Retina MacBook Pro owners plagued by supposed screen coating damage, call on Apple to take action

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited October 2015
A small cadre of Retina MacBook Pro owners are calling for Apple to replace or repair their laptops after discovering what appears to be irreparable damage to an antireflective screen coating layer, a problem the group has dubbed "staingate."



Staingate problems manifest in splotches, streaks and other surface anomalies attributed to faults in the antireflective coating applied to a Retina MacBook's display surface. The origin of this "staining" is unknown, though some have speculated a combination of high humidity and over cleaning might be contributing factors.

Judging from pictures posted to Staingate.org and a related Facebook community, both set up to track and compile data from affected users' machines, marring seems to present itself when a screen comes into contact with foreign objects like keyboard keys or a user's fingers. In many instances the "stains" crop up in the periphery, especially in corners and areas one might expect to be frequently touched.

For example, multiple affected MacBooks exhibit streaking near the FaceTime camera, an area often touched -- and consequently cleaned -- when opening the laptop. More severe cases, like the example pictured above, show damage across the screen's entire viewable area.

It is not yet clear how many MacBooks are suffer from "staingate" issues, but it seems to be limited to recent-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display models, especially those built in 2013.

In an anecdotal report provided to the BBC, one affected user claims Apple put a cap on screen-related AppleCare repairs after replacing his panel two times in as many years. A previous screen replacement lasted only one month before exhibiting the same problems, the person said.

Apple has yet to recognize the problem officially, but reportedly told members of Staingate.org that it is "cosmetic damage and it is not covered by the warranty." Out-of-warranty repairs can come in at a hefty $800 depending on screen size, Staingate.org said.

A Change.org petition was started five months ago in hopes of rallying support to force Apple into action and is currently about 580 participants shy of a 2,500-signature goal. In addition, law firm Whitfield Bryson & Mason reached out to the Staingate Facebook Community to explore the group's legal options.

Apple faced similar pressure from its customers in 2013 over a rash of early-2011 MacBook Pro failures linked to malfunctioning discrete GPUs. After ignoring multiple calls to fix the growing problem, Apple was hit with a class-action lawsuit before initiating a repair extension program in February.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,154member
    Horse-shit. No way the above photo happened through natural causes or proper care. Clearly the person was rubbing the hell out of it with God knows what. Also, less than 2K signs in 6 months? That's meaningless. A big percentage of those probably aren't even legit, and signed by trolls who don't even own the product. Yeah, this isn't a thing, no matter how hard blogs try to push it, including sites like this.
  • Reply 2 of 70
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,975member
    Looks like they used an acetone-based cleaner or something. I learned not to do that with my old 17" ColorSync back in the day. :/
    1st
  • Reply 3 of 70
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member

    Fortunately the issue isn't apparent when the screen is on.

     

    That said some of the damage shown does not appear to be related to users carelessness (e.g. using corrosive cleaners), while other damage seems to have been worsened by rubbing or created by the user. Looking through the website shows quite a range of different faults, clearly they're not all from the same source.

     

    While externally it may appear that Apple is silent on the issue, as with all other small-scale faults, Apple investigate to find out if there is a pattern (e.g a bad batch) and follow up accordingly. If there is a genuine fault they do their familiar recall/replacement programs.

     

    What seems to be neglected is that the volume of computers sold by Apple (and other large companies) mean that when small scale faults like this do pop up. They represent a fraction-of-a-fraction of units, a figure that is actually below the threshold of natural wear and tear or natural user-error, and as such: quite a bit of investigating is needed, otherwise the programs get exploited by people who are not genuine.

     

    It's not to sound apologist, but rather just a reflection of the reality of how these scenarios pan out. Also this isn't a new thing for antireflective coatings - all apple screens come with a printed warning (as do the manuals) instructing the user to only clean the screen with a moistened cloth.

  • Reply 4 of 70
    pistispistis Posts: 247member
    slurpy wrote: »
    Horse-shit. No way the above photo happened through natural causes or proper care. Clearly the person was rubbing the hell out of it with God knows what. Also, less than 2K signs in 6 months? That's meaningless. A big percentage of those probably aren't even legit, and signed by trolls who don't even own the product. Yeah, this isn't a thing, no matter how hard blogs try to push it, including sites like this.

