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MacBooks first notebook line with spill detectors

updated 10:50 am EDT, Thu October 23, 2008

MacBook spill detection

Apple may be looking to thwart people who ask for warranty service on water-damaged computers, the Los Angeles Times suggests. The newspaper reports that Apple's new MacBooks and MacBook Pros contain Liquid Submersion Indicators, which detect whether fluids have made it past the surface of a system. A similar sensor can be found within the iPhone's headset port, as well as in other cellphones, but the MacBooks are said to be the first complete line of notebooks to utilize the technology.

The MacBook sensors are located underneath the keyboard and trackpad, meaning that only a technician or a skilled hobbyist can find them. Apple Store technicians are said to be using them to decide whether or not damage violates AppleCare warranties, which do not cover water damage; manuals for MacBooks explicitly warn people to keep computers dry and avoid "rain, snow and fog."

A potential concern is that LSIs can sometimes be tripped through small incidents, which may cause minor damage but nevertheless invalidate a warranty. A number of third-party repair shops are allegedly forgiving of these cases, however, and will regularly choose to do warranty repair. In the case of the new MacBooks, an anonymous technician suggests that the policy should continue, unless parts have to be sent back to Apple.

by MacNN Staff





  1. Jittery Jimmy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No practical changes.

    This really doesn't change Apple's policy towards warranty repair. Basically, it's the same as always- misuse your Mac by getting the internals wet and toasting your motherboard is not considered a manufacturing defect.

    Auto manufacturers work the same way - ingest water into your car engine? Don't expect a gratis replacement.

    Of course, incidents do happen, and there are third party insurance programs that cover losses like this.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Might be good.

    May we bid a not-so-fond farewell to the "water damage" claims - against people that followed directions and cleaned their screen with a commercial moist cleaning pad - because a bit of residue could be seen on the outside of the display bezel.

  1. PBG4 User

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why Not ...

    Why not try to waterproof the laptop? It isn't like spills into laptops are anything new. Apple should be a leader and spill-proof their laptops instead of adding moisture detectors.

  1. Rolando_jose

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What about...

    How about the use of it in a Really humid country like Panama, Singapore or any tropical like climate where humidity can get up to 80 or even 90%?

  1. simdude

    Joined: Dec 1969



    How about when the sensor detects a spill, the camera takes a covert picture of the panicking person with a tipped over coffee cup? ;-)

    Seriously though, waterproofing a laptop is done. Ruggedized versions usually are. Do a search for the cost of these though and you'll see what it isn't done in general. If you drink near your computer, keep it in a spill resistant cup and be careful. If you eat, well, just don't eat near your computer. I hate going to someone's crumb laden, disgusting keyboard. Take a break and eat at a table.

  1. bp2k7

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I hate these things. My Samsung Blackjack II stopped working and I took it in to at&t to get it exchanged, but the detector had been set off.

    I never spilled anything on my phone or got it wet. I had been in Houston during a particularly hot and humid time when the phone stopped working and I asked them if the phone being in my pocket for several hours in a humid climate could have caused the wetness sensor to be tripped. They said it was a very likely possibility. Ridiculous.

  1. DGFilm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    prevent damage?

    Instead of using this sensor solely to give Apple an excuse not to provide warranty repair, why not use it to prevent damage in the first place?
    Could it not be implemented to cut power to the computer immediately upon detecting moisture?
    I would think that in at least some instances, this would prevent damage, and protect the user instead of just Apple.

  1. dliup

    Joined: Dec 1969


    sensor uses

    The idea is fine. However, it's probably a chemical sensor, not an electric sensor.

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good idea.

    While there are cases of accidental tripping of the sensor, it's far more common that people spill stuff and don't say anything when they send it in. However, it's usually pretty obvious if they spilled anything but pure water on the system.

    The idea of using these sensors to cut power to the machine is flawed. First off, the cost would be much higher for an active sensor than the cheap ink dots that they currently use. Secondly, the placement of the sensors will not detect moisture unless it happens to hit the sensor. It's certainly possible to damage the computer without water hitting the sensor directly.

  1. rtbarry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    @ waterpoofers

    how do you waterproof something that needs ventilation?

    a low power rugged notebook can be reasonably waterproofed, but not something as full-featured as a macbook. ports, speakers, mics, cameras and fans! you want the fan to circulate water as well?

    good luck with that.

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