at each and every marketing show that their product is "premium".

And the above explains why their products are easily bendable. It´s just one of aluminums properties and unless they use a lot more expensive alloys or switch to magnesium, they will stay bendable.

PS: Magnesium is used in super sports cars, Formula 1 etc because it is very light and strong.

It bends because it is made of aleu-min-ium. Wouldn’t if it was made of a block of aluminum. Design over function. Thin like paper → bend like paper.

Aluminium is the most abundant metal on (In) the planet. If you are going to recycle something, it should be something that we are in short supply of.

What?!
Are you saying we shouldn’t recycle aluminum?
We’ll just dump it in a landfill, right?

This is completely wrongheaded and discounts the energy used to extract aluminum and process it.

Do you have any idea how much energy goes into smelting new Aluminium vs recycled?Recycled Alu uses about 90-95% less than extracting new ore.

Didn’t appreciate that, its a fair point!

I was thinking about all the rare earth elements which should be recycled, by are not (or cannot be currently)

Rare Earth Elements are not rare at all.

People need to stop with this Steve Jobs BS. Scratched iPod Nanos was another issue during his era and Apple told us to just put a case on it. They ended up settling a class action.

https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-reaches-22-5-million-settlement-in-nano-scratch-suit/

Not defending Apple for sure, but I think the difference here is that the scratches happened after they were shipped. With this iPad Pro they come "pre bent" and are saying that’s normal which is total crap. I’m sure if the iPod Nanos came scratched you could get an exchange no problem back then but thats not how that happened.

Another issue I noticed was crooked screens on the iPod nano "fatty." I took it back to the Apple store and the employee acted like he couldn’t see it (it was painfully obvious) but they did agree to swap it out. He brought out another and it had the same issue (they had the clear plastic packaging so you could see the iPod). I had them bring me out about 15 before I found one that didn’t have the issue. Maybe it was a bad batch, but it made me second-guess the narrative of such high quality standards at Apple.

I think folks idolize Jobs a bit too much. This is the man who shipped a phone that got horrible reception and blamed the customers for "holding it wrong."

That’s bullshit because when the iPhone 4 shipped with a defect he blamed the users—said they were holding it wrong.

Apple didn’t do a recall, they instead sent people a "free" case.

Yeah, and only 14 % of people took one because they didn’t see it as a problem.

Or because they were too lazy to go out of their way to get one.

You could call or ask for one on the website to be mailed to you. How lazy would you have to be if it was genuinely an issue? I still see dozens of iPhone 4 in use an most are without cases

How do you know they’re iPhone 4 as opposed to an iPhone 4S?

Um dude, that’s still a huge number of people. Think about how many people buy iPhones.

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