'Bent' iPad Pro: What you need to know

iPad Pro (2018)
iPad Pro (2018) (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

January 5, 2019: Apple posts support document on iPad "bending"

A new article has been added to Apple's support site, stating:

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.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.

December 21, 2018: Dan Riccio, Apple's Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, addresses iPad "bending" in email

Apple's Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Dan Riccio sent out a bevy of what appear to be identical emails today, responding to customers:

Relative to the issue you referenced regarding the new iPad Pro, its unibody design meets or exceeds all of Apple's high quality standards of design and precision manufacturing. We've carefully engineered it and every part of the manufacturing process is precisely measured and controlled.Our current specification for iPad Pro flatness is up to 400 microns which is even tighter than previous generations. This 400 micron variance is less than half a millimeter (or the width of fewer than four sheets of paper at most) and this level of flatness won't change during normal use over the lifetime of the product. Note, these slight variations do not affect the function of the device in any way.

December 19, 2018: Apple confirms iPad manufacturing variances, internet conflates them with people bending iPads

It started with Chris Welch at 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.

Apple comms is typically really good at this kind of stuff and Chris is terrific but, in this case, I think there was some broken telephone between what Apple said and how it got written up. I'm not sure if it was on Apple's end, Chris' end, or somewhere in between, but, somehow, there was some conflation between what Apple's calling "manufacturing variances" and what many are now calling "bent".

To be clear: This isn't about people taking iPads and brute-force bending them or iPads that somehow get bent after they're manufactured but before they're sold or open. Metal bends, plastic cracks, glass breaks, and ceramics shatter. And, at the risk of science-splaining, that's just how materials work.

What's being talked about here are iPads that come with what I'd call a curve in them straight from the factory.

What you need to know

I'll say this part first because it's unpopular to speak truth to internet, since it'll often get you labeled a "fanboy" or "apologist", and it's much easier to just meld with the mob mentality: If Apple ever really did say bent iPads were normal or refused to address an issue like that when it came up, I'd be out helping sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches. And I say that as someone who lived through antenna-gate with the iPhone 4, "you're holding it wrong", and "everyone gets a bumper".

But I will also point out the the original reporting on this got muddled up, re-blogged, hot-taked, and rage-posted across the blogs and YouTube, and almost everyone was happier to rant that it was outrageous and didn't make sense, and precious few seemed to actually stop, wonder why it didn't make any sense and sounded so outrageous, and then do the work to figure it out before passing it along. And that's no good for anyone.

So here's that truth, internet: Based on what I can tell, Apple has been consistent on this from the start: Some degree of variance (not bend) is 'normal' due to manufacturing methods, but if anyone has any issue at all with the amount of variance on their iPad, or thinks their iPad is actually bent beyond what any tiny variance would account for, they should take it back to Apple.

My 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2018 is just fine, but my 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2017 has a slight curve to it. I didn't even notice until I, in light of all the brouhaha, I just now went and checked. It never affected my daily use at all, ever, in any way. My 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 also had a slight curve to it that I did notice but I was always too busy or lazy to take it back so I ended up living with it and it also never affected anything in daily use.

I did have a MacBook Pro that wouldn't sit flat on a table and that bugged the ever-loving stuffing out of me, so I did take it back and Apple ended up swapping out the bottom part of the chassis and it was just fine after that. (The Genius didn't buy my assertion that Adobe Flash ran so hot on the machine it must have warped the metal, but still happily covered it under AppleCare.)

If I ever do come across an iPad that is curved due to manufacturing variance or looks bent based on actions not my own, and it annoys me or prevents me from using and enjoying it properly, at all, ever, you better believe I'd take it back in a heartbeat.

As to the claims that this is yet another sign of the failing of Apple post Steve Jobs. Oh, sweet babies, you didn't live through the discoloring and cracking plastic MacBooks and iPhone 3G eras did you?

No management team, vendor, or material is immune to the laws of chemistry and physics. Not old Apple. Not new Apple. Not not Apple. It really is just the cost of designing and manufacturing ever-new devices at ever-increasing scales. And, yup, next-generation devices almost always fix things based on what happened before, and introduce new issues based on attempting what comes next. That's how all of this works.

So, long story long, if you get or have an iPad Pro and anything (not including the camera bump) affects its ability to lie flat on a table or sit in a Smart Keyboard Folio, take it back and have it swapped or fixed. If it's not anything that affects your daily use, you couldn't care less, or it isn't even noticeable to you, then, great, you do you and keep on keeping on.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.