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Apple will fix certain problem keyboards on MacBooks, MacBook Pros

CNET logo CNET 6/22/2018 Shara Tibken
a piano keyboard: Apple's butterfly switch keyboard has faced criticism by users. / Sarah Tew/CNET © Provided by CNET Apple's butterfly switch keyboard has faced criticism by users. / Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple has finally admitted defeat when it comes to its MacBook "butterfly switch" keyboards. Well sorta. 

The company on Friday said it 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. 

Every model listed -- ranging from 2015's 12-inch Retina MacBook to 2017's 15-inch MacBook Pro -- uses the butterfly switch design Apple first rolled out with its computer revamp in 2015. Both the first- and second-generations of the butterfly switch design are covered in the service plan. 

"Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge," the company said in a support page on its website. "The type of service will be determined after the keyboard is examined and may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for more information. 

Apple rolled out the new keyboard design in 2015 in an effort to make its laptops even thinner and lighter than in the past. The butterfly switch replaced the traditional "scissor" mechanism below each key and was meant to be more stable, responsive and comfortable.

But almost immediately, users complained about the feel of the new keyboards and said they could be easily damaged by specks of dust. Some have said they've had to go a week or more without their computer while Apple replaced not just the unresponsive key, but a substantial part of their MacBook. And the fix isn't cheap. Some have said the out-of-warranty fix can set you back $700.

At least two proposed class action lawsuits have been filed against Apple over the use of the butterfly switch. 

Apple, in response to the butterfly switch complaints, published a webpage a year ago outlining how to clean the keyboard using a can of compressed air. But some users have said that doesn't work. By now launching a replacement program, Apple appears to be admitting the problem is worse than it earlier thought. 

Here are the eligible models:

  • 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)

CNET's Sean Hollister contributed to this report.

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Apple's butterfly switch keyboard has faced criticism by users. © Provided by CNET Apple's butterfly switch keyboard has faced criticism by users.
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