The Butcher's Bill

So we are coming up on three years with the iPad 1. I thought it would be interesting to look back at our damage rate and see how things went.

I've kept a log of when devices were replaced and why. These numbers are based on a deployment of 115 iPads and all the repairs were handled through the Genius Bar at our local Apple Store.

1 Sep 2010: Dead Digitiser

A pupil reported that her iPad was not responding to touches in one area of the screen. I checked and there did appear to be a ‘dead band’ the width of the screen about one fifth of the way up where drags across the affected area would not be recognised. The iPad acted as if the user had lifted their finger from the screen.

8 Sep 2010: LCD Failure

Our Primary 4 teacher reported that one boy's iPad had developed rainbow stripes across the screen. No evidence of any physical damage to the device.

1 Nov 2010: LCD Failure

Another pupil's iPad is displaying similar video issues to the above.

16 Nov 2010: Home Button

An iPad is exhibiting a sticky home button. Clicks are not always registering.

22 Nov 2010: Broken Headphone Jack

A Primary 1 pupil accidentally broke off a headphone jack in the socket. As a result, the iPad thought there were headphones plugged in and would not play any sound. Neither I nor the Genius Bar could extract it, so the device had to be replaced.

23 Aug 2011: 4x4 Farrago

An iPad was destroyed by accidentally being run over by a 4x4.

23 Aug 2011: USB Failure

An unassigned device that had been stored over the summer was unable to be recovered from DFU mode, consistently showing error -1604 in iTunes.

29 Aug 2011: Cracked Screen

An iPad developed a crack in the lower corner of the screen due to being stacked horizontally under too many other iPads.

10 Nov 2011: USB Failure

An iPad stopped responding to cables being plugged in. Reboot or DFU failed to fix.

11 Jan 2012: Drop Damage

A pupil dropped her iPad right on the power switch. The aluminium case was dented and is mechanically interfering with the operation of the sleep/wake button.

27 Apr 2012: LCD Failure

A pupil's iPad developed black and flashing lines on the screen.

1 Sep 2012: Cracked Screen

An iPad had a cracked screen.

2 May 2013: Sleep Button

A pupil's iPad had a depressed sleep/wake button, making it difficult to turn the device on and off.

2 May 2013: Sleep Button

Another iPad developed a bad sleep/wake button.


  • 3 LCD failures
  • 2 sleep/wake button failures
  • 2 connector failures
  • 2 cracked screens
  • 1 digitiser failure
  • 1 case damage
  • 1 home button failure
  • 1 headphone jack
  • 1 bad interaction with a motor vehicle

So, over the course of three years, a total of 14 devices have been replaced. That works out at as an overall replacement rate of 4% per year.

Of these devices, half were for what we might call failures - damage not resulting from user action - and the other half were damage. Interestingly, our battery failure rate remains at a steady 0%.

I'm no mechanical engineer, so I can only guess at reasons why we may be seeing such a low damage rate. For one thing, I'd say that the iPad 1 is very robustly built. It doesn't have such a sharp edge as the iPad 2-style case, which can be vulnerable when the device is dropped.

The second thing I think contributed to our low damage rate was the fact that we have carpet in almost every classroom of the school except the science lab.

Another factor is that there just isn't that much to go wrong. A laptop has a complex hinge, more than 100 switches on the keyboard, a moving hard drive, a fragile power socket. The iPad has four switches, a charging socket and solid state storage. The 30-pin connector has proven reasonably robust but I expect the Lightning connector will be even more reliable.

Finally, I also believe that being 1:1, and building a culture of responsibility around that, makes a massive difference to the way pupils treat computers. When your name is on it, when your data is on that device and when its damage or loss will directly impact you, you tend to take good care of it.