As much as we’d all like to leave 2018 firmly in the past where it belongs, Apple can’t seem to shake one pesky problem from the prior year: bendgate.
The company has delivered yet another explanation for the slight bend some users have noted in the latest generation of iPad Pro. The trouble started in November, shortly after the tablet launched, when a video of someone easily folding a Pro in half went viral.
Apple addressed the situation in mid-December, noting that the warping people had noticed was a product of the device’s manufacturing process — but it’s not a defect. A few days after that, an Apple exec responded to a customer support request with a more involved explanation.
The same email noted that a more official, public response would be coming. It never surfaced, not even after we reached out for comment, but it’s important to note that all of this unfolded just a couple days before Christmas.
Now, just a few days into the new year, Apple’s most detailed explanation yet is available, in the form of a support doc posted on the company’s website.
The issue, according to Apple, relates specifically to LTE-capable models of iPad Pro. The process of building cellular bands into each unit is what leaves them prone to a slight bending. Though the doc also notes that Apple’s “flatness specification,” which dictates how much of a bend is acceptable, is smaller than it’s ever been.
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.
These precision manufacturing techniques and a rigorous inspection process ensure that these new iPad Pro models meet an even tighter specification for flatness than previous generations. 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. The new straight edges and the presence of the antenna splits may make subtle deviations in flatness more visible only from certain viewing angles that are imperceptible during normal use. These small variances do not affect the strength of the enclosure or the function of the product and will not change over time through normal use.
There’s a bit of a mental leap required here: the flatness specification may be smaller than ever before, but iPad flatness hasn’t ever really been an issue until now.
The support doc ends with Apple reiterating its standard 14-day return policy for products purchased directly from the company. In other words: this is still a non-issue in Apple’s eyes.