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Yellow iPad Display Lottery: Apple Customers Shouldn’t Have to Play This Game

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The new iPad has a horrible yellow hue on its Retina Display…or does it? It all depends if you’ve won the iPad display lottery or not. Apple customers shouldn’t have to play the Retina Display lottery when shelling out up to $829 on a new iPad.

A lot of new iPad owners immediately noticed their new iPads had a yellow tint or “warmer” white, especially compared to their older iPads. I did not notice a problem even though I spent all day playing with a shiny new iPad as I wrote our new iPad review. Why not? Because the iPad I bought from a San Francisco Apple store displayed nice bright whites. The Retina display on the black iPad (64GB Verizon 4G LTE) looked absolutely fantastic. In fact, the new iPad display’s whites looked more accurate to me than the whites on my iPad 2, which has a cooler white (blue hue) than the new one.

But that’s not the end of the story. I bought a total of three third-gen iPads for review purposes. I picked up a black 64GB iPad 4G LTE (Verizon) and a white 64GB iPad 4G LTE (AT&T) from the Stownstown Apple store. I used the black Verizon iPad as I wrote the review since I prefer dark bezels and Verizon’s 4G LTE signal is stronger than AT&T’s in my neighborhood. I didn’t the iPad I pre-ordered from Apple until about 8pm on the iPad. After setting up my personal iPad and switching back and forth between all of the iPad floating around my office I began to see what all the fuss was about.

iPad 3 Yellow Retina Display

Good new iPad (top left), iPad 2 (top right), Yellowish New Black iPad (bottom left) and Yellowish New White iPad (bottom right)

As you can see in the above photo, each of the three new iPad displays have a different hue. I set all four, including the lone iPad 2 (top right) to maximum brightness with auto brightness switched off. I shot the photo in a completely dark room.  The iPad 2 (top right) has a bluish hue relative to the new iPad (top left) that I’m using as my personal tablet. The white iPad with AT&T 4G LTE (bottom right) isn’t quite as yellow as the Verizon iPad that I pre-ordered (bottom left), but much more yellow than the black one I bought from the Apple store (top left). I unknowingly won the Retina Display lottery with the Verizon iPad I use the most (top left). Instead of returning or selling it as I’d planned, that iPad is now my personal iPad.

Some people are blaming uncured adhesives, others are blaming manufacturing defects. Whatever the cause, the sample variance is unacceptable. The iPad with the best display out of the bunch happened to have the right capacity, wireless carrier and color. I won the Retina Display lottery by buying three iPads. That’s something that most iPad users don’t have the flexibility nor budgets to do. If you return your yellowish iPad there’s certainly no guarantee you’ll get one you’re happy with. Not to mention you won’t have your old iPad on hand to compare it to.

Many users probably won’t notice the color shift until they compare it to other iPads. However, the yellow displays are enough of a problem to cause people to return them and tarnish Apple’s reputation of consistency. The yellow iPad display issue is very real and Apple needs to do something about it as soon as possible.

Xavier Lanier is the publisher of Gotta Be Mobile and a photographer. He uses too many devices to count, but his current favorites are the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nikon D800 and Sony RX 100M II. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

21 Comments

  1. Mary

    03/26/2012 at 4:36 pm

    This is very similar to the situation with the iPhone 4S. this is not a defect. I have the iPhone and it had the same yellow hue and it disappeared gradually over the next few weeks. also Apple commented at the time that this is a residual from the manufacturing process and that it will disappear.

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/26/2012 at 4:56 pm

      It doesn’t matter if it’s an issue with the adhesive or not. It’s been 11 days since I’ve had all of these iPads and they still look the same. A few more days and we’re going to be outside the 14-day return window. Counting on the issue resolving itself after the return window closes is a gamble iPad owners shouldn’t be forced to take. 
      Maybe the glue will dry clear, maybe it won’t. 

  2. WarnerCrocker

    03/26/2012 at 4:44 pm

    Mary, Like Xavier, I don’t think this is a screen glue issue. I’ve seen this on two new iPads of my own. I really think it is an issue of screens from multiple sources. 

  3. Klopez3709

    03/26/2012 at 5:23 pm

    I returned mine as well and got lucky with replacement. I was initially very disappointed and made a quick trip to the Apple Store. I was not willing to gamble on the issue going away. Too expensive for not having 100% satisfaction.

  4. John

    03/26/2012 at 10:32 pm

    The exposure/aperture settings on your camera were exactly the same on each of the photos you have provided us? Each iPad was on the same amount of time and the display temperatures were near identical?

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/26/2012 at 11:08 pm

      John- Not sure why you’re being so defensive of Apple here. I certainly don’t need Apple’s permission to make observations about what I can see with my own eyes. 

