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FAA Bans Recalled Apple Laptops from Flights (bloomberg.com)
251 points by jmsflknr 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 229 comments
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Multiple folks in this thread have asked how the TSA is going to deal with this. The answer is: it won't. These laptops were banned as a "dangerous good" by the FAA. This is separate from the TSA's list of items banned as a security threat.

> The Transportation Security Administration also has rules on "prohibited items" that pose a security threat. Though they sometimes overlap, the TSA security rules are separate from the FAA dangerous goods safety rules discussed here.

https://www.faa.gov/hazmat/packsafe/


To those who wonder why you can’t board with a thermometer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IrdYueB9pY4


In a recent thermometer there is no mercury anymore. By recent i mean in the last few decades.


I just googled for my country (France) and found an article from 1999 (?!) stating that it is forbidden. https://www.lexpress.fr/informations/thermometre-la-fin-du-m...

..because if you drill a divot out of the inside of the plain, clean it with hydrochloric acid and break your thermometer on there you might get some pitting.. whoa, dodged a bullet there.

The video doesn't say that the reaction won't happen without cleaning the surface, just that it will be much slower. And the hole is just to hold the mercury in place.

The video literally says the reaction won't happen without cleaning the surface quote; "Under normal conditions aluminum is surrounded by a protective oxide layer"

btw; mods, you have no idea how much it bothers me not being able to change plain to plane in my op.


Given that the TSA has something like a 5% success rate (according to their own internal measures) at identifying things they’re actively screening, I think the best bet in any event would have been to just try to take the laptop through.

They might come across the model as they are snooping around your personal data ‘for security’. This may actually be used as a new excuse to force you to log in!

Why? The model and serial number are visible outside.

Just adding my mbp anecdote.

I purchased my MacBook Pro in 2015. A year ago I noticed the top 15% of my trackpad wasn’t clicking. I did a little research and saw that this is sometimes the first symptom of an expanded battery and to bring it in. I finally made an appointment a few months ago and came in to have it investigated further. In the appointment they told me they “disassembled and confirmed everything was functioning properly.” They did a software diagnostic which also confirmed the same. The service person came out and said the very top of the trackpad never clicks and that’s how it was designed. They sent me on my way... a few weeks ago I received an email saying the battery was recalled.

In summary, the “genius” looked at an expanded battery and proceeded to tell me everything is fine. I respect the fact that apple has a presence that allows you to have your devices inspected but it gave me a false sense of security. I had even researched replacing the battery myself up until that appointment


A growing problem since Tim Cook took over as CEO seems to be Apple techs trying to slither their way out of providing service. I've dealt with a number of flat-out lies that I had to actually call techs out on to get my devices serviced. Examples:

I bought Airpods last year. When they were about 10 months old, it was December in NYC, where I live. It gets a little cold, but not that cold -- freezing point is about the lowest it gets, maybe a few degrees below that at night. When I ran with my Airpods, they started to shut off randomly on colder days (40 Fahrenheit or below) -- clearly a sign of an aging battery not providing enough charge. Particularly since they started working again when I took them back inside. I brought them into the Apple Store, and the tech tried to convince me that "Bluetooth just doesn't work well in the cold" and that they couldn't do anything about the issue. I had to basically beg the "Genius" to replace them, which promptly fixed my issue.

My iPhone SE would become randomly unresponsive to touches after they replaced the battery. I had to come in 3 times, reinstall iOS without using a backup twice, and beg the Genius (again) to replace my phone because their touchscreen test "didn't see any issues"... because it was a spurious issue that wasn't present all the time. I only got it replaced becaused I lucked out and the issue surfaced when the Genius was trying to start a diagnostic.

They've also tried to sneak their way out of servicing my Macbook Pro for "staingate" (coating wearing off the screen, covered by a 4 year extended policy) because, and I quote, "it isn't that bad."

Apple stores have clearly been prioritizing margins instead of customer experience. Those of us in the know can usually fight our way around these customer hostile policies, but I feel awful for my parents, grandparents, etc. -- they've been bamboozled by Apple into upgrading their phones for issues that should have been covered for free, just because they're trusting of the techs. It's gotten to the point that I don't recommend Apple products to them because the in store experience has gotten so bad.

It wasn't always this way. I remember when the original iPhone first came out that they were much, much, much more lax about replacing things pro bono, both for laptops and for phones. It's only since ~2012 or so that I've noticed service went really downhill, which happens to coincide with some restructuring of the Apple Store.

I miss the old Apple.


"Bluetooth just doesn't work well in the cold"

I really hope this is BS, but I wouldn't be surprised. Sad the tech couldn't come up with a better excuse than that, are you supposed to really believe that? Bluetooth isn't exactly a new Apple-specific technology, people have had years of experience already with Bluetooth devices.


Weird. I use bluetooth headphones while skiing all the time. Never had an issue.

Apple Geniuses aren’t trained in electronics & troubleshooting. They get some recipes and when none of those have an answer they fallback to “Lie to the user.”

Source: colleague who was a manager of a Genius team at a big city Apple store.

They are meant to help Apple save face. Put that old school customer service in person touch on things.

It’s not explicitly stated like that in training. They just don’t know, and concoct an answer that the avg customer won’t know is bullshit. It’s how it shakes out given the recipes they’re not allowed to deviate from and the hiring of Apple users, not trained electronics technicians.


Earlier this month I took my work MBP in for a recall for both the HDD and keyboard(I received an email from Apple notifying me about this).

The "geniuses" "checked" their system and told me there is no recall and I'll have to pay. I had to physically go on Apples site on my phone, enter my serial number and show them that the recall applies to my machine.

With much sighing they accepted the machine and "made a note" on the service sheet, so the tech's would confirm.

My next personal computer will not be an Apple.


