The latest iMac was released 16 weeks ago. Since then, it's been plagued with problems, most notably flickering and/or yellow screens. Today, the saga comes to an end because Apple has acknowledged the issues and offered their support.
At long last, Apple has released a statement to us, admitting the production issues with iMacs - which reader and forum anecdotes imply to be a bit less frequent than before but still very much present at some level - and labelling AppleCare as the proper channel for related complaints.
Apple's Official Statement
"We've addressed the issues that caused display flickering and yellow tint. Customers concerned that their iMac is affected should contact AppleCare."
These two short sentences might not look like much, but the statement is Apple's first open acknowledgment of the jaundiced screen issue, and it identifies the problem as one worthy of AppleCare solutions.
From the start of these iMac updates, I made a deal that "...if Apple can come forward and openly admit the mistake while providing an adequate solution to their customers, I'll laud them as an example as to how companies can take an unforeseen manufacturing issue and make things right."
Today, Apple met the terms of that deal, and so will we.
Of course, just because Apple has "addressed" these iMac issues doesn't mean they have completely ferreted out the problems. (Their diction leaves some room for interpretation.). Since the production halt a few weeks back, Apple's forums seem a little quieter regarding yellow screens, and flickering had already been solved by a firmware update. Still, about 20 people have written us since the production restart - some of them now on their third+ iMac - encountering new iMacs with yellow displays (verses just a handful offering the all clear). That response is slightly more positive than it was in the past, when basically everyone who wrote me complained of flickering screens, yellow screens and a number of other maladies.
Unfortunately, we tried to reconnect with every person who'd written us after suffering through multiple returns, but very few responded either way. My guess is that some had their issues dealt with, while others just gave up on the iMac altogether. Sitting on a few grand for a few months isn't an easy thing to do for most people in this economy.
Yes, it's a downright shame that Apple hasn't been able to completely eliminate the yellow screen issue from the iMac line, whether their yield is 99.9 per cent or somewhere far lower. At this point in time, I don't think that every iMac shipping is inflicted with a dealbreaker of a screen (which honestly seemed to be the case for a bit in late 2009/early 2010), but I don't think that nearly every iMac is shipping perfectly, either.
Yields have gotten better. How much better? I honestly don't know.
(This photo is a yellow-screened 27-inch iMac produced after the production restart - displayed file dates are from an older Time Machine restore.)
As consumers, should we really be content with Apple's response when evidence shows the problem isn't entirely fixed? That decision is yours. But I will say, even with constant pressure from a website such as Gizmodo (along with many other publications that, thankfully, jumped on the bandwagon), a fundamental principle holds true: The longer you tell a lie, even a tacit one, the harder it is to tell the truth. For Apple to come clean after 16 weeks of shipping questionable systems should be something that the public can embrace, at least in part.
Because fanboyism and flame wars aside, if we leave no incentive for companies to be forthright regarding their mistakes, why the heck would they?
So Is It Finally Safe To Buy An iMac? Yup, but with one huge caveat: You should run this test upon receipt. If any part of that screen doesn't match to your liking, you may very well still need to return your first iMac before getting a system that works as advertised.
Luckily, Apple has acknowledged the issue and thereby taken some of the risk out of your hands, meaning, at the very least, customer service will take your problem seriously. And hopefully, the next time Apple or any other company ships a new product, they'll notify us of the problems instead of vice versa.
The Complete Faulty iMac Saga The Faulty iMac Saga, Chapter 1: The Beginning
A special thanks to Gizmodo Editorial Assistant Kyle VanHemert for all of his research work on this project, along with all the Giz readers who kept exchanging iMacs for us.