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HomeTechnologyApple's butterfly keyboard fiasco leads to $50 million settlement

Apple’s butterfly keyboard fiasco leads to $50 million settlement

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Apple has fixed it Filed a class-action lawsuit over the controversial butterfly keyboard in some MacBook models, agreeing to pay $50 million to customers affected by unreliable typing surfaces.

The lawsuit claims that Apple knew of possible problems with its keyboards, but still sells devices that use them. The settlement has yet to be approved by a judge, but once approved, customers who bought MacBooks with butterfly keyboards in seven U.S. states between 2015 and 2019 will be eligible for compensation ranging from $50 to $395.

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Apple’s butterfly keyboard uses a slim switch, and a mechanism under each key registers a keystroke. The company first introduced the butterfly keyboard on the fourth-generation MacBook in 2015. David Pierce reviewed WIRED’s laptop, giving it an 8/10 rating and calling it “the future of computing.” (Forgive us, we don’t know what it will become.)

The butterfly keys are almost flush with the laptop body, and there is little travel when you press them. Their compact size helped Apple reduce the MacBook’s depth by a few millimeters. Unfortunately, this ultra-thin design also means the keys are prone to breaking or not being able to type properly. Something as small as some dust can get under the keys and render them inoperable.

The move to butterfly buttons was a design decision during the heyday of former Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive’s tenure, when the company’s design philosophy was slim, sleek, and aesthetic above all else. (And sometimes features.) Around this time, Apple made some bold, controversial moves with its MacBooks. It removes many ports and requires many users to use dongles. The fourth-generation MacBook also introduced Apple’s Touch Bar, which was mostly maligned, although it offered some useful accessibility features.

Still, the most annoying thing is the butterfly keyboard. Complaints about the finicky keyboard immediately started popping up. The keys are nearly twice as fast as Apple’s previous laptops. Repairing a broken key is a headache. Even minor repairs can require replacing the entire keyboard, costing customers hundreds of dollars for it. Apple was hit with two class-action lawsuits in the same month in 2018. Reluctant to abandon the design, the company revamped the keyboard for its 2018 Mac models, adding a membrane under the keys to keep some dust from getting in and surviving. Finally, Apple offered extended free repairs for MacBooks with broken butterfly keys.

Finally, after nearly five years of expensive repairs, technical tweaks, and possibly countless indignant MacBooks thrown across the room, Apple ditched the irritating butterfly keyboard. This is one of about three good things happening in 2020. Since then, Apple seems to have dominated its aesthetic ambitions, eventually returning to building computers that really make sense for most users.

But $50 million is little money for Apple. In 2020, Apple agreed to settle a $500 million class-action lawsuit after admitting it deliberately slowed down older iPhones, followed by an additional $113 million settlement on the same issue later that year. When the Butterfly lawsuit money is paid out, everyone involved in the class action will receive a bonus. Estimate up to $50 if you replaced the keycaps, up to $125 if you replaced one keyboard, and up to $395 if you replaced multiple keyboards.

Whether it spent $50 million or $500 million, Apple has not admitted any wrongdoing. (The company also did not respond to a request for comment.)

Once the settlement is approved, owners of eligible MacBooks who purchased computers in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York or Washington, D.C. will be able to receive compensation.

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