In addition to the 432,000 Macbook Pros sold in the US from mid-2015 to 2017 being outright banned from flying, there will be all the other Mackbook Pros sold from about 2013 to mid-2015 that outwardly look just like the banned ones. I suppose all those lookalikes will be pulled out and have their serial numbers checked, which is in microscopic print on the back, which will definitely slow down Pre-check when you would otherwise leave the Macbook in the bag. That's a lot of hardware that has suddenly become much less valuable to travelers. Seems like Apple needs to do more than just replace batteries.

Edit: Can check serial number.


"suppose all those lookalikes will be pulled out and have their serial numbers checked"

I can almost guarantee the TSA will invest zero dollars or time into deciding which MacBooks are okay. This is Apple's problem to solve. Zero time, money or attention from the TSA or the airlines will be invested. If the FAA bans any Macbooks, all "Apple looking thingies" will be effectively banned.

Source: 3 decades of govt and airline experience.

Advice: Buy a Dell sticker to cover the apple logo on your MacBook. Or some similarly silly thing like an "Apple Store FAA compliant sticker" program. (I'm linking back to this comment later when it happens :)


Might a passenger, properly warned, be liable if he brings a banned laptop on the plane anyway and it catches on fire?

They absolutely should be criminally liable for risking the lives of everyone on board because they won't take a different laptop, or none, with them.

If the search is only 5% effective then the deterrent needs to be something you wouldn't risk a 5% chance of happening, year in prison, or a fine of 2 times your average annual income seems about right?


You mean something like dying a fiery death because your laptop caught fire on a plane?

That's a lot rarer than a 5% chance. If 5% of these laptops exploded every few hours, there wouldn't be many of them left by now.

If the actual negative effects are a lot rarer than 5%, then the expected punishment should probably also be lighter.

I don't think OP was implying that. There are Macbooks that look identical in appearance to the affected devices but are perfectly fine.

> I can almost guarantee the TSA will invest zero dollars or time into deciding which MacBooks are okay. This is Apple's problem to solve. Zero time, money or attention from the TSA or the airlines will be invested.

how is it apple's problem then? by the way you've described things, it doesn't seem like it's anybody's problem. it could be a marketing problem for apple, but it doesn't seem like they care about those anyway.


That's what I mean. It's a public image / marketing problem if the TSA starts blanket banning apple laptops.

[dupe]


It's not that clear. What the FAA bans does influence the TSA list of what they check for. Also, I did specifically mention airlines.

Or do you really think this list (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/...) wasn't influenced by the FAA? Note quotes like "For more information, see FAA regulation: 49 CFR 175.10(a)(4)."


> In addition to the 432,000 Macbook Pros sold in the US from mid-2015 to 2017 being outright banned from flying, there will be all the other Mackbook Pros sold from about 2013 to mid-2015 that outwardly look just like the banned ones.

Am I missing something? Weren't the 2016 models the ones that changed to USB-C, q flatter keyboard, etc.? Those don't look identical to the 2015 and earlier models


Apple built and sold the 2015 model for another couple years alongside the USB-C ones.

The mid-2015 models are also covered by the ban.

You can open the MBP up and show the agent your About Mac window in the setting menu. It has the serial number, but more importantly, it will tell them the year of the laptop (mine says mid 2014).

Along with the hassle of opening the laptop, powering it on, and clicking About This Mac; you would have the security issue of entering your password while surrounded by other people and cameras. None of the verification options seem very appealing.

I flew Etihad from Sydney to Abu Dhabi last week. They warned transiting customers that phones and laptops must be charged up before passing airport security in the UK or US.

The TSA already requires that laptops and phones must be powered-on on demand to "prove that they're real". That's already a cybersecurity risk.

I'm relieved that the banned laptops doesn't include my 15" mid-2014 MacBook Pro, or my dad's hand-me-down 13" mid-2015 MacBook Pro that he generously gave to me last week after I helped him repair it.


The only place that I've had this issue was connecting through Istanbul. It was weird to wait for them to see it boot. They were fine with seeing a bios screen.

There’s a ban on fake laptop? Why does the TSA care if they are real?

Presumably if there's a working computer inside the case then it can't be packed to the brim with c4?

Yeah, someone would have to leave a Raspberry Pi zero sized chunk of explosive out to put up a boot screen and something close enough to a windows boot logo to pass a cursory visual inspection.

In reality, the X-Ray should already make it pretty clear if there is something weird about the laptop's build. Turning on the machine is entirely unnecessary. Also, I have not been asked to turn on a laptop in many years, so unless this is a new development it is badly out of date.


The metal casing of many laptops reflects the xrays, hence you can't see anything inside them.

At many airports you can see the x-ray images of the bags and devices as they are scanned/checked.

In my experience there is always a detailed image of the inside of laptops. Color-coded according to material type/density and clearly showing the location of batteries, etc.


I'd imagine the batteries being switched for plastic explosive would be a simple way to take explosives onboard for unsophisticated attackers, turning on rules out that possibility. Not everyone who wants to blow stuff up is a hacker.

Wouldn’t plastic explosive have a different density to real batteries, and thus show up very obviously on the scanner?

The machines are tuned to highlight specific risky materials (such as liquids & gels).

At one point it was common to be asked to turn on laptops etc. But I haven’t seen them do that for years - presumably because the scanners have improved.


LiPo laptop battery is apparently around 1.8-2 g/cm3 (sorry can't find good figures), whilst C4 is 1.73 g/cm3. Not sure what the density resolution is like -- I'd guess it's poor because you can't tell what thickness/type of casing you're looking through from the luggage "xray"; I'd imagine it to be primarily good at relative density.

X-Rays can pass through thick chunks of metal several times the thickness of a laptop. You just need a powerful enough source. I doubt however that such a source can be used safely in an enclosure as open as the securiry check machines.

Not even close to true - just look at the scan monitor next time you fly: you can clearly see inside any electronics going through the scanner

I had a slightly damaged laptop with a loose flap on the bottom and I got told off by the agents somewhere... Syracuse I think...

