MacBook M1 screens are reportedly cracking without warning

Apple MacBook Air M1 (late 2020) review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Multiple reports have emerged suggesting that both the MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1's screens could be fragile enough to crack under normal use.

Discussion threads have popped up on both Reddit and Apple’s own support community, with multiple accounts outlining similar cases. After closing their laptops, owners reported reopening them later to be greeted by cracks, black lines and discoloration on their panels.  

“My 17yr old daughter was at her desk, working on her MacBook Pro (M1 display) and shut it to take a break,” a typical report begins. “When she went back to work, on opening the device she noticed that the bottom of the display was covered by flickering black and white lines and that there were also perpendicular coloured lines on the left hand side of the screen.”

Another wrote about a similar experience with their M1 MacBook Air: “The screen cracked for no apparent reason. I left my computer on the top of my desk during the night, and the next day I opened it, the screen had two small cracks on the right, which damaged the functioning of the screen.”

For one user, it’s apparently happened more than once. “It happened again. Now 2nd time in 2 months since I purchased the MacAir.”

Apple's responses vary according to users

If you have this happen to you, it’s not clear what the response from Apple will be. Users report different responses from the company, ranging from a no-questions-asked free repair, all the way up to a charge of between $400 and $800 for a new screen installation.

So far, however, Apple has yet to comment publicly on this issue. We are reaching out for comment and will update this story should we hear back.

For 9to5Mac reader Ian Probert, the company hedged its bets, asking for £570 (~$790) for the repair, with the understanding that a refund would be issued if technicians decided he had really done nothing to cause the damage himself. It’s not clear how this would be ascertained.

Why are MacBooks reportedly cracking?

So what’s causing the phantom MacBook cracks? Two possibilities seem likely. One is that the screen is flexing as the lid is moved, with one user suggesting that the frame may simply be too thin to protect the fragile frame from torque force as it’s closed. Another is that the affected laptops have debris on the keyboard, which pushes into the screen when closed causing cracks to appear.

The second possibility sounds plausible, given last year Apple warned MacBook owners not to use webcam privacy shields, because it reduces the clearance between the keyboard and panel.

One user says that this is the explanation Apple support provided when taking their laptop in for a service. “Took the Mac to the Apple store and was told right off the bat ‘I will tell you what you did here’ and it was explained how I must have closed the lid on something,” the buyer wrote. “When I said that did not happen they said I must have pushed down on it or held it wrong.”

Obviously, anonymous internet stories shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value and, even if they are all accurate. But the sheer number of familiar sounding accounts means that Apple could have a real problem on its hands here, and it may have to reassess how it treats victims of display faults.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.