Class-Action Lawsuit: Apple Knew Butterfly Keyboards Were Faulty
The Verge reports that a judge has certified a 2018 seven-state class action lawsuit against Apple over its defective butterfly-switch keyboard design. Apple introduced the butterfly keyboards in 2015, revised them several times, and ultimately abandoned them in 2020. Throughout all the revisions, the butterfly keyboards were exceptionally sensitive to dust and debris, with keys frequently jamming, being ignored, or becoming “sticky.”
The most interesting bit is an email cited in support of the suit. In it, an unnamed Apple executive says in reference to the butterfly keyboard, “no matter how much lipstick you try to put on this pig… it’s still ugly.” It’s too bad that Apple couldn’t bring itself to axe the butterfly keyboard quickly rather than attempting years of futile fixes to a design that was both widely reviled and fatally flawed. Looks like that butterfly has come home to roost.
I had my keyboard replaced fairly soon after I purchased my 2016 MBP 15". Just the last weeks the same trouble surfaced again, with some keys doing double strikes. I started talking to Apple today…
Unpopular opinion… but I loved it. I wish Apple had found a way to make it work. I had three MacBooks: a maxed-out original which developed a battery issue, so I replaced it with a low-spec woot stop-gap, and then a 2017 maxed-out once it became clear they would be discontinued. I loved the surface area of the keys, and the lack of “springiness.” I found it, by far, to be the most pleasing keyboard to type on I had ever experienced: I am not and never have been an ALPS guy but my Mac experience goes back to 1994 so I missed Extended Keyboard II etc., but I have used a few. And, I am aware mine is a minority opinion! However Siracusa and Gruber are so vocal on this, and I want to be a small Gen-X voice saying no, I loved the concept. I associate clacky keyboards with airline gate agents, passive-aggressively communicating to you that you are about to be rerouted via Phoenix. The butterfly? As per the name: floating; minimal movement, but enough to travel to let you know that the key was hit. But no more.
However, I had all the issues. I have a dog and the MacBook butterfly keyboard kryptonite is his downy undercoat. I am guessing on Jony Ive’s design studio dogs were not a day-to-day issue. It wasn’t his regular fur, which is thick and coarse enough not really to be a problem: it was the undercoat hairs which are very fine, and, it turns out, get under everything. On my 2015 original I went through four keyboards under warranty, having actually broken the first one by trying to remove the keycaps, which of course broke. On the 2017 “I’ll use this till it dies”, the point of throwing in the towel was giving the kiss of life to the K key earlier this year, trying to move some presumably near-invisible piece of fluff, my canister of compressed air having been used up.
So, I type this on an M1 MacBook Air, having traded in the MacBook in a moment of “why are my lips pressed against my keyboard?” rage. I am loving TouchID, and actually the stereo speakers: the MacBook’s speaker was actually phenomenal, so the upgrade is all the more impressive. I don’t really notice much on speed, but there is less / almost no beachball. I find the keyboard a retrograde experience, reminding me of my 2011 MacBook Air. It’s so bouncy, and it feels like my fingers aren’t landing on a firm surface, but an unstable one. And the machine is so heavy. Air? Hmm.
But, all the keys are all working, all the time.
What I never understood to begin with is why Apple felt they HAD to change to this kind of keyboard. The keyboard on the 2015 MacBook Pro (which I still own) was perfect from a standpoint of nothing wrong with it, works just fine and yet they went to this other type of mechanism that proved to be nothing but problematic. Why? I abhor changes for the sake of change; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!
Apple has a “3 Strike” rule that most people do not know about. If a computer requires 3 major repairs, Apple will replace like for like with new equipment. My 2017 15" MacBook Pro initially had USB port issues, but because of the way the computer was constructed, the entire top case had to be replaced, including the keyboard and battery. Strike 1.
Next the keys became sticky and would repeat keystrokes, then the paint began to peel off the “A” and the “S” so they replaced the top case, again, to replace the keyboard. Strike 2.
Paint began to peel again, and the computer had the top case removed and replaced, again. Strike 3.
I used it for about 3 weeks then all kinds of funny stuff started to happen. Disks would not eject, multiple crashes each day, WiFi would cut out on this computer only, and not on the ones right beside it, and I noticed that I could not get more than 3 hours of battery time out of it. I had the feeling it was time for a replacement, and I was honestly hoping that the M1 Pro would be out. Darn!
I took it to my Apple Authorized Service Provider - people I have a very good relationship with for at least a decade - and they ran the hardware test, which looked OK, but I was cryptically told “it was running hot” but they would not let me see the report. Strike 4?
I called Apple, went through the process and the new 16" MacBook Pro with similar specs (upgraded processor, 16 gb, 1TB) computer will arrive some time this week after I transfer everything to a spare Air with a new 1TB drive from OWC. I have removed everything from the old machine, and it’s ready to go back to the mothership. No charge.
Be nice, state your case, show them you were following all of the instructions. You’d be surprised at how well they can take care of you.
*This is not the first time I have had computers replaced by Apple. I had an original 7500 that was actually a pre-production that they gladly took back, as well as a Duo that was also replaced. Even had a Newton 100 replaced, still have it, and it still works! There may have been more, I got my first one in 1985 and I lost count at about 100 somewhere back years ago. I use them, I recommend them, I help clients with them. Good to know that they take care of you.
Any recommendations for an inexpensive wired or wireless substitute keyboard for my iMac? I’m sooo tired at having to replace magic keyboards, or try to clean sticky keys and failing. I don’t do anything special with mine…no gaming or fancy stuff, just word processing, and I’m not terribly fussy. Just want the damn thing to keep working…
I was in a similar boat as I have a Mac I don’t sit at too often (I mostly remote access to it) and it seemed every time I did, the batteries in the wireless keyboard were dead. Drove me nuts.
So I bought a cheap wired keyboard and it’s great:
It is the flat-style keys, but I’m used to those from laptops. (I tried one of those mechanical switch keyboards everyone raves about and I had finger pain within minutes of using it. I hated it and sent it back.)
Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum