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These hands are typing “Fuck this crappy keyboard.”Photo: Angelika Smile (Shutterstock)
MacBooks have, for the most part, been known to some of the best keyboards in the biz. For the most part. From 2015 through 2019, though, Apple “revolutionized” its laptops with the butterfly keyboard, a low-travel keyboard prone (or doomed) to failure. Sticky keys and double-presses have plagued so many users, Apple eventually dropped the design altogether. But they’re not off the hook for their poor design choices. In fact, they might owe you money for your pain and suffering.
What happened to Apple’s butterfly keyboard?
Apple’s butterfly keyboard was a disaster from the jump, but the company never wanted to admit fault. Soon after Apple implemented the design across their entire line of MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros, users started complaining, and with good reason: While the keyboard’s low travel was polarizing (personally, I’ve always liked it), the design made it all too easy for crumbs, dust, and debris to become trapped, turning each key into a ticking time bomb. You might be happily humming along, until one day your E key turned into an “EE” key, thanks to a double-press issue. Other keys might start “sticking,” making a controversial typing experience actually untenable.
Apple did try to adjust the design over time, implementing a membrane to help keep debris away from the butterfly switches, but this change couldn’t fix the fundamental flaw in the design. Eventually, Apple admitted defeat and went back to a more familiar keyboard design in the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro. The company soon swapped out the butterfly keyboards across the rest of the lineup, with newer customers never the wiser .
But for those of us who did buy these things, the trauma is still present. Apple started a keyboard repair program, offering to repair your keyboard for free, but that only puts a band-aid on the issue. The repair changes nothing about the design, so it’s possible/likely you’ll face a similar problem in the future. If you do, too bad, since the program only covers your computer for four years after the original date of purchase.
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This whole situation is bullshit, and the law knows it. Seven states issued class action law suits against Apple over the keyboards, claiming Apple knowingly sold defective products to its customers. While the company has never admitted wrongdoing, it has agreed to a payout, to the tune of $50 million. And a slice of that $50 million could be yours, if you meet the right criteria.
How to get your Apple keyboard money
Unfortunately, the lawsuit’s scope is severely limited. For starters, the payout only applies to victims who bought their affected MacBooks in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, or Washington. If you didn’t buy your laptop in one of these seven states, you unfortunately don’t have a case.
Of course, the MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro in question needs to have a butterfly keyboard. But that applies to most MacBooks released from 2015 through 2019. Finally, a certified Apple repair shop needs to have repaired the butterfly keyboard in order for you to qualify. If you took it to a third-party technician, no payout for you. If Apple repaired your MacBook with a Magic Keyboard, that doesn’t count either.
If you meet all the qualifications, congratulations! You can get compensation. The amount will depend on the severity of your repairs. If you got specific keycaps replaced, that’s $50. If Apple replaced the whole butterfly keyboard, that’s $125. And if the company replaced your butterfly keyboard more than once, they owe you $395.
According to the terms, you should be contacted directly if you qualify. Your mileage may vary, though. I meet all the requirements on paper, but have yet to hear from anyone about the settlement. If you’re in the same boat, you will soon be able to reach out to the legal firms who put together the deal at keyboardsettlement.com. In theory—the site appears to be a work in progress at this time.
Whether you put that $50 or $125 or $395 toward a new Mac is up to you. If you prefer to pocket the cash and hold onto your machine for as long as you can, there are some tricks you can try to fix a uncooperative butterfly keyboard.
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