Apple to face class action over MacBook butterfly keyboard

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2019
Apple on Monday was denied a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit leveled by MacBook owners who claim the company was not only aware of a flaw in the design of its butterfly keyboard, but took steps to conceal that fact from potential buyers.

MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro with butterfly switch keyboard.


U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in an order handed down in San Jose, Calif., today said Apple failed to present convincing arguments in its bid to toss claims of the case lodged in May.

Plaintiffs leveled multiple claims involving various MacBook models manufactured from 2015 and MacBook Pro models produced from 2016 which rely on Apple's butterfly keyboard mechanism. The ultra low-profile switch is advertised as more responsive and robust than traditional scissor-type counterparts, but a small portion of users found the vital component fails during regular use.

As noted in the suit, Apple's butterfly keyboard can in some cases succumb to small amounts of dust or debris, which impede normal switch behavior and cause keystrokes to go unregistered. Other issues with the key design include repeating characters, unresponsive key input and "sticky" keys. The company was allegedly aware of the flaw, but continued to sell the claimed faulty MacBooks at customers' peril, plaintiffs claim.

In its motion to dismiss, Apple said it presented owners with viable options to remedy the problem, including a variety of at-home troubleshooting methods and a repair program initiated in 2018. Earlier this year, Apple extended program eligibility to include 2018 MacBook Pro models

"The Program is an appropriate remedy under the CLRA because Plaintiffs can have their keyboards fixed free of charge and/or receive a refund for repair expenses if Plaintiffs paid to have their keyboards repaired," Apple argued.

Plaintiffs, however, note the voluntary program is ineffective because it fails to address the core issue. Further, faulty keyboards are replaced with parts bearing an identical design, leaving the door open for failure. Apple also does not compensate owners for out-of-pocket expenses during the repair process.

Reuters reported on the order earlier today.

Apple appears to be moving away from butterfly switches, as the company's latest 16-inch MacBook Pro ditches the slim profile keys in favor of a more traditional scissor type design. Whether the kerfuffle over butterfly keys prompted the shift is unclear.

Plaintiffs in the case seek damages, legal fees and demand Apple publicly disclose the keyboard design as flawed. In addition to damages, the suit calls on Apple to fix or replace defective units, with the latter demand covering reimbursement for the purchase of replacement laptops.

Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Butterfly Keyboard Suit by Mikey Campbell on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,822member
    Oh jeez... here we go again... 

    disclaimer: owner of 2017 MBP with that keyboard and have had zero problems with it.
    watto_cobrarevenantrandominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 56
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,634member
    The actual data says otherwise. The failure rate was within norms. As usual the internet amplifies the negative. The keyboards were not defective. That people detested them, constantly bitched about them, does not make them defective. These lawsuits benefit only the lawyers and that’s why they get filed. The plaintiffs claiming they were damaged by Apple will get diddly-squat as usual. They will NOT get the free 16” MBP they are expecting.
    edited December 2019 StrangeDaysradarthekatmac_dogwatto_cobrauraharaCarnagepscooter63javacowboycornchip
  • Reply 3 of 56
    I'd agree with this if the mechanism itself was faulty, in that it stopped working or broke. But my understanding is that debris interfered with the mechanism instead? Apple has been proactive about addressing that, which is all that can be asked. They are not abandoning the design, but brought back the scissor in the meantime while they continue their research and development on a superior mechanism that many people are happy with.

    Stop eating over your keyboards, people! Even my 2013 MacBook Air scissor keyboard doesn't handle crumbs well! I recently learned how to pry the keys off (very easy!) and it was amazing what was under them. No, I'm not pristine and perfectly clean in my daily computing. 16 hours a day hacking away at the keyboard sometimes involves eating at some point.   :D
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 56
    i for one will be interested to see the internal comms disclosed regarding the matter.

    sadly i feel it will show that the company was well aware and did continue to sell and promote; however i doubt it will show the overall design to be defective, rather not ideal for real world usage.
    cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 56
    lkrupp said:
    The actual data says otherwise. The failure rate was within norms. 
    I've seen AI's data on this too and frankly I don't believe it. I've never in my life had a problem with a keyboard, now I'm on my third and will probably need a fourth in a couple months. One of my friends, a neat-freak whose screen somehow is immaculate after three years, is about to bring his in. I've never seen anything like this before. 

    I'm not trying to be spiteful, but there must be some kind of flaw in AI's methodology.