Never had any issues with that laptop anywhere else - but they got pretty grumpy at me, and made me power it up to prove that it was a legit laptop.


Make a separate account on your Mac for just this purpose.

Be aware that any valid normal user account password can decrypt your hard disk—the exception being a guest account which forces the entire computer to restart into a separate, fully neutered system.

But someone at airport security turning the computer on still wouldn't have access to your user's files, presumably (?), because of user permissions - so they'd need to hack it (illegally, I expect) and why would they do that? In the context of this story aren't they just checking the serial number, presumably that's printed on the case?

Assuming you haven't switched partition schemes to something like LUKS with pre-boot authentication.

I'm assuming it's a MacBook that is being operated normally by a normal person.

Touchbar fingerprint reader to the rescue!

These models don’t have those.

Time to get a new macbook! You don't mind replacing a laptop that's less than 2 years old right?

These are Apple users you're talking about. Their loyalty is pretty much unconditional, and they'll view this as an exciting opportunity to upgrade.

When you boot up, you need to enter your password once to enable touch ID.

Fortunately this isnt a big hassle on a mac :)

That's only the release date. My mid-2015 MacBook Pro 15" was manufactured in June 2017. So it's outside the recalled laptop range.

Doesn't this tiptoe the line with a breach of privacy? Once the computer is unlocked, is there anything stopping them from just seizing devices if they want to review data?

From my understanding, TSA security isn't customs, so it isn't a constitution suspended zone.

I would think that you have the right to refuse to show them, and they have the right to refuse to let you through security.

Flying is not a constitutionally protected activity... see, for example, the legality of un-appealable no-fly lists.


The TSA does it as well, not having any valid justification has never stopped security theater before.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/12/tsa-surveillan...


TFA: A TSA spokesman, Matt Leas, declined to comment on the lawsuit but said: “TSA does not search the contents of electronic devices.”

So my guess is that they aren’t supposed to do this, and if a judge ever got the case, the TSA would be in lots of trouble if found doing it.



Informative, though I don't think that relates to the TSA.

true, it was more in reference to constitution-free zones.

And what if you had the battery replaced?

Does the serial number change if the battery has been serviced? Or are these devices banned from flying forever.

Imagine the airlines reading each serial number and phoning Apple to ask if it has already been serviced for the battery-related recall. Ouch.

Apple have the database already, airlines check millions of tuples a day, including updated no-fly lists, updated air-miles lists, updated VIP lists, etc., they might be using the phone but assuming they're technologically deficient seems like "underestimating the enemy".

I will be flying out tomorrow with my 2013 15" MBP, so this was the exact thought that crossed my mind when I saw the article.

Yeah, checking serial numbers of MBP is not practical. So this FAA rule is not really enforceable.

Why do you say it's not practical, Apple stores do it.

Checking a number against an API isn't exactly rocket surgery.


My MacBook model / year matches the recall, but my serial number isn't eligible. Does that mean I need to go to Apple's recall webpage and input the serial number at the TSA checkpoint? This is going to be interesting.

They're not going to care a bit, just like they don't go around checking that everyone's phones are in airplane mode.

I’m in the same boat. And also in the middle of a business trip with my laptop.

Hopefully I don’t have any problems on the way home because I have no idea what I will do.


No one actually cares. Weed is also banned on planes, TSA agents have found some of mine on my carry on a couple times, and no one bats an eye.

So they left it in the case? You'd have thought they'd at least dispose of it in the same way they do with bottles of water, even if they don't kick-up a fuss over it.

Yeah. I was surprised to. Might be an official policy or something. I've previously had weed found in California and wasn't surprised that they looked the other way. I was surprised however when they let me keep it even though I wasn't going to or from a state with legalization.

Doesn't that depend on what states you're leaving and entering? I can't imagine TSA agents in a state where it's not yet legalized would look the other way.

Awhile ago I heard they wouldn't enforce it between specific destinations where it's legal (even though federally it's still illegal). More recently they've decided it's best to spend their resources elsewhere and generally stop spending time on it.

!

Okay, then.


I think the state you're in might matter for weed, but from what I'm seeing from other people in this thread I highly doubt the TSA will ban them. Sounds like the FAA list is separate from the TSA list and such.

A lot of people are commenting how hard this will be to enforce/easy to avoid.

That's not the right way to look at it. If someone now takes one of these laptops onto a flight and it burns mid-flight that person is now criminally liable. At the very least they will have to pay for the emergency landing etc..


Thats a bit unfair though. Do you think most people will know if their laptop if affected? This is the first I've heard of it and honestly can't remember what year my MBP is.

> Thats a bit unfair though. Do you think most people will know if their laptop if affected? This is the first I've heard of it and honestly can't remember what year my MBP is.

Laptop will explode and burn without caring if their owner knows about it, so I don't know what "fairness" has to do with it here. It's not unreasonable to have a minimum awareness about your own possessions, we don't have to slip into full blown idiocracy.


Do you know how likely your TV remote is to explode? I doubt it. Knowing how likely it is that the products you buy may or may not defect requires much more than "a minimum awareness about your own possessions."

Article says that gate agents are supposed to make an announcement before boarding, which I think I remember happening for the exploding Galaxy, too. Still plenty of people who don't know the model year of their laptop, but a little less plausible deniability.

I can barely hear those announcements, just sounds like a muffled mess.

Do you think most people will know if their laptop if affected?

Yes. Apple sent out notifications to owners of recalled devices. That's why you should register your hardware (trivial in the case of a Mac notebook). In my case I plugged my serial number into the recall site when it was first announced (whilst not logged in to my Apple account) and was told my notebook (a refurb 2015 MBP) wasn't eligible. A couple weeks ago I got an email dictating otherwise.


I know affected people they got emails from Apple about the recall.

A coworker got the battery replaced but was not notified by Apple.

