Apple appears to have fixed a serious and expensive screen backlighting problem in its premium MacBook Pro laptops, but only in its latest machines, leaving prior customers in the lurch. Independent repair shop iFixit notes that Apple has lengthened an easily damaged, flexible display cable in an attempt to reduce its failure rate, which due to the design requires a complete screen replacement — a $600 to $700 expense for affected users.
The “Flexgate” issue was highly publicized this January, after iFixit spotlighted a website and petition discussing the issue. Starting in 2016, MacBook Pro laptops used an ultra-thin, fragile display cable that moves back and forth every time the lid is opened, repositioned, and closed. Over time, the cable will fail, first causing the screen’s backlights to exhibit an uneven “stage light effect,” then shut off altogether when the lid opens beyond a specific angle.
Ideally, the inexpensive cable would have been easily replaceable, costing $5 or $6 to fix. But Apple permanently attaches the cable to the screen — a design decision it continued with 2017 and 2018 updates to the MacBook Pro. Following a user tip, iFixit discovered that the cables in at least some 2018 models are 2mm longer than before, which the repair shop says is “significant because it gives the backlight cable more room to wrap around the board,” rather than rubbing against another component whenever the lid is at a greater than 90-degree angle.
iFixit isn’t sure whether the change will actually stop the cable from failing or merely delay the onset of the problem — a year or two of real-world repair requests will establish how much the fix has changed. But in any case, Apple still hasn’t officially acknowledged the issue or offered warranty repair extensions to 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro users with screen problems, and it has allegedly deleted support threads discussing the problem.
As of today, over 13,650 people have signed the aforementioned petition to get Apple to address the issue for all affected users. During 2018 alone, the company launched repair programs to address problems with MacBook Pro keyboards, solid state drives, and batteries, though some of the issues were limited to the company’s entry-level, non-Touch Bar version of the laptop.