The computer giant finally admits its once touted "butterfly switch" keyboards have always been faulty.
When Apple first announced the spiffy new line of Macbook Pro computers back in 2016, consumers were enchanted by the complete redesign of a laptop keyboard. A touchscreen bar? So cool! In reality, the futuristic new emoji scroller may have been implemented as no more than a distraction for a problematic issue with the laptop's design: a revolutionary new "butterfly switch" keyboard.
Apple first rolled out the new keyboard design in 2015 in its obsessive effort to make products that are thinner and lighter than those of the past. Prior to the switch, Macbooks employed the traditional "scissor" mechanism below each key. The larger keys have a distinctly different feel and respond to lighter touches thanks to the sensitive new design. The new butterfly switch was advertised as more responsive and comfortable than its predecessor.
And while consumers may or may not believe Apple succeeded in its effort, they can certainly agree on one thing, the keyboard is alarmingly sensitive to dust. If even the smallest particle of dust got underneath the keyboard's skin, then certain keys would jam, providing users an excellent opportunity to take out their frustrations with their new $3000 machines by slamming their eager fingers down repeatedly upon their non-responsive space bars. Clearly, I'm speaking out of experience here.
By the time many users were on to this, the keyboard programs were out of warranty, and a repair would set you back $700. This was largely due in part to more brilliance on the Apple design team, who decided it would be a good idea to glue the keyboard, upper panel and battery all together which makes repair extremely technical. Essentially, in order to replace even a single key on the keyboard, one would also have to replace the upper panel and several attached components, including the battery, as well.
Yet, Apple continued to insist there had been no mistake on its part. Instead, the company provided a "simple" step by step solution to clean your keyboard with compressed air.
Good luck if you can't measure a perfect 75-degree angle! Somehow this method didn't seem to work for the majority of MacBook users out there, who were forced to take in their laptop for repair anyways.
Then, in April 2018, an AppleInsider investigation found that MacBook Pro keyboard failures were happening roughly twice as often as they were in older models. Within a week of the report's publication, a Change.org petition called on Apple to recall all MacBooks with butterfly switch keyboards. The petition earned more than 27,000 signatures in just three weeks. Internet skeptics have estimated that up to 20 percent of MacBook users may have been impacted, which in turn led to hundreds of thousands—or potentially millions—of dollars in service costs and damages awarded to Apple.
Not surprisingly, this led to a series of class action lawsuits in May alleging that the butterfly mechanism introduced with the 2015 MacBook, and later applied to the MacBook Pro line in 2016, is prone to failure. Thanks to those plaintiffs, the lawsuits seem to have done the trick.
Over the weekend, Apple announced a service plan that will replace "a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models" whose letters or characters repeat unexpectedly, letters or characters don't appear or whose keys feel "sticky" or don't respond consistently. Of course, "Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will examine the customer's device to verify eligibility and then perform the service free of charge," the company said.
The models included in the service plan are all those that feature both the first and second generations of the butterfly switch keyboard, including models with and without the Touch Bar. For those keeping score, that's:
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2016)
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, 2017)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)
Apple has also graciously offered customers who've already paid for a repair related to the service program a refund for the service cost, provided they can get in contact with the company. For full details on Keyboard Service Program for MacBook and MacBook Pro, visit the support page here and may your editing forever remain undisrupted by sticky, failing keys.