Apple sent me an email directly stating my Mac was affected. My early 2017 MPB has run hot enough to burn through 2 $80 charging cables already.

I've since switched operating systems to Linux and have no intention of getting serviced as there are no authorized service centers in my area unless I get on a plane.

Would I trust anyone else touching my Mac anyway? The answer is no and I plan to buy a Huawei replacement laptop with 5G.


>Would I trust anyone else touching my Mac anyway? The answer is no and I plan to buy a Huawei replacement laptop with 5G.

This reads like satire.


Isn’t there some way you can send it to them? Worst that can happen is they slightly increase the computer’s resale value.

I think the main issue is what happens with those who have a banned-but-repaired MBP and what happens with those who have an unaffected-but-looks-like-a-banned-model MBP. Those two groups already total over 400,000 units.

The TSA will clearly have issues managing this. All MacBooks look the same to them. They can't currently manage basic stuff like "baby formula might need different rules than our 3oz standard for liquids." Expect pressure on Apple to make it a non-issue.

I actually took an 10 inch screwdriver on to a flight accidently. When I was unpacking at the hotel I was like "how the F did this get past the security check?"

Another time I was running late for my flight and forgot to empty my 16oz water bottle. After my bag went through the scanner I realized my mistake and told the TSA agent about it. He uncapped the bottle, swirrled the water around, sniffed it, and then handed me back 16 ounces of water and said not to worry about it.

So yeah, I have minimal expectation TSA will catch this.

Now UK airport security might handle it. I've been specifically asked if my laptop has been damaged, is swelling or has been recently repaired. I assume if you answer yes to any of those questions your device is banned from flying.


Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol) allows you to bring a full waterbottle (openend and unopenend) through security. Also you don't have to unpack your bag anymore. Just take it of your back and it will go right through the machine.

I am not sure what changed because I haven't seen this before. Even modern airports like Changi (Singapore) required me to empty my bottle. If anyone knows what changed, always interesting to read!

Source: flew from Schiphol 3 times in the last few months.


I was pleasantly surprised by AMS' comparatively lax security procedures. But I flew into Dubai and my connecting flight had an additional security checkpoint at the gate so I couldn't bring my full water bottle onto an 11 hour connection.

There's nothing modern about Changi's use of "angel wings" to physically detain passengers moving through customs while they collect biometrics.

Haven’t been to singapore for a while but I was never stopped at customs (green channel)

If you are on about collecting fingerprints at immigration, the US does that, as do many other countries.


Can you explain what “angel wings” means in this context?

Strange. I had to unpack at Schiphol two weeks ago. And go through the scanner even though I wasn't headed to the US. All in all, one of the worst airport security experiences in Europe. In Lisbon I didn't have to unpack.

For real. I saw a woman go through security at seatac with a frozen 1.5L bottle. They seem very willing to let the system be gamed.

Technically ice is not a liquid, so she was within the letter of the law.

Sigh..

And you're indeed correct. And that must have been chilled for a long time to freeze that quantity. (Edited: thought you said 1.5l of alcohol)


I left a water bottle in my bag at SJC once. The TSA agent pulled me aside after I went through the scanner and pointed to it on the X-Ray to ask me what it was. I said something like "oh, oops, looks like I forgot my water bottle in there" and she asked me to take it out of the bag. She took a quick look at it and then just let me on the plane without making me dump it out or even opening the bottle.

I guess that means they at least looked at the X-Ray; it seems like a lot of the time they don't even bother to do that.


Meanwhile, up at SFO, I had a few sips in a fancy water bottle. They wouldn't let me drink or dump the water. They escorted me, past like three bathrooms/water fountains, back to the other where I drank it while back in line.

Yep, that happened to me in a DC airport. American service is horrible.

By contrast, when I was trying to board my plane in Tokyo to return to the US, I again forgot to empty my water bottle, and was already through the line. The woman just asked if she could dump it, and she did: they had special containers there for the express purpose of dumping people's disallowed liquids. Of course, American security can't be bothered to implement a common-sense measure like this.


I've taken screwdrivers all the time. Guessing they really don't care. Hell, even my multitool which looks like it has a knife has been fine.

But that one time I had a bottle of diet coke... That's when they get me.


They even said that laptops with replaced batteries are fine...how on earth are they going to enforce that? What's stopping me from saying "Oh yeah, I got the battery serviced last month"?

Nothing. Except your desire not to commit a crime of taking banned items on a plane.

I can't imagine this would be effective. I highly doubt most owners of the affected Macbooks are even aware of the the FAA ban

> They even said that laptops with replaced batteries are fine...how on earth are they going to enforce that? What's stopping me from saying "Oh yeah, I got the battery serviced last month"?

Given the reactions to the Boeing news that I've heard, it would be surprising to me if people would risk jeopardising the safety of a flight to bring a personal item. However, people do remain people and act accordingly.


They were also conditioned for years with nonsense like "no cell phones on, no wifi, for the entire flight", than saw that rescinded later. Or the TSA seizing tweezers and other harmless items, then backing off later. They've been conditioned that the rules aren't always sensible, even though some clearly are.

[dupe]



I am wondering how long this non-removable battery fiasco is gonna last, instead of an expensive recall it would been a simple battery recall and swap that doesn't involve leaving the laptop in service for any amount of time and doable on short notice so the travelers would not be inconvenienced.

On top of that, when non-removable batteries fail, they usually take down the whole device with them beyond repair, while a properly placed removable battery at the edge (back) of the device would less likely do damage the device.


Indefinitely, because most people do not consider it a "fiasco." Have you seen what the batteries look like for, say, the new 13" Macbook Pro or the 12" Macbook? They're not bricks you could just feed into a slot. They're multi-part systems that distribute the battery through the gaps in the case. Fixing them in place means they don't need extra casing support, don't need to be near a specific edge and are flexible enough to maximize space usage inside the case.

