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It's Time to Make Apple Pay for Its Faulty Butterfly Keyboards

Gizmodo 11/30/2022 Kyle Barr
A closeup of a Macbook keyboard and screen © Photo: ChrisChips (Shutterstock) A closeup of a Macbook keyboard and screen

The old style ‘butterfly’ keyboard design on Apple’s laptops proved to be a routine joke among consumers who constantly experienced sticky or stuck keys.

Apple’s poor keyboard design, which the company spent half a decade shoving into its MacBooks has finally, officially, come to bite the company in the posterior, at least financially.

Back in July, Apple settled the longstanding $50 million class action lawsuit over its faulty butterfly keyboards, though the company denied wrongdoing and blame for their brittle design. Macworld first reported that the judge handling the $50 million class action lawsuit agreed to the terms of the offer on Wednesday. According to Law360, $33 million of that total will be heading to some Mac users.

Those persons who bought a MacBook with a faulty keyboard between 2015 and 2019 in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, or Washington may be able to get a payout between $50, $125, or $395, depending on if they had keycaps replaced, had a keyboard replaced, or had two or more keyboard replacements during ownership. There should be a website coming with more information on who might be owed a spot of cash, but as of the time of reporting that site remains blank.

The states in question were where class action suits were certified, so folks who bought their MacBooks outside those areas won’t get to see a check in the mail. The class action suit filed back in May of 2018 claimed Apple knew the keyboard was defective for years but kept equipping later MacBook models with the same design. The lawsuit contended the company sold the laptops all while touting the keyboard had “four times more key stability than a traditional scissor mechanism.”

Apple had long kept its head in the sand over the butterfly design, often denying much or anything was wrong with its thin keyboards that would break whenever any thin piece of dust or grit got lodged underneath the keys. Other than just feeling squishy and unsatisfying, those buttons often became sticky and unresponsive for no apparent reason. The butterfly design was used from early 2015 all the way into 2020. MacBook Air and Pro models adopted the keyboard, though it was years before the company acknowledged the existence of a problem. That admission came shortly after these class action suits were filed.

The company started offering free fixes for some MacBook models back in 2018, and it told users who spent their own cash on repairs they could get a refund. This “extended keyboard service program” gave users a four-year warranty on their laptops, though even third-generation keyboards still had problems, as exemplified by a piece in The Wall Street Journal by Joanna Stern (AKA “Joanna Stn” after her “E” and “R” keys became stuck).

After all that time and only minor iterations, the company did finally create a MacBook with the new Magic Keyboard, and today the company is sticking with the new scissor-switch design.

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