Apple has issued an apology for users' continued issues with the 'butterfly' switch keyboards fitted to its more recent laptop models, four years after complaints began surfacing and a year after agreeing to switch users' keyboards outside the usual warranty period.
The launch of Apple's 2015 MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro families brought a move to a new 'butterfly' keyboard switch mechanism. This, Apple claimed at the time, allowed the devices to shave just under a millimetre off their overall thickness without sacrificing finger-feel or typing speed. Sadly, Apple's claims fell far short of user experience: Shortly after launch customers began complaining that the keyboards were overly loud, frequently mistyped, and failed at a rapid pace far beyond that of previous designs.
It wasn't until June 2018 that Apple would admit to a problem with 'a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models' - and only after initially claiming that the issues were the result of dust ingress and charging out-of-warranty customers for replacements, a process which involves swapping out the entire upper portion of the affected laptops. Following its admission, Apple agreed to swap out the keyboards free of charge for a period of four years after the laptops were first sold at retail.
At the time, Apple was cagey about whether the replacement laptops were a new design - which would be a de facto admission of the original being flawed - but analysis of the replacements revealed only a minor modification, with a rubber gaiter being fitted to each switch to dampen noise levels and prevent dust ingress. Unfortunately, users found that these keyboards, too, would fail, and Apple is now the target of a US class action suit.
While Apple is, naturally, defending itself against the legal action, it has admitted that the flaw still exists. Responding to a Wall Street Journal article, written by a journalist who has an affected MacBook Air and with a clever feature whereby the most common issues with the keyboard - double-T typing and a complete lack of Es and Rs - can be replicated in the article itself using toggle switches, Apple apologised to its customers: 'We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry,' the company claims, 'The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.'
The unnamed company spokesperson advises anyone affected by the keyboard faults to contact Apple customer service, though stops short of promising a free fix for those whose systems are beginning to fail and who are approaching the end of the post-warranty grace period. Buyers in the European Union, meanwhile, can expect the issue to be covered by consumer protection legislation for up to six years after purchase.
February 24 2020 | 12:00