Yes, all those issues could be addressed by making Apple laptops thicker and heavier, and there's a large contingent on HN that wants exactly that. But ... there's an even larger contingent outside the techi-verse that loves thin and light laptops.


> Yes, all those issues could be addressed by making Apple laptops thicker and heavier

Dell XPS 13 is both, thinner and lighter than Macbook Air, yet its battery replacement process is rated as "very easy"[1] by ifixit. The same applies to Dell XPS 15 vs Macbook Pro.

[1] https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Dell+XPS+13+Battery+Replacement...


Looks like the Dell XPS 13 uses a single rectangular battery, though it still requires unscrewing the whole case, disconnecting a battery cable, and then unscrewing the battery, so it's not something you can do on the fly.

The 2018 MacBook Air battery isn't quite so neat and rectangular: https://d3nevzfk7ii3be.cloudfront.net/igi/HvCgVPqVQtVI5K5X.h...

And you can see here how it fits into all of the available space in the computer: https://d3nevzfk7ii3be.cloudfront.net/igi/QUm4KjJyARQaSorr.h...

Switching this computer to using a simple battery like the Dell XPS 13 is using means sacrificing a significant amount of battery capacity.


It's also worth nothing that the XPS has a 52Whr battery and the 2018 Air had a 50.3Whr battery. Although you probably get worse battery life with the XPS (config dependent maybe), you've stil got to hand it to Dell here.

In fact, Dell XPS 13 is twice as powerful as Macbook Air, but lasts only a little shorter on battery[1].

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-macbook-air-vs-dell-xps-13-i...


It's 20% shorter with the i7 + 4K XPS they've used for their comparisons, that's a fair amount. You can presumably get that back with the i5 model, but then you're not twice as powerful. Makes me want to get the latest XPS even though my 2015 model is still going strong.

Also note the 2019 Air they've got has a smaller battery again (49.9Whr).


> It's 20% shorter with the i7 + 4K XPS they've used for their comparisons, that's a fair amount.

The battery life gains in Macbook Air might come from the different series of processors used, rather than from the battery itself:

> The MacBook Air has Core i5 and i7 processor options, but they're part of Intel's "Y" series of CPUs, intended for thin laptops. They generate less heat and use less power, so you get longer battery life. The flip side is they're not as fast as a standard laptop with a "U" series processor.


Sure, it's certainly mostly due to the Y-series CPU. I'm just pointing out that difference in the 2019 model compared to the 2018 model that was mentioned in the parent comments.

If you were to compare it to the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 which uses a 10th gen Intel chip and is marketed to have 17 hours of battery life, I think it'd be more than twice as powerful and that one would last just as long if not longer. But again, that might be an apples to oranges comparison with the different chip generations. But Apple always is a bit behind on adopting those new chips.

Oh wow, that now that sounds like an upgrade. Sadly it doesn't seem to be available in the UK quite yet.

Dell has some really good hardware design. I've been using the business-class Latitudes for years now (getting them a few years old off-lease; they're usually pretty lightly used in corporate settings), and they're extremely easy to work on. The old E4600/4610 models were really nice: they had a single captive screw on the back panel. Just loosen it and slide the panel off.

Just looking at the ifixit.com page linked above, the XPS looks very well-designed and easy to work on too, with just 8 screws holding the back panel on, while still being just as thin as a Macbook. It seems like Apple stuff is simply designed specifically to be hard to repair.


I admit I'm really confused as to why this particular comment is being downvoted.

I own an xps 15. It gets mega hot and can't run anything without having to slow down performance because it is too hot. Whatever the optimal battery solution is XPS15 is not doing a good job of it.

I think the upcoming 16 inch MacBook will be a little thicker than before, and with one of the the older keyboards. They are maybe modifying their vision a tiny bit since their design lead left

I agree that having a battery which can be changed without opening the laptop case might require to make the laptop much thicker. However, Apple could do a lot to make battery service easier, so that anyone who has the correct screwdrivers can do it in 5 minutes. This would also cause more batteries to be exchanged for old age and thus further reduce the risk of fires.

And, as this recall was about the MacBook pro, there is much more space for battery placement than in the smaller devices.


Yes I've seen them and it's driven by the misguided quest for the thinnest, form over function devices while refusing to accept that battery technology is not yet up to the task. Particularly when you consider the volatile Lithium based tech which is sensitive to heat, let's put them in enclosed cases where lots of heat is generated, make them non removable, what could go wrong.

Here I just put something rough together to demonstrate that it can be done even with the thin devices if the motivations were in the right place: https://www.ypson.com/hn/battery-thin-device.png

Took me a few minutes, surely this can be done given the budgets and great engineers available in the employ of the major companies.


Except, as already noted, batteries in current Macbooks are not one rectangular slab like that.

Take a look at the inside of the current Macbook Pro: https://i.imgur.com/pTZjbuZ.jpg

That's a "battery" that's actually six separate batteries, fit around and underneath the structural components of the touchpad.

Make it a single piece that can be neatly removed like your would-be concept image and you cut battery life in half. Customers would revolt, and far more noticeably than over mere keyboard problems.


In addition to the shape, which itself would need to be compromised by a removable battery, there is the issue of the casing.

Any battery requires a certain amount of puncture resistance. When a battery is embedded into a device and irremovable, the casing of the device itself counts as part of that puncture resistance. If the battery is removable, the battery module itself must be puncture resistant and you're wasting significant internal volume with hard casing around the removable battery module which does not need to exist.


Look at smartphone batteries --- even when they were easily replaceable, they weren't very puncture-resistant, being nothing more than a bare pouch cell with a wrapper label.

Just a matter of engineering which we are well capable of solving, as long as batteries are clearly labeled as consumable items [1] they should be user replaceable which given the limitations of current battery technology, would also reduce the friction, inconveniences and dangers presented in this particular case.

