03/20/2012 07:09 pm ET

iPad Smart Cover Problem: Old Apple Smart Covers Don't Work With New iPad, Users Say

Are older Smart Covers rendered dumb by the newest iPad?

Alert the First World Problem police because it appears that at least some of them are. Following the (perhaps overheated) iPad Overheating outcry, there have been a growing number of reports that the third-generation iPad does not work with some Apple Smart Covers that had previously been bought for the iPad 2, nor with some third-party smart covers not made specifically for the newest Apple tablet.

The Smart Cover, unveiled concurrently with the iPad 2 in 2011, is a thin case that snaps magnetically to the iPad's side and covers the iPad's display without hiding its back. When the Smart Cover is over the screen, the iPad's display automatically goes dark; when the Smart Cover is removed, the display turns back on.

Now, on the day that Apple was awarded a patent for this technology, some iPad 3 owners, like Chris Taylor of Mashable, as well as multiple posters on the Apple Discussion Forums, are reporting that their older Smart Covers cannot shut off the display nor illuminate it on their new iPads.

"Just received the new iPad and I have the same problem with a (presumably) authentic Apple smart cover purchased from Amazon," says forum user Freediverx1, in a typical post. "The cover doesn't sleep or wake the iPad."

Other early third-generation iPad buyers, using both Apple Smart Covers and imitation cases from companies like iFrogz and Otterbox that they had purchased for their iPad 2, similarly complained on both the Apple website and MacRumors forums that their magnetic covers no longer do the trick.

An early, persuasive explanation for why this might be so comes from photographer and writer Mark Booth, who says that Apple has changed up the polarity of the magnetic sensors inside the iPad, so that now Smart Cases only work with cases equipped with magnets facing a specific direction.

"[Apple] did something in the iPad 3 to make it polarity-sensitive to the magnet in the covers," Booth says in his video, explaining a change that has apparently rendered some cases with the wrong polarity ineffective. (You can read his post, and watch an excellent instructive video about the change, at Mark Booth's website).

Booth notes in his post that some customers have been able to exchange their now defective Smart Covers for new ones at Apple Stores; Apple declined to comment, and accepting these exchanges does not appear to be corporate policy. One alternative, pitched by a commenter on Booth's site, is to manually reverse your case's polarity, by snipping open your case, flipping over those magnets, and then patching the case back up (clever!).

So far, that level of industry hasn't been necessary for too many people, as the "Smart Cover Not Locking/Unlocking New iPad" thread on the Discussion Forums only has about 5,000 views and 50 posts as of press time. New iPad owners have complained in much larger volumes that the device gets physically warm during use, though neither of these peeves seem to have cooled down customer demand: Apple recently announced that it had sold over 3 million iPads during its first weekend of availability.

Anyway: Are you having trouble with your old Smart Cover on your new iPad? Or is this much ado about nothing? Or maybe -- maybe! -- is it both? Let us know in the comments.



Check out what reviewers like about the new iPad in the slideshow below.

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