      To answer your question regarding my photo abilities. I certainly know how to take manually set aperture, exposure, and every other setting on my cameras to produce accurate test photos. However there was no need to do so as I shot all four of the iPads in one photo with my iPhone 4S. 

      • John

        03/27/2012 at 9:38 am

        Apple or not, if you are having a problem with any new product you take it back to where you purchased it, or contact the manufacturer. Did you do that before writing this article? What did they tell you? If you expect Apple to “do something about it as soon as possible” then they most likely want to hear about it directly from you and not read about it in some online blog.

        • Xavier Lanier

          03/27/2012 at 10:30 am

          John, plenty of people have told Apple about this problem, including our own Warner Crocker, who returned his iPad. And yes, Apple is taking 2 of the 3 iPads I purchased back. 

          We consistently write about our personal tech experiences here at GottaBeMobile. If we asked permission from manufacturers about what to write about problems with devices it would be a disservice to our readers. 
          Apple will happily take my iPads back as I’m in the 14 day return window still. I’m suggeting that Apple needs to figure things out for the long haul. 

          A lot of Apple corporate employees read our articles regularly here. They have little (if any) direct connection to Genius Bar complaints or customer service calls. 

  5. Guest Fly

    03/27/2012 at 8:05 pm

    I have told Apple about this problem: My story is over on the other thread. I purchased a new ipad on release day at my local Apple store. Once it was set up, I have to say, I was not that impressed with the new screen. From the reviews, it was suppose to be this amazing thing. While looking at the print on websites and a book, I noticed it seemed yellow. I compared it to my ipad2, and it looked WAY yellow. I ran magazines, videos, apps and webpages side by side- everything in color appeared more yellow. Which meant: Blonde hair highlights looked brassy. Tan beach sand/soil looked yellow, greens and reds popped which of course they would with more yellow in them. But all my ocean scenes had green tinged water on the new ipad instead of turquoise blue and blues. My ‘white’ note pages were all tinged yellow. I was sorely disappointed. I thought my ipad2, even with slightly (now) fuzzier print, had a much preferable color range to the new ipad.

    After reading several threads, I saw I was not alone and also learned about light leaks. I was able to quickly confirm that my new ipad was leaking light severely (imo) all along HALF of the top side (opposite the side with the home button.) That was the final straw- it went back. I would have kept my ipad2 at that point if I had not already sold it and the new owner was expecting delivery. So I got another new ipad. [Apple did take back my defective new ipad without a blink and disappointingly- no questions asked. I had written down everything wrong with it, including some incidents of stuttering icons, white lines appearing on screen under the icons, and a couple of freeze events. But the employees just didn't want to hear it.-- so how will Apple track or even be aware of these complaints?]

    The new new ipad I received had no light leaks, but the color palate is still warmer than ipad2. However, it is definitely less yellow than the previous one and my note pages appear more white. I have decided to suck up the color difference and keep it. My ipad2 was “flawless” imo. This one… its still under discussion.

    I have to wonder about all the photographers and professionals who depend on the color balance, or _consistency_ of color with the ipad. Forget trying to use it as a softlight, for viewing slides, or do any editing or serious viewing of finished work.

    This was the first time I have purchased an apple product the day it launched. I will not do that again. The ipad2 was my first apple product I have ever purchased and it left a great positive impression about Apple. This new ipad is my second ever Apple purchase and it has left a disappointed taste in my mouth.

    I did also compare my ipad2 with the new ipads on display in the Apple store while returning my defective new ipad. Someone else said the lighting is so bright in that store, that its hard to compare- and they’re right. I viewed three new ipads, who all had their brightness maxed out in the settings (clearly done by apple staff) and are under very bright lighting. When I matched these 3 new ipads on display with my ipad2, all three new ipads in the store were ‘warmer’ (slightly more yellow) in tones than my ipad2 (I compared apple screen savers and also one youtube video.) The new ones on display all seemed about the same level of color-warmness too- one didn’t stand out as extra yellow. However under all that lighting… who could really say unless you went in with some precise way of measuring.

    Of course neither Apple employee I asked about yellow toned color issues, had any idea what I was talking about and said no one else had complained about that problem.

    • Xavier Lanier

      03/28/2012 at 2:09 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. You’re right. The best way to compare color temperature/accuracy is in a dark room, not in a bright Apple store.
      The three new iPads I have (haven’t had a chance to return a pair yet) look relatively similar in daylight, but as you can see in the above picture you can really see the differences in a dark room.

    • cobholt

      04/02/2012 at 7:18 am

      Great comment. It matches my experience exactly: Apple very quickly agreeing to exchange my too yellow iPad3, not interested in the problem, though. And impossible to check the screens in the Apple store. I will also never again buy a new device on the day it launches.

