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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)

We are a case maker (Orbino) and also quickly discovered that we had to flip the magnet used for the sensor on our Padova case. We were able to recall the shipped product and make the adjustment.

The reason some old cases work and others don't is that on the iPad 2, the sensor was *not* sensitive to polarity. All you needed was magnetic force and it would be activated. It is therefore luck of the draw if an old iPad case works with the new iPad.

Also worth noting: Apple circulates official design guidelines to case developers, with CAD drawings with location of sensors. There is absolutely no information on the sleep/wake sensor on the iPad guidelines, which explains why we were all caught off guard. One might assume that Apple wants a competitive advantage over other case makers when it comes to the Smart Covers.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOrb

I haven't had the opportunity to read through previous posts so I apologize for redundancy. I have an Élan Folio for my iPad 3 & when I move the cover to the back side my iPad will turn off. If the sensor changed on the new model why does it still turn off when the cover comes into contact with the back?

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeckett

I sent an email to yesterday, asking specifically about the "New iPAD" and got reply today directly from their Social Media Director, Product Manager stating ... "Any case bought today will work with the new iPad. Magnets and all."

So I placed order directly with Maroo.

Amazon shows the same product with the same price from other re-sellers. They may be carrying the "fixed" product. You have to confirm it yourself. But since the price is the same, I would order it directly from Maroo. (Free shipping too.)

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn


My best guess is that the magnet in the Élan Folio is either particularly large or particularly powerful. Remember that the EDGE of a magnet will have magnetic force from both poles. Perhaps it is the edge of the magnet in your Élan Folio that is triggering the sleep when the cover is flipped around to the back?

March 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterMark

mysterious, i can not reproduce this

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterUwe Geiger

I bought a Targus Vuscape case (made for the new iPad) and the magnetic on/off feature didn't work and I contacted Targus and they are aware of the problem and are also offering replacements and allowing you to keep the non-working one.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanny K

Has anyone indicated which pole of the magnet specifically must be facing the iPad? I don't have a marked magnet handy to check it with...

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrankVB

Thanks for that I tried my new iPad 3 smart cover from Mikaki which was suppose to be compatible with the new iPad but it didn't work. I took the iPad out of the casing and did the same test as you and it worked. Suffice to say I've contacted Amazon to get a replacement or a full refund.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHT

Great video that fully explained why the new ipad 3 sleep function failed to work on the cover (3rd party) that I have just purchased. Advertised as an ipad3 cover I will now get it replaced. Thanks for the information it is greatly appreciated.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael P

Note also that in rotating iPad cases the magnet must be alligned to the right side of the device to work (with the home button being at the bottom).

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIasonas

Hi Mark this is Chris from the UK, your info was of great help. My third party cover wouldn't work I found the polarity is ok it's the position of the magnets that are incorrectly placed and don't line up. Bit of surgery required on the cover. By the way Apple support got me to reload software which obviously made no difference. Thanks again

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris H

Excelente descubrimiento, yo creía que el problema era en los imanes donde se sujeta el ipad con el smart cover! Saludos!

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzabianza

Muchas gracias!

September 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterMark

great explanation..good experiment..

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNazri Arshad

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