    Horse shit ? Is that a technical term for it, yup putting horse shit on the screen would probably cause this damage.
  • Reply 5 of 70
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,162member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post



    Horse-shit. No way the above photo happened through natural causes or proper care. Clearly the person was rubbing the hell out of it with God knows what. Also, less than 2K signs in 6 months? That's meaningless. A big percentage of those probably aren't even legit, and signed by trolls who don't even own the product. Yeah, this isn't a thing, no matter how hard blogs try to push it, including sites like this.



    People do crazy things. There are threads on the Apple Discussion Forums from users claiming their Apple Watch crystals scratched with no action on their part. Some actually used abrasives to get rid of the oleophobic coating they claimed was the problem. They said they rubbed hard for hours to get down to the actual sapphire. Complete nut jobs.

  • Reply 6 of 70
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    This was reported LAST year, and found to impact very few people. It didn't get traction then either.. news / blogs just ate it up because it was another 'gate' to harp on..
  • Reply 7 of 70
    friedmudfriedmud Posts: 160member
    No way. I work on a computational science team of 50. We are exclusively Mac based: both laptops and workstations.

    Over the years we've owned several hundred Mac laptops. We've already owned ~100 Retina Macbook Pros (we stay current because our computers are our main tools).

    That's not a huge sample size... but I can still say that I've never seen anything like this. There is simply no way that this is "normal" in any sense of the word... and it definitely isn't approaching "gate" status.

    However this was done they definitely did it themselves.
  • Reply 8 of 70
    aimacaimac Posts: 4member
    This actually happened to my late-2013 retina MacBookPro. I started noticing it about 6 months ago. It's nowhere near as bad as the picture posted though. Mine is right next to the camera lens. Luckily, it's not over the lens itself, or I would probably to complain to Apple. And luckily it's not over any of the pixels, only the black edge above the screen (would have to complain to Apple there too). It's right on the spot that my thumb touches when I open the lid, which makes me wonder, because I've never used any abrasive cleaner on it, just a slightly damp cloth to clean.
  • Reply 9 of 70
    aimbddaimbdd Posts: 46member
    Oh wow... I thought I just needed to clean my screen again! Mines doing it too... And I don't EVER touch my screen, and only use the same cleaner as Apple, and only clean my screen two or three times a year. Although my damage is very small, and looks like it's from the keyboard rubbing on the screen. Hopefully Apple addresses this issue.
  • Reply 10 of 70
    kkapoorkkapoor Posts: 19member

    Unfortunately, this is a fairly common issue on Retina screens. The picture provided is an extreme example and doesn't represent the average user facing this problem. I have minor version of this issue on my early 2013 15" retina and have just ignored it though I plan to take it into the Apple Store to address alongside the recall issue regarding random reboots and graphics tearing. I'm glad my Applecare is valid until Feb 2016 but I won't accept that this is user error in any way. There is clearly an issue with the anti-reflective coating on the some retina screens.   

  • Reply 11 of 70
    Sorry Slurpy, this is very much not "horseshit."

    I am getting this around the half-inch "bezel" of my 2013 13" retina book screen. -- a mild case compared to that photo, so i have had no need to address it. I never, ever touch the screen.

    I am, however, skeptical that it is a stain or due to touching. It looks like it's under the glass. My money is on some sort of glue or adhesive holding the layers of the panel together.

    I do live in an area with moderately high humidity, though. Where is your lab, Friedmud?
  • Reply 12 of 70
    maztecmaztec Posts: 6member
    This problem is caused by delamination of the screen. It happened to my Retina MacBook Pro 2012. It started as a small spot, a burst pixel on the screen that pushed through the laminate. After a year I had a second burst pixel on the other side of the screen. You could literally feel the burst pixel and when put under a magnifying glass it was obvious that the screen was pock marked. I did nothing to cause it. However, when wiping the screen clean, water would seep in through these small divots, between the screen and the laminate. Over time this resulted in water spreading under the laminate and causing it to come away from the screen -- delaminate. Eventually my screen looked very much like the one at the top.