Personally, I am not against thin devices and non removable batteries, it should be done in tandem as the technology will be aligned with this approach without compromising the user experience and ability to replace consumable components.

[1] https://www.apple.com/support/macbookair/en/battery_body.htm...


> Make it a single piece that can be neatly removed like your would-be concept image and you cut battery life in half. Customers would revolt, and far more noticeably than over mere keyboard problems.

According to other comments further up the thread this is incorrect, as the XPS has proven it can be both a single battery, with more capacity, and be thinner, even faster.


Besides that one pesky ribbon cable that could probably be rerouted under the battery pack easily, I see nothing else that prevents a removable battery containing multiple cells, which need not be rectangular overall.

More than one way to skin a cat though. Make the lid, keyboard, and electronics removable and treat the battery as part of the case?

The macbook is not a desktop replacement; it's a very portable laptop. Being as small as possible is a big part of it's function. You pay a lot extra for this, both in terms of actual money, reduced computing power, and probably decreased longevity.

(Interestingly, this used to be the norm. Back in the day, the smallest thinkpads were also the most expensive. If you cared about money, you'd carry around something much larger and clunkier. It wasn't until the advent of the netbook that "small" also meant "cheap")

If you don't think a laptop being as small and thin as possible is important and worth paying for, then you will be very disappointed with the current crop of macbooks.

(As an aside, I find it kinda weird to see people with these macbooks that are absolutely optimized for portability using them as desktop replacements. Like... maybe part of that was that for a long time apple sold really ancient hardware for their desktops, and maybe these people just really loved OS-X? But... this goes to your point... the fact that so many people use macbooks as desktop replacements does indicate that maybe there's a market for a more desktop-y macbook, maybe one with active cooling and a replaceable battery? But it's also possible that those users are willing to pay a cost in terms of longevity and in terms of expandability in exchange for their desktop replacement simply being more portable for the few times they do actually move it.)

Either way, I like my macbook even though I'd be seriously annoyed if I was limited to that much compute power for my main usage, and I'd go insane if I had to use the keyboard/trackpad for serious work.

But for me? I think the cost is totally reasonable for something I can put in almost any of my bags; something that adds almost no perceptible weight. I had a sony viao P series for a while; it was similar.

I mean, my other personal laptop is a thinkpad X220, which is exactly the sort of thing you would like; it's pretty easy to swap out all the parts, including the battery. It is actively cooled (and aside from the battery and hard drive, the fan seems to be one of the common bits to break.) - it's also not powerful enough for comfortable full-time use, imo, but it stands up well to the mac book in that regard, and it has a keyboard that is almost good enough to use all day. (I mean, I'm not switching it out for my kinesis for serious work, but as far as laptop keyboards go, it's pretty good)


> Here I just put something rough together to demonstrate that it can be done even with the thin devices if the motivations were in the right place: https://www.ypson.com/hn/battery-thin-device.png Took me a few minutes, surely this can be done given the budgets and great engineers available in the employ of the major companies.

All you’ve done is drawn a few rectangles and added some labels to them. It doesn’t prove anything is possible. It’s not even detailed enough to be concept art let alone a technical design. You could just have easily drawn the same thing with circles and labelled it “worlds first fusion powered laptop” for all the technical merit that diagram had.


Techverse also wants it. There's just a loud minority that want a desktop they can fit into a backpack.

I think you're completely forgetting why they build them like this: It makes for a better laptop. The non-removable macbook can have a much larger battery due to not needing a case and entire user accessible portion of the machine.

If Apple built this machine like how you are saying it would get half the battery life (keep in mind that this is a max performance model with battery life as low as 3 hours when used at max off charger) or would be much heavier and thicker and people. would. not. buy. it. It's a compromise whereas you make the repair (which hopefully should never happen) harder while making the daily use of the laptop entirely different.


Not sure making your mobile product bigger and heavier, just to cover the rare case that your batteries blow up, represents good engineering priorities.

Instead of putting in the effort to engineer removable batteries, maybe Apple could instead put in the effort to engineer batteries that don’t blow up.


Sure that is the way, for the meantime the technology in use comes with the risk of blowing up and it would be sensible to take that into consideration during engineering, among other things such as the inconveniences. Accepting the reality that the battery tech is lagging is far more desirable from an engineering point of view and work with that.

If I am away from home and on the way back, upon checking in at the airport I am told I cannot bring the laptop, how would you supposed I would handle the situation? Throw it in a trash bin (I don't mind the encrypted data) but is this a solution, instead of simply discarding the battery instead? (in this particular case where there is a recall for a certain laptop).


My MacBook Pro 15" Retina has a 99,5 watt-hour battery. The biggest removable battery on a MacBook Pro was the 71 watt-hour one on the 17" non-unibody one. I like a bit of extra battery power.

This doesn't mean that TSA will be checking serial numbers. It means that people will be scared and consider checking if they need a recall, and completing it, instead of delaying.

It does mean that if you bring a laptop for which the recall applies onto a plane, you could be found at fault if it crashes. Assuming you live and they're able to read the serial number from it, anyways. I assume that comes with some sort of financial liability, which at the (iirc) ~$12mil/person cost of life used by the USgov + the cost an entire plane, seems a bit much to risk.

Battery recalls are risk-of-death recalls. Do not put off repairs.


I have a hard time believing that this is all just to point the finger after a plane crashes.

Sure the logistics of enforcing it are difficult, but this does have the effect of telling the public not to do it.


It's for "dear public, please self-police so your plane doesn't crash". That there's a possible stick behind that "don't die" carrot is not the primary point, and honestly not one most people will consider.

Flew yesterday out of Dulles and they were inspecting and ordering "no fly" on certain models. Was a complete shit-show.

How were they determining if a model was banned? Was it serial number, Click "About This Mac", outward appearance, or some other method?

