Now that Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro is out in the wild, it didn’t take long for the team at iFixit to get the awkwardly shaped screws out of the hardware to have a closer look inside. The bigger battery was on show, and much of the technology behind the 2019 scissor switch keyboard echoes the pre-butterfly scissor switch keyboard.
But there’s another secret inside the massive MacBook Pro that has been discovered by the team with an able assist from Joe Rossignol and MacRumours sourcing internal documentation destined for Apple Authorized Service Providers. The MacBook Pro has a new sensor in the hardware that monitors the position of the screen frame in comparison to the lower base of the laptop:
"While previous-generation MacBook Pro models have a Hall effect sensor that determines when the lid is closed for sleep/wake purposes, the lid angle sensor in the 16-inch MacBook Pro appears to be more sophisticated.
“Apple’s service document does not provide any clues as to why the sensor was redesigned, but iFixit speculates that it could provide a clever way for Apple to track how often the lid was opened, closed, or adjusted in cases where the display or frayed flex cables need to be repaired — think 'Flexgate.' "
The Nixonian named ‘Flexgate’ refers to an issue with the MacBook screen assembly that resulted in uneven lighting along the bottom of the display. One potential cause was tracked down to a shorter screen cable on newer MacBook machines compared to older models. Apple did not confirm this issue, but the 2018 MacBook Pro returned to a longer cable.
The installation of a new sensor and the potential to record a significant amount of data about screen use (such as the angle that a display sits at, the number of open/close cycles, and the speed of closing and opening by an individual user) could provide a lot of diagnostic data to Apple when a machine is brought in for repair. That’s certainly iFixit’s thinking, and a closer look through the documentation by MacRumors highlights that this sensor needs calibrated after a repair.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has launched hardware without it being activated - for example we’re still waiting for Apple Tags to be activated in the iPhone 11 family . It could be a diagnostic sensor, or it could be destined for greater things.
No doubt time will tell.