  6. Guest Fly

    03/27/2012 at 8:07 pm

    FYI- mine was/is a black, 64GB AT&T model.

  7. munclegym

    03/28/2012 at 1:38 pm

    I had the ‘tinting’ problem with the 64GB (black, WiFi only) I ordered online from Apple. Even with mine near max brightness, it looked really bad compared to my wife’s iPad2, andnoticeablydull when compared with a friend’s iPad3 (same model), each set at a lower brightness setting than mine. Returned it for a refund yesterday at an Apple retail store after seeing similar variances in ‘tinting’ on the many display models. I’ll get another when the dust settles, as it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t a production issue that Apple needs to work through.

  8. Port3f9

    03/29/2012 at 9:22 pm

    returned 3, all yellow. iPad 2 on right. also much worse when viewed at an angle…

  9. Port3f9

    03/29/2012 at 9:25 pm

    side view, iPad 3 left, iPad 2 right

  10. Port3f9

    03/29/2012 at 9:26 pm

    top view, iPad 3 left, iPad 2 right

  11. Gazous

    04/05/2012 at 8:20 am

    Hi,I had the same problem (Yellow tint) with my iPad.I went to the Apple Store (in France) to exchange it and after 4 exchanges to have an iPad with no cosmetic defect (scratches or marks on the back aluminum…) I get another one.I went back to home and the screen was more yellow than previous one and has lots of light gleed (Mura effect). Very easy to see when I restore the iPad and saw the restoring black screen…So I was very furious with that and began to regrets the first one.So I went back to the Apple Store and get my money back 814 euros in France for a 4G 64 GB…I tried to buy another one 1 week later with same issue I went back to the Apple Store again for a refund.I will wait and maybe try again later…Last time I went to the Apple store I just compared the screens of eight models in shows.Tint on all is completely different, with some light gleed and the dark zone on top in portrait mode more or less pronounced depending on the model.What is amazing is that on 3 iPad side by side, with the same settings for brightness on brightness setting screen is a huge difference.Already some have a backlight much more powerful than others and are in tint from blue / pink to yellow with some intermediaries.When we are told that the colors are warmer and that it is Apple choice : this is bxxlxhit ! If the colors of the screens were significantly closer, I do not mind but when you see what I saw, this argument is not acceptable !

  12. izym

    04/10/2012 at 10:40 am

    Xavier - I just came across this article after I experienced same issue and hit the web in search of any help. I have purchase 64GB black wifi model and I only noticed my iPad’s yellow tint after I took it to the store for some other thing but compared displays while I was there. So I noticed it accidentally. Luckily, this was within 14 day return window. I immediately asked for exchange or return. They first sent me to Genius Bar and person there said store iPads look different as they have custom image put on (I don’t think I need to comment on this statement here). I asked the tech to compare my iPad with theirs on the display. Tech came back and said she and 3 co-workers did not see any difference and said I could return it if I did not like it. So I did. 
    Just now, I came back from the same store. There, I purchased one iPad, opened it in the store and there was very significant yellowish, beige tint. I called sales person and he saw the difference and said I can get another one right away. So they brought in another new iPad and exchanged it. I opened that one and same thing. So I returned it.  And they would not  exchange again. All of their store models look the same. Maybe it only affects 64GB models? Is that possible. This is absurd. I spent $750 for iPad and don’t know what I get in the box??? This has to go to the main stream media to get Apple’s attention.

    • Xavier Lanier

      04/23/2012 at 11:12 am

      When I returned the yellowish iPads the Apple store reps pretended they’d never heard of the issue before. I’m sure they’re just doing what they’re told. When I pushed, one rep said the following, which I can only assume is an Apple talking point: “Due to the manufacturing process, there will be slight differences in display appearance” 

  13. Twell

    11/23/2012 at 1:40 am

    Unfortunately the yellow issue continues on the iPad 4. I have been through three different iPads 4′s and all of them have some kind of yellow issue. So sad.

  14. Albert O

    11/28/2012 at 5:46 am

    No lottery winner here

    A family member of mine is experiencing pain instead of pleasure with purchasing the new iPad 4. The new iPad has yellowish hues (warmer color temperatures) that don’t look normal, nor pleasing.

    Users are still reporting this same issue since the iPad 3 on the Apple forum: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3810949?start=720&tstart=0

    Could you do an investigative article spotlighting this issue? It is distressing for my father to have to return to the Apple Store to exchange his new iPad 4, only to still receive a problem unit. Apple managers at the Apple Store do not officially acknowledge the problem, and state that they all look the same. In reality, based on responses from the forum posted above, users have received working units with normal color temperatures (whites are whites, not yellowish).

    Thank you. Also, please recommend what are some ways for the average consumer to spotlight such issues (contacting press, consumer watchdog groups, Apple contact line, etc).

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