I hope they at least have a separate line for that. Apple folks are used to waiting in extra long lines anyway, right?

Exactly. This sounds great to me: they should have a separate (long) line for the Apple customers, so people like me with Dells can just cruise right through security.

How the heck would a TSA agent know the difference

Is the onus on the owner of the laptop or TSA? I guess both, but if you end up on a plane and something happens could you be prosecuted?

The FAA is an organization I would not like to get on the wrong side of


They'll just scan the serial number when it passes through the x-ray machine, then use some OCR script to process the image and upload it to https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall /s

Okay, but does Apple change the serial number when you send it in to get it fixed? How are they supposed to know that I already sent mine in and got a replacement battery from Apple? Guess I have to carry proof around with me?

(To be clear I’m not arguing with the poster I’m directly responding to. Just trying to think through this process like the OP mentioned.)


Good point. I don't really expect TSA to carry out what I proposed above, I should have included a /s. It was more to show how straight forward it is to check any device you have physical access to.

The Apple website has a lookup that will tell you if a seriel number is affected and has not already been fixed. They keep track of the fixed machines.

This database is inaccurate, my machine was repaired early this year prior to the recall (irritatingly at my cost as the batteries were swollen). It is still listed as requiring replacement batteries via this search...

Not to mention it won't include third party repairs

Is model/serial number scanning something that the existing machines do? I've never heard of the TSA having that capability.

No, it probably wouldn't work anyways as there's no guarantee the ink will even appear or be legible superimposed over the underlying components if it does.

More likely they'd require Apple to dump that dataset out to them and use it locally, but otherwise yeah.

As laptops are repaired, this database would need to be continually updated. I would imagine getting an internet connection and just using the Apple site (or a dedicated API endpoint) would be much easier.

Ppl here aren’t so good with sarcasm

They have serial numbers on the outside of the cases.

Not readily readable to the human eye. It requires light from the right angle and reading at the right distance. I could totally see Apple providing designer reading tables to TSA for exactly this purpose rather than changing the readability of the text on the outside of the case.

When people are parting out Macbooks, the bottom case panel with the serial number is the least valuable part.

I had trouble selling them for $10 each.

6 screws (proprietary screwdriver required, $3 AliEbay) and you can swap them out.


What are that kind of decisions based on? This is a repeat of the Samsung Note (?) fiasco, which, as someone else correctly stated, is just going to cause manufacturers not to disclose defects.

What is the actual criterion they used to determine that the device is dangerous? Did they estimate the likelihood of the battery catching fire, or did they just rely on manufacturer information? If it's the former, where can I see the numbers (and compare them with other devices?). If it's the latter, will I be safe forever to bring cheap no-name electronics on planes?


The article says there are safety instructions from 2016 which dictate goods with recalled batteries should not be taken on flights, and customers who had the batteries replaced aren't restricted by this.

I wonder if this was a simple manufacturing mistake or an intentional design gamble which failed. The Note 7 battery failures and Macbook Pro 'flexgate' being examples of the latter.

> While there have been repeated incidents of phones, laptops and other devices overheating and catching fire in passenger compartments of planes, it hasn’t ever caused a fire to spread. The flames can be extinguished with water and flight attendants are trained how to address it.

I was under the impression that water was the wrong thing to put on a Li-Ion battery fire. Is that right?


The FAA has a video on the subject:

https://youtu.be/vS6KA_Si-m8?t=185

I suspect the rationale is that any potential for exposing new parts of the battery chemistry to water are dwarfed by the effectiveness of stopping the thermal runaway, and battery chemistry that's already reacted can't react again.


> The FAA has a video on the subject:

> https://youtu.be/vS6KA_Si-m8?t=185

> I suspect the rationale is that any potential for exposing new parts of the battery chemistry to water are dwarfed by the effectiveness of stopping the thermal runaway, and battery chemistry that's already reacted can't react again.

Immediately following that clip is an exhibit showcasing the deployment of a Halon extinguisher to extinguish the fire followed by water to cool the battery pack.


Given that the clip is listed as methods to put out such fires, listed in order of effectiveness, most effective first, yes of course they list other methods, but as you can see they consider water most effective, halon + water for cooling less effective, and halon alone barely effective (the fire restarts).

Water is perfectly fine. It's cheap, nonflammable, and has a very high heat capacity.

Lithium ion batteries have no metallic lithium, which is what can react with water.


In case you're wondering whether your Macbook Pro needs to be serviced: https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

It's amazing that months later this still doesn't distinguish between "already serviced" and "not applicable" which makes it hard to tell if Apple is, perhaps, making a mistake on the former conclusion.

Also

https://appleid.apple.com/account/manage

is a good way to get serial numbers of all your devices in 1 spot.


The bad news is, going forward this will discourage companies from disclosing issues sooner rather than later. It may also, ever so slightly, discourage innovation if such changes might create more risk than reward.

To everyone saying “how will they enforce this?” the answer is the same as everything else. If you take a gun on a plane and get through TSA with it, you still committed a felony. If you then use the gun and put a hole in the plane, you’ll be personally liable for that.

If you take an explody battery on a plane and it explodes, the liability is on you.

The TSA might ask you if your laptop has an unsafe battery. That will probably be the extent of the enforcement. Now you know that you could be committing a crime if you haven’t checked it.


Not quite as bad as it sounds.

> Laptops that have replaced batteries won’t be impacted

Edit: re how to check, in theory you could prove it was fixed by showing the service receipt from Apple. In practice, I have no idea what would happen. But I feel like you'd get through if you showed up with a printed receipt taped to your laptop.


I'm lost as to how this will be effectively enforced. I've got a 2015 15" MBP that I use as a daily driver and after submitting the serial to apple shows

"It's not in the affected serial number range. Our records show that your device has already been serviced as part of this Program."

But how on earth would the TSA ever know to check or tell the difference, unless they ask you straight up.


Is it possible to identify a laptop that has had the replacement?