    Basecamp dev team: 30% failure rate. https://m.signalvnoise.com/the-macbook-keyboard-fiasco-is-surely-worse-than-apple-thinks/

    (incidentally: not a hater! it's my favorite laptop keyboard ever, I'm not looking forward to switching to the 16" at all.)
    edited December 2019 chemengin1FileMakerFelleranantksundaramcornchiptrumptman
  • Reply 6 of 56
    metrixmetrix Posts: 256member
    We are not talking faulty GM ignitions that killed people here, this seems a bit frivolous. 
    radarthekatwatto_cobraflyingdpcornchip
  • Reply 7 of 56
    One thing I haven't seen mentioned: Even if the failure rate is as low as Apple claims, the keyboard switch will save everyone a ton of money. Butterfly keys cannot be replaced per-key; the require a complete replacement of the upper case and even the battery. "Magic keys" can be replaced one at a time.

    Even if users are back on the hook for repair costs given that the replacement program won't apply to "Magic Keyboards," the cost of repair will be back down to reasonable levels in nearly all cases. Apple won't have to keep manufacturing so many outdated parts for years after the machines have been discontinued, either. That's a win for everyone.
  • Reply 8 of 56
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,437member
    I'd agree with this if the mechanism itself was faulty, in that it stopped working or broke. But my understanding is that debris interfered with the mechanism instead? Apple has been proactive about addressing that, which is all that can be asked. They are not abandoning the design, but brought back the scissor in the meantime while they continue their research and development on a superior mechanism that many people are happy with.

    Stop eating over your keyboards, people! Even my 2013 MacBook Air scissor keyboard doesn't handle crumbs well! I recently learned how to pry the keys off (very easy!) and it was amazing what was under them. No, I'm not pristine and perfectly clean in my daily computing. 16 hours a day hacking away at the keyboard sometimes involves eating at some point.   :D
    First, my understanding was the early keyboards actually did have a higher failure rate, with the subsequent improvements reducing that. The other part of the problem is the keyboards are almost completely unrepairable. You can’t remove individual key caps and you can’t even replace the keyboard mechanism; you have to replace half of the computer. That alone is a design defect, IMO.

    As for the debris issue, keyboards are exposed to the environment. I had a 2011 MBA until the screen died 6 months ago, a 2017 MBP and a iPad Pro with a Logitech keyboard. I just 8 years I had exactly 0 problems with the MBA keyboard. In 3 ½ years I’ve had exactly 0 problems with the Logitech ipad keyboard. Since I got my new MBP I’ve had multiple problems with debris, despite the fact that I baby the keyboard like no other. I routinely eat/ate and got crumbs on the MBA/iPad keyboards. I never eat around my MBP but simply using it on the kitchen table where there tend to be crumbs is enough to cause problems. I’ll also state that we have 5 iMacs at work that routinely have people eating around them and have never had any issues with any of those keyboard.

    The truth is the butterfly keyboard is exceptionally sensitive to debris and performs markedly worse than any other keyboard I’ve used despite being treated better. You can argue that it’s the users’ fault, when it has fails in conditions that other keyboards have no trouble with it’s a sign that it’s poorly designed and not suitable for its intended use.

    The fact that Apple has extended the warranty may make it difficult for the plaintiffs in this case since they can’t show direct financial harm. 
    muthuk_vanalingamlorin schultzcornchip
  • Reply 9 of 56
    I have a 2016 15" MBP and never really liked the keyboard. I just got a 2019 16" MBP and the keyboard is *so* much better. I'm trading in my old MBP.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    I find myself being less of an Apple fanboy every day because of the political climate. But!; It brings me joy to know that innovation outweighed profit, if only for a moment. 

    Maybe they were wrong this time but how many times have been right and went unnoticed ?

    Apple, please keep guessing on what I will unknowingly love someday!

    I AM concerned in this post Jobs/Ive era.

    chemengin1anantksundaram
  • Reply 11 of 56
    Have a 2016 MBPro. Never had a problem with keyboard previously and I take care of my laptops. Regularly dust aand vacuum it. Occasionally you get a sticky key that sometimes gets better with vacuuming or blowing it oout. However, keyboard is repeating on a's and some o's, which is extremely annoying. I'd take it in for a keyboard replacement, but think I will just hold out a little longer and trade in for a 16". This is the most trouble I've ever had with an Apple laptop. I like the keyboard, just not the lack of longevity, and the difficult replacement.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 56
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,189member
    sflocal said:
    Oh jeez... here we go again... 

