Back in January, we reported on an issue that is starting to afflict recent MacBook Pro laptops (2016 and 2017 models). The problem is labeled "flexgate" and refers to the stage light effect that appears at the bottom of the display after typical, everyday use. This is caused by a flex cable (which connects the display panel to the display controller) that eventually is damaged from stretching when the display lid is opened and closed.
To make matters worse, the flex cable isn’t a separate component; it’s built into the display panel. So, if the flex cable fails, you have to replace the entire display panel at a cost of $600 or more. At the time of our initial report, Apple was not commenting at all on the issue (or even acknowledging it), and those with laptops out of warranty had to foot the repair bill themselves.
We’re now learning that Apple has at least acknowledged that it has a problem, but it isn’t doing so publicly. It took the detective work of the teardown gurus at iFixit to examine a newer 2018 MacBook Pro, which has been graced with a longer display flex cable. The flex cable on the 2018 MacBook Pro measures roughly 2mm longer than the 2016 MacBook Pro, which give just enough “play” so that it is not stretched taught when opening the display lid.
“This is significant because it gives the backlight cable more room to wrap around the board and not come into contact with the board as the laptop is opened past 90 degrees,” said iFixit teardown engineer Taylor Dixon. “The longer cable definitely gives more room to breathe around the board, but it’s still in such close contact with the board that it’s impossible to tell whether it’s rubbing on the board at any point.”
iFixit went on to add that since they haven’t experienced a display failure of their own, they aren’t certain if the original failures were due to the cable length or from the cable rubbing up against display controller board.
Whatever the case, it’s still rather disappointing that Apple hasn’t yet instituted a service campaign to take care of MacBook Pro customers that were affected by an obvious design fault – one that should not be presenting itself in such an expensive device. iFixit goes on to state that the fact that Apple lengthened the flex cable in the 2018 MacBook Pro before widespread backlash hit the internet means that it already internally knew about the problems, but did institute a customer-facing program to address it. On top of that, the company has allegedly deleted discussion forum threads that were created by customers to get help regarding the issue.
With that being said, we’re hoping that continued, focused attention on the issue will cause Apple to eventually own up to its design fault and offer free repairs to affected customers. After all, that’s what it took to get the company to own up to butterfly keyboard failures on the MacBook and MacBook Pro.