How are they going to check this?

Lying to a TSA officer or a FAA agent would likely be a felony, onus is on the passenger to not want to commit a felony.

I.e same honour-system that works for 99% of bans.


And also - how it will affect TSA Precheck-ers who currently does not need to pull out laptops?

Just wondering, I have this Mac, and I had the battery replaced, but I doubt there's any way the FAA can tell that, maybe they can. Wonder what'll happen if I try to fly with it.

Has anyone found any information about how to prove you've had the battery replaced?

My battery started swelling a couple months before the recall. I was in Brazil at the time so I had to have it replaced by a third-party repair shop.


Mine was repaired by apple prior to the recall, and is still listed as requiring replacement via the serial number search too...

I had my battery replaced under this program. Can I bring it on the plane now?

Did they allow you to watch while they replaced the battery?

I had to turn in the Macbook Pro at the Apple store and it took them more than a week to return it. They had to ship to a centralized repair center. I doubt anyone got to watch.

No. They had it for a week and called me back in to pick it up. The replacement (as far as I understand) is not done at the Apple store.

Yes, laptops with new batteries are not part of the ban.

Why is critical info so often missing from important articles like this one?

Where do I find out if my MacBook has been recalled? Is there a tool somewhere for me to check or is it based just on a combination of year and model?


The articles may not deliver but the Hacker News threads usually do: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20692762

I did not read through all the comments as I was in mobile - my bad!

Appreciate the help!


The article doesn't explain how they intend to enforce this ban. A recalled MacBook looks identical to the non-recalled ones, so this seems like a pointless rule.

It will probably be quite effective. Travelers will see these articles, and airlines will probably send out reminders to people not to bring these machines on the plane. Most people with them will get them fixed or leave them at home, and the risk is greatly diminished.

It's not a bomb where any failure to keep it off the planes is catastrophic. They can afford to have some people defying the ban.


Even if it gets fixed, how would TSA know that? If TSA doesn't check at all, then the "solution" is relying on people following a rule that has no enforcement.

How many people are going to actually read these articles to know which models are affected? How many people are going to remember the articles when it's time for them to go to the airport? How many people are simply going to ignore the rule because their MBP is their primary computer and would rather not go without it?

Can they afford to have some people or most people defying the ban? Because as it stands, it's impossible to tell how many people are just going to voluntarily follow a rule with (close to) zero enforcement....unless they actually enforce it


Yes, they can afford it. The purpose is just to reduce risk. The rule doesn't need to be, and I'm sure it wasn't intend to be, foolproof.

> where any failure to keep it off the planes is catastrophic

In-flight fires are some of the deadliest issues one mzy encounter. They can indeed be catastrophic.


Sure, but the odds of a fire actually happening are still quite low. Unlike a bomb, where it's pretty likely to explode in flight because that's the whole point.

Why does a rule have to rely on enforcement? Why can't we trust people and have an honor-based system?

This reminds me of forbidden substances in the context of sports doping. Some substances are supposed to be illegal but can't be detected yet. I think they are only put on the list once there is an effective test for it.

I guess an issue with a honor based system is although nobody can prove you are guilty, you also can't prove you are innocent if someone wrongly accuses you.


yeah, TSA isn't going to do one iota of enforcement

If the FAA bans an item, it's up to the airline, not TSA, to ensure that such items are not in either carry-on or checked luggage.

The TSA currently enforces other FAA bans, like limits on alcohol.

And why have you posted this comment 6 times?


Do you have a source for this?

Sure. Google “tsa” and click “what can I bring?”, it goes right to the descriptions which cite the FAA regulations. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/...

I clicked your link, and ctrl-f'd "FAA", it only cites the FAA for "Alcoholic beverages" and "Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof", "Car Parts", ...

I gave up at this point thanks to an error:

    An AJAX HTTP error occurred.
    HTTP Result Code: 503
    StatusText: Service Unavailable
Finally I searched for "Laptops" which doesn't mention the FAA at all.

"Laptops

Carry On Bags: Yes

Checked Bags: Yes

Please remove the laptops from your bag and place it in a separate bin for X-ray screening.

TSA Pre® travelers do not need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. Please see TSA Pre® for more information."


> it only cites the FAA for ...

The link above goes to a partial list. Click on “A-Z list” on the right side to see everything in one page, and then CTRL+F “faa” and you’ll see 17 matches.

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/...

> Finally I searched for “Laptops” which doesn’t mention the FAA at all.

Right, I see the same thing under laptop, but you might take a look at “Power Banks” and “Power Charger” and “Phone Charger” which all mention lithium ion batteries and reference FAA web pages -- however the link seems to be broken.


Then search Google for "how did Epstein die" and watch as its crystal ball of truth decides the future.

Why did you post the same comment so many times?

I thought this was about keyboards making pilots unable to do crucial data entry at first.

Can Apple just send a notification to all affected devices?

But you can keep bringing your 100 Wh powerbanks (coincidentally the same energy as contained in a 2015 15 inch MacBook battery).

As someone who had one of the bad batteries, where it swelled up to an alarming degree, I see a major difference between a generic power brick with some small possibility of a problem and a battery with a known problem.

Are those powerbanks subject to a safety recall?

On my recent flights between the USA and Australia, they specifically advised not to check any batteries at all, so in my carry-on I had 5 drone batteries, 3 powerbanks and a mid-2015 MBP.

The provided USB port couldn't charge my larger iPad, so the powerbanks were useful then.


Not much of a coincidence - that happens to be right at the limit of how much power capacity you can have and still being the device on a plane per FAA regulations.

When I flew in Europe recently they gave an announcement saying using power banks in flight is prohibited.

A lot of flights do prohibit powerbanks.

My Laptop takes 2 x 230W power supplies, lol.

1. Watt-hours are not the same thing as Watts.

2. That's not a laptop, that's a luggable.




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