    Based on that experience I have looked at other people's screens who have delaminated. It appears they always start near a scratch, blown pixel, or an edge that may not have been sealed properly. Then over time basic water -- no special chemicals necessary -- seeps in between the screen and laminate through the breaks in the surface. As a result it just gets worse and worse over time.

    I would say that these issues fall into several categories:
    a) poorly sealed edges
    b) burst pixels
    c) punctured/scratched screens caused by poor lamination or user negligence

    Apple eventually replaced my screen, but they made it clear they would not do so for the delamination. It was replaced because of multiple dead pixels, including the two bright and center burst pixels that started the whole delamination process.

    It may be that some screens are not bonded as well to the laminate and as a result it shows up quicker or at all. It also seems to be a result of the retina screens that do not have the traditional glass/matte cover over them that Apple used to put on: perhaps a producto f making everything thinner.
  • Reply 13 of 70
    cowasakicowasaki Posts: 32member
    It happened to mine but nowhere near as badly as that. I had one 4cm by 0.5cm patch and several 0.5cm2 patches. I rang Applecare and they told me to take it into the store. I took it in with the power supply as the plug was looking dodgy and went to do some shopping. 45 minutes later I got a call and they had replaced the screen/lid and the power supply. It looked as good as new and they never quibbled about any of it. I've always found the Applecare brilliant. They also replaced the battery 6 months before that again without any quibbling at all.
  • Reply 14 of 70
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by friedmud View Post



    No way. I work on a computational science team of 50. We are exclusively Mac based: both laptops and workstations.



    Over the years we've owned several hundred Mac laptops. We've already owned ~100 Retina Macbook Pros (we stay current because our computers are our main tools).



    That's not a huge sample size... but I can still say that I've never seen anything like this. There is simply no way that this is "normal" in any sense of the word... and it definitely isn't approaching "gate" status.



    However this was done they definitely did it themselves.



    How incredibly unscientific of you.  Is your work environment climate controlled?  Are your devices exposed to significant heat, humidity and/or atmospheric pollutants?

     

    I have a 2012 MBPR and the screen is fine, but I don't discount the possibility that people living in hot climates with high humidity and pollution levels might experience problems I don't.

     

    You don't know the cause of this problem yet you are quite willing to state it's the users fault.  Exactly how do you know this?

  • Reply 15 of 70
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,223moderator
    maztec wrote: »
    This problem is caused by delamination of the screen. It happened to my Retina MacBook Pro 2012. It started as a small spot, a burst pixel on the screen that pushed through the laminate. After a year I had a second burst pixel on the other side of the screen. You could literally feel the burst pixel and when put under a magnifying glass it was obvious that the screen was pock marked. I did nothing to cause it. However, when wiping the screen clean, water would seep in through these small divots, between the screen and the laminate. Over time this resulted in water spreading under the laminate and causing it to come away from the screen -- delaminate. Eventually my screen looked very much like the one at the top.

    The cover glass is laminated to the panel. For water to get underneath it in the middle, the glass would have to be broken, not just scratched.

    If the AR coating is just getting damaged, Apple should have a cheaper repair option. They can remove the entire coating and just let them use it like older glossy displays or they can take off the panel, give them a refurbished one and recoat the damaged panel to refurbish other models.

    Someone here damages the coating in real-time with water:


    [VIDEO]


    At 2:05, he's rubbing quite hard with the damp cloth on the edge and leaving a permanent mark.

    It would be a good idea to avoid using any liquids to clean the displays, just a dry cloth. This is harder to avoid if something is sprayed on the display.

    Some people used their machines in clamshell mode, which might affect the display lamination.

    For so few complaints, I would think Apple would just replace the top shells like they do with iPhone replacements. Say that 10,000 units were affected within 3 years of ownership of a particular model and the display unit costs them $300 new, that's $3m out of a run of about 15 million units on which they'd make about $18b revenue / $4.5b net profit and they'd get the bad panels back to be able to refurbish/recoat them.
    hmm
  • Reply 16 of 70
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,744member
    What I do to clean the display is simply spot-clean with a damp to very mildly wet cloth, and just very *gently* rub only small areas that show dirt or spots under reflected light.

