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iPad 3 Smart Cover Sleep/Wake Feature Not Working

Apple released the new iPad ("iPad 3") on Friday, March 16, 2012.  Unfortunately, new iPad buyers quickly discovered that their iPad's Smart Cover sleep/wake feature is not working properly with some third-party cases.  More perplexing, the problem isn't always consistent from case to case within the same model line.

On Smart Cover compatible cases, the iPad's sleep/wake feature is triggered by a small magnet embedded in the case's cover.  Most of the speculation regarding the possible cause of the sleep/wake problem has centered around the placement or location of the little magnet within the lid of the case.  Apple is rumored to have moved the location of the magnetic sensor in the iPad 3 and, thus, the magnet in some cases doesn't line up properly. While that might be the problem with some case designs, that's certainly not the problem with the Maroo Moko II case that I purchased for one of our new iPads!

It's all About Polarity!

It appears Apple is using a new design of sleep/wake sensor in the new iPad.  A sleep/wake sensor that is sensitive to polarity.  I shot some video to demonstrate.

(For the best viewing experience, click in the lower right corner to expand the video and then click on "HD".) 

By the way, the most recent genuine Apple Smart Covers are compatible with the new iPad 3!


A case manufacturer in the UK has tested my discovery.  The magnetically-activated sleep/wake function on one of his case designs was working with the iPad 2 but not working with the iPad 3.  He disassembling the first panel of the case's smart cover and reversed the entire panel—thus reversing the polarity of the magnet embedded in the panel—and held the panel in place with clear packaging tape.

Then he tested the modified case cover on both the iPad 2 and the iPad 3.  Success!  With the reversed panel, the case cover works perfectly with both the iPad 2 and iPad 3!

This manufactuer's test proves that the magnetic sensor switch in the iPad 2 is not sensitive to polarity!  Apple has switched to a different type of sensor switch for use in the iPad 3.

Update 2

I've learned why Apple decided to use a polarity sensitive switch in the new iPad 3.  Some iPad 2 customers were having issues with their iPads entering sleep mode when they flipped Apple's Smart Cover around flat behind their iPad 2.  Since the iPad 2's sleep/wake sensor wasn't polarity specific, it could sometimes be triggered from the magnet being positioned at the rear of the iPad.  By changing to a sensor that requires the correct polarity, the problem is eliminated.

Update 3

I've learned that some of the original genuine Apple Smart Covers do not work properly with the iPad 3.  Sometime in 2011, Apple apparently modified the design specifications of the Smart Covers in preparation for the release of the iPad 3.  According to reports on Apple's support forums, the model numbers for the Smart Covers changed at the same time.  Apple is reportedly exchanging these older Apple Smart Covers for the newer models at your favorite Apple Store.


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Reader Comments (34)

Mystery solved... Genius!

March 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHouston

Thanks for the helpful video. I fixed my Argos leather iPad case today by flipping the magnet over. I was able to pry the case open, flip the magnet and then glue it back together.

Works with my new iPad now.

March 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRich

Like minds think alike! I got an Otterbox case and ran into the same issue. Ipad2 worked new iPad did not. The one thing I did not know that you discovered is Apple redesigned their sensors. Good job on the video!

March 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBMAN

Awesome explanation - thanks so much for the research and video.

March 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAA

Great video. Really annoying that it's changed, I bought an iPad 3 and a third party smart cover that works with my friends iPad 2 but doesnt with my new 3. Sigh.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonnyV

Thanks for the clarification. Is there a chance that you publish old vs new product numbers?
I just ordered the red leather smart cover, but didn't receive my iPad yet. That way I could check directly if it is a new version or not.

Appreciate it.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndré

André, I'm sorry but I don't know what the specific model numbers are for the Apple Smart Covers.

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterMark

Re: original/newer Smart Covers, I have one from around the iPad 2 launch (orange, killed off with the later update!) and it works fine on my new iPad. Perhaps there was random variance with the previous models while the new ones are all the same.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjaptor

Nice Article!
I just receiver my smart cover for the iPad 3 and it won't work, even if I reverse it. I have to twist it a little, to make it work, like the magnet is not straightly aligned alongside the long edge. I guess it's just a broken version, so I'll return it.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

I have to correct myself, the smart cover for the ipad3 I just received seems to have the magnet not placed correctly.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Thanks, Mark! I just made a small incision into my smart cover, flipped the magnet and super-glued the incision back together. Works great!!

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDom

Great Post, Thanks! (even I saw it too late)

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGannicus

Hello, I found a great solution, in fact just cut a little part of the sweet side of the smart cover, and I found the little magnet, I turned it about few degrees to change the polarity, and remounted in my smart cover => Now all is perfect.

Look the final work:

You can put it on your blog if you want ;)

PS: Sorry for my bad english, I'm French.


March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex793

My guess is that Apple changed the smart cover's magnets when they released the double sided color smart covers about mid product cycle last year. However, kind of an unfortunate oversight on Apple's part by making the new one polarity specific.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermacfan2012

Good job Dad! :)

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaughter

Great detective work. Very well explained. American Ingenuity at its best. Great job.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuresh

OK for Apple to make the change; not OK for Apple to make the change and not tell the case makers, since it would be so simple for them to ensure their cases work; my Case Mate Signature Slim Case doesn't work.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterraleigh1208

Great explaination. Funny thing, I went into my settings to make sure the sleep/wake setting was turned on and the option was not there. I took a magnet and ran it along the ipad to wake it, I then went back to settings and the sleep/wake option was now showing and was set to on. My new Belkin Cinema Stripe Folio case is coming tomorrow, I will be curious to see if it works. I read some reviews where some said it worked and others said it didn't and there is a 30 day wait for a new one. I may do my own repair if needed.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

ThAnks so much for your post. I have a Zoogue ipad 2 ccver that wouldn't work with the sleep function on the new iPad. I have spent time trying all kinds of magnets to work with the cover. Finding out from your blog it was as simple as turning over the existing magnet changing the polarity.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Nice finding. So it was just a magnet polarity issue after all!

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFelix Widjaja

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