Apple Relaxes Water Damage Policy on iPods

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple appears to have loosened a policy that previously exempted iPods from warranty cover if they showed signs of water damage. But it's unclear if the change will apply to more expensive devices.

iPod Hardware Contains Liquid Sensors

Although it's a clearly-stated part of Apple's user guides and conditions of sale that the company disclaims any responsibility for damage caused by liquid, most people do not realize that doesn't simply apply to cases where the damage is very visible.

Instead, all the company's portable devices have a tiny liquid contact indicator: in the iPod it's at the bottom of the headphone port -- which is one of the few places where liquid can get inside.

The sensor can only be seen with a magnifying glass that has a light attached, and will have changed color from white or silver to red or pink if the indicator has come into contact with liquid. It's set up so that it can't be triggered by issues such as anything other than extreme levels of humidity.

Sensor Reliability Questioned In Court

Until now, Apple staff have been told to refuse to carry out repairs under warranty if the indicator has been triggered. Instead, the customer must pay a fee for an out-of-warranty service.

That led to at least one lawsuit, filed last April, that appears to be ongoing. It was filed by a San Francisco woman who claimed there isn't enough evidence the indicators offer conclusive proof either that the device came into contact with liquid, or that this caused the damage that the company refused to repair under warranty. (Source:

Now, a repair document for Apple staff has been uncovered that appears to show a change of policy. It states that if either the customer admits an iPod was in contact with liquid at or shortly before the point it broke, or if the water damage is clearly visible, the warranty repair should be refused as usual.

Extended Warranty Service for Water-Damaged Units

However, it also notes that "If a customer disputes whether an iPod... has been damaged by liquid contact and there are no external signs of damage from corrosion, then the iPod may still be eligible for warranty service." (Source:

It's not clear if the apparent change is a response to the lawsuit, or if it could be cited as evidence in that case. Another point yet to be established is whether the new policy applies to the iPad, iPhone or MacBooks, which is likely to be more contentious given the high cost of these products.

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