    disclaimer: owner of 2017 MBP with that keyboard and have had zero problems with it.
    I own the 2017 MVP with that keyboard and, although I take excellent care of it, lost the use of one letter. I tried everything possible, and finally got it to be responsive again. No one should have to go through this, especially  those of us willing to pay big bucks for an Apple computer.
    muthuk_vanalingamchemengin1anantksundaram
  • Reply 13 of 56
    shevshev Posts: 84member
    Got a 2016 15" with spacebar that regular double spaces and arrow keys that don't work. Also have a 2016 13" with horrible space bar that sticks and doesn't space. Need both for work and can't afford the 14 days the Genius Bar quote for the turnaround. 

    15" also has the overheating lines on the display as well. Never had this many problems with a Mac, owner since iBook G4

    anantksundaram
  • Reply 14 of 56
    bluefire1 said:
    sflocal said:
    Oh jeez... here we go again... 

    disclaimer: owner of 2017 MBP with that keyboard and have had zero problems with it.
    I own the 2017 MVP with that keyboard and, although I take excellent care of it, lost the use of one letter. I tried everything possible, and finally got it to be responsive again. No one should have to go through this, especially  those of us willing to pay big bucks for an Apple computer.
    Then get windows laptop if your not happy w MBP, nobody is bending your arms
    JFC_PA
  • Reply 15 of 56
    I’m not a guy that needs the latest and greatest, I’ll even buy refurbished on occasion if the value is there.  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t consider buying a refurb 2015/16 due to keyboard concerns even with a new keyboard installed.  There does seem to be a basic flaw with the design, that was improved with more recent models (not just 16”).

    I’m not certain it’s worth a class action though, because Apple decided to extend the keyboard warranty year(s) ago.

    Apple replacing the keyboards doesn’t really fix the design issue, but there’s nothing really Apple can do.  It’s not like they could replace the butterfly with a scissor mechanism on the old models... for a car (etc) you have more options, but there’s no free clearance on a modern laptop.

    I don’t think Apple was aware of the problem before them models were released, and they did somewhat fix the problem in later releases.  I’m not seeing grounds for a class action...
    watto_cobrarandominternetperson
  • Reply 16 of 56
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,842member
    Liking the keyboard ("feel"/"travel"/whatever) is a different issue than reliability and failure.

    As someone who likes the butterfly keyboard just fine, I *am* having problems with it in my year old 2018 MBP. A *few* times in the past I noticed a double A or more recently a double-delete, which is a bigger issue as I noticed that I'd occasionally delete two emails instead of one. I just pulled a long week of video work and when sending off the project one night, trying to compose an email was nearly impossible with the double-a's, spaces, deletes, and I think one other letter. Thinking perhaps it was exacerbated by the heat from rendering, but not sure. Right now it's fine. I fully intend to get it replaced with the 2019 keyboard which hopefully has fixed these reliability issues, in which case I'll be fine with it again. <-- just got a double a typing that just now.

    We'll never know the actual numbers. I think Apple has done the best they can here so far, and hopefully they'll extend the keyboard replacement program for as long as possible as people start reaching their four year limit — similar to the dGPU logic board replacement program where I think I got my last replacement at the end of 2017, I think, for a 2011 Mac. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 56
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,581member
    When Apple agreed to repair and extend keyboard warranty, class action law suit is immaterial. But, if this law suit continues than at most Apple might have to agree to repair more than current 4 years from the purchase date.
    Even pre 2015 Macbook Pro keyboard has kind of high keys. Butterfly keyboard has very low keys, There are users who like either or don't care. But, Magic keyboard seems likable by most.
    edited December 2019 watto_cobraentropys
  • Reply 18 of 56
    I have a 2013 MBP keyboard and it's wonderful! The trackpad is just the right size too!
  • Reply 19 of 56
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,200member
    wood1208 said:
    When Apple agreed to repair and extend keyboard warranty, class action law suit is immaterial. But, if this law suit continues than at most Apple might have to agree to repair more than current 4 years from the purchase date.
    Even pre 2015 Macbook Pro keyboard has kind of high keys. Butterfly keyboard has very low keys, There are users who like either or don't care. But, Magic keyboard seems likable by most.
    Yes, I am at a loss what they can claim compensation for? Free repairs? Oh, wait.
    randominternetpersoncornchip
  • Reply 20 of 56
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 974member
    When can I expect my $2 payout?
    razorpitEric_WVGGcornchip
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