    I do this for a large Sammy LCD display as well as for my early 2008 MacBook Pro's display. If I need to get close to the edges I only use a mildly damp cloth and just gently drag it around.

    All this is to say that's it's usually a bad idea to do full-on wipes with wet cloths, especially at the edges where the bezel meets the screen.
  • Reply 17 of 70
    It might be happening to a small sample, and that's all the more reason Apple should fix it on a case by case basis. It doesn't sound like it warrants class action. The Xbox RRoD was a full-on "gate" that was impossible to deny, but this "staingate" sounds like a manufactured controversy.
  • Reply 18 of 70
    friedmudfriedmud Posts: 160member
    cnocbui wrote: »
    How incredibly unscientific of you.  Is your work environment climate controlled?  Are your devices exposed to significant heat, humidity and/or atmospheric pollutants?

    I have a 2012 MBPR and the screen is fine, but I don't discount the possibility that people living in hot climates with high humidity and pollution levels might experience problems I don't.

    You don't know the cause of this problem yet you are quite willing to state it's the users fault.  Exactly how do you know this?

    Not unscientific at all. I stated my sample size and my population bias (Scientist owners). Then stated my conclusion based on the data I have seen: this has never happened to any of our MacBook pros therefore I don't suspect it to be a systemic failure (a fault with the hardware), that leaves environmental failure on the table (ie the user).

    You now know my data, experiment and results and are free to show otherwise with alternative data.

    This is certainly more scientific than one person screwing up their screen and screaming "screen-gate"!

    As for your specific question, our laptops are used all over the world, in many different climates and situations.
  • Reply 19 of 70
    xixoxixo Posts: 422member

    "Apple faced similar pressure from its customers in 2013 over a rash of early-2011 MacBook Pro failures linked to malfunctioning discrete GPUs. After ignoring multiple calls to fix the growing problem, Apple was hit with a class-action lawsuit before initiating a repair extension program in February."

     

    My wife and I went to the Geniurd Bar more than seven times regarding this issue (freezing, fans running all the time, s l o w performance). The whole time, despite this issue being reported widely in the media, the Geniurds stated over and over again that this was no known common issue for the 2011MBP.

     

    On the 5th visit, after the Geniurds telling me to 'reinstall the system' over and over again while implying there was nothing wrong, diagnostic tests 'showing no issues', Mavericks installation finally manifested an undeniable failure that was not random, as it had been in 10.6, 10.7, 10.8

     

    MB replaced under warranty, but then after 4 months it died again in exactly the same way - oops, party over, out of time.

     

    6th visit, 'it's not under warranty anymore - $700 to fix" - no thanks.

     

    7th visit, 'it's not under warranty anymore - $350 to fix"  - left store angry.

     

    I sold it on eBay for $150 and wrote it off.

     

    Bought a MacMini server, which now also has videocard issues, the serial number 'disappeared', and it randomly freezes. It's under AppleCare but right now I cannot afford to be without it for even a week. Apple had me on the phone for several hours trying different things before finally admitting there was a problem and it would need a new motherboard 'after we confirm this diagnosis'. Great here we go again. 

     

    Now they come back and admit there was a problem the with 2011MBP after all and they'll fix it - yeah great whatever, doesn't help me at all. They're like the Army & agent orange victims, wait for enough of them to die and pay off the rest.

     

    I need another laptop, but stories like this make me very reluctant to plunk down $4 digits for a new Mac of any kind. Quality control has left the building.

  • Reply 20 of 70
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,096member
    If these people (US based at least) truly believe they have a case and Apple won't fix it, they should read up on the UCC (make sure their state has adopted a form of it. Most if not all have), and go down to their city or county court house and file a small claims court claim against Apple. Read up on the 'fitness for a particular usage' parts of the UCC. Simple and easy to do. I did it against Compaq around 2001 based on. Computer they would not fix that wouldn't recognize memory upgrades from the get go. They claimed the warranty had expired. Once I filed the claim they came and settled.

    They should put their money where their mouths are.
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