Does Apple’s iPad Pro fail the cracked screen test?

The super-slim tablet is said by some to crack too easily. And when the tech giant charges £566 for a repair, is it being unfair?

Apple’s swishest iPad yet – the ultra-slim Pro – is thinner, lighter and has an “amazing screen”, according to reviews. But some buyers are finding that the screens crack too easily and are flabbergasted when Apple demands £556 to repair it.

One customer, Londoner Jonathan Hassid, paid £1,086 for his 12.9 inch iPad Pro, plus £150 for Apple’s own screen protector. But just three months later the iPad developed a crack on its screen, even though, Hassid says, it had never been bashed or dropped. What stunned him was the reaction from Apple.

The businessman, who spends several weeks at a time in Italy, taking his iPad with him, now questions whether the super-thin tablet is robust enough to be carried around and, in the words of the Consumer Rights Act, is “fit for purpose”. He also wants to know how the company can justify such a high repair bill for something he reckons is likely to happen to many other buyers.

Apple launched the Pro just under a year ago, claiming that it offered the thinnest and lightest iPad screen yet. It is now sold in two sizes – one with a 9.7-inch screen and the larger 12.9-inch. It is set to be upgraded in the next few weeks when the Pro 2 is launched.

In May, Hassid chose the then most expensive Pro and paid the Apple website £1,086 for the 256GB version, plus extra for the screen-protecting cover.

He says he used the iPad normally – although he admits he let his children use it to watch films – and says he was bemused to open the cover a few months into his ownership to see a large crack in the screen.

“Obviously, I can’t be certain that we didn’t cause it, but there is no evidence of any other damage. What shocked me was the reaction of the AppleCare person when I called.

“They were utterly contemptuous on the phone, refusing to countenance the idea that the crack may be a manufacturing defect or offering any practical help other than telling me to give them £556 for the repair. Having patronised me, they eventually hung up,” he says.

A search of the web suggests Hassid is not alone, although the number of people complaining about cracked screens is few, relative to the number of sales. For some people Apple has replaced them free of charge, while others are told they must pay.

The recently refurbished Apple store on London’s Regent Street.
The recently refurbished Apple store on London’s Regent Street. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

“I have had three iPads that have taken much abuse and never cracked a screen. The iPad Pro is very flimsy and has a weak screen,” wrote one customer on Apple’s discussion page.

Another reported buying her husband one for Christmas and, by Boxing Day, it had cracked. “We did NOT drop it and placed it straight into a protective case, and we can only figure that the case itself (made of plastic) has exerted enough pressure to cause the screen to crack in one place then another … Apple wanted me to pay 80% of the cost to replace it, this is all within a five-day period. I definitely think there are some serious quality issues. Is one meant to wrap the device up in cotton wool?” she asked.

Kyle Wiens, who runs iFixit.com, a US-based website that helps tech fans repair their products, notes the original iPads had a much thicker screen.

“Apple is making a trade-off between thinness and durability. They want it to be light enough so you can hold it with one hand without tiring, but that comes at a cost. The part is expensive because you have to buy a new LCD, as well as the glass.

“We always mention this in our repairability scores when the device comes out. But, alas, people tend to ignore our scores and buy them anyway,” he says.

A spokesman for Apple told Guardian Money: “It’s always been the case that we need to inspect units to assess damage. Looking at them helps determine the extent of the repair, and get an understanding of whether there’s a material defect or other mechanical failure under warranty. Customers can send it to us or visit an Apple store or authorised repair centre. In the event damage is not found to be accidental, we will repair or replace the device without fee.”

He defended the high cost of repairs and said this is a result of the screen’s sophistication. He also pointed out that the company offers AppleCare+ for iPad – an £89 insurance product that provides up to two incidents of accidental damage, subject to a £39 excess.

Meanwhile, following Money’s intervention, Hassid was invited to take his cracked Pro into the Rome Apple store, where staff were much more helpful and have agreed to replace it for free.

“Obviously, I am relieved that I will be getting a new one, but I still think this needs to be aired. A tablet is designed to be carried around, but is this one up to it? I’d like to know how Apple thinks it is reasonable to design a product in this way. I was told the glass can no longer be replaced, instead the whole unit must be chucked in the bin and replaced. If this is true then I think this is utterly outrageous from both a consumer and environmental perspective – it’s absurd,” he says.

Peeling away the prices at Apple

Out-of-warranty screen repairs to an iPad Pro may set the price bar eye-wateringly high, but it doesn’t end there with Apple.

In most cases, if you are happy to look beyond branded items there are cheaper alternatives both for repairs and Apple compatible add-ons.

Male hand holding iPhone

iPad Pro 12.9-inch smart cover

Apple: £59

eBay: £10

A basic smart cover for this iPad will set you back £59 on the Apple website, but on eBay or Amazon they typically cost between £10 and £15, and in some cases less. Some will wonder if they come from the same Chinese factory.

USB/Lightning cable (1m)

Apple: £19

eBay: £2.08

This is one of the prices that really annoys customers – how much money does Apple make out of charging £19 (£35 for the 2m version) for a cable that costs just £2 elsewhere? Ironically, if you think paying Apple £19 will at least guarantee a decent product, think again. Some buyers report that their cable only worked for a few weeks/months before they had to buy another.

iPhone 5 replacement screen

Apple: £126

iMend.com: £60

Apple Mac computer mouse with a medical plasters

Why pay Apple £126 to replace the screen on your iPhone 5 – or £255 if the local genius deems there is additional damage. Instead, why not take it to a third-party repairer such as iMend.com, which will charge you £60 if you send it in or, for £75, will send out its local techie who will carry out the repair at your home or workplace. The same company quoted £350 this week to repair the screen on an iPad Pro 12.9 – again, a big saving on the £556 Apple wanted, although in this case you have to send it in for repair.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch smart keyboard

Apple: £169

Logitech: £110

Switch from Apple to the well-regarded Logitech keyboard and you will save almost £60 (or 35%), plus you get a two-year warranty.

Headphone adapter iPhone 7

Apple: £9

eBay: £3.60

The latest iPhone has ditched the old 3.5mm headphone socket, meaning you need one of these to use your favourite old headphones. Lose yours and Apple wants £9. Head elsewhere and you’ll pay less than half price.

Mac Mouse

Apple: £40

Logitech: £9.80

Mac users who want to replace their traditional mouse will face a £40 bill at Apple, while the wizzier Magic Mouse 2 will set them back £65. The popular Logitech B100 is an Amazon best-seller for £6.12 in black or £9.80 if you prefer a matching white model. Apple’s own Magic Mouse 2 is £55 on Amazon.

Contributor

Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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