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Apple to pay $50 million for faulty MacBook Pro keyboard design

Apple MacBook Pro 2021 laptop featuring an Apple M1-series CPU

Apple today agreed to a $50 million settlement stemming from a lawsuit regarding the MacBook Pro’s much-maligned butterfly keyboard design. The class-action lawsuit was initiated because Apple’s butterfly keyboard design was nothing short of a typing nightmare. Keys were prone to sticking and, in some instances, simply wouldn’t work at all. After years of complaints, Apple mercifully brought back the scissor-switch keyboard design in 2019.

Who is eligible for a refund?

According to Reuters, the settlement encapsulates customers who purchased select MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models from 2015 through 2019. Per the terms of the agreement, users who had to replace more than one keyboard can receive up to $395. Users who had to replace one keyboard can receive up to $125. And users who only had to replace a single key can receive up to $50.

Additionally, impacted users remain eligible for free keyboard repairs for the next four years.

The thinking behind the failed MacBook Pro keyboard design

While Apple, per the settlement agreement, didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, it’s no secret that the design is widely considered a massive design fail that elevated form over function. Many speculate that the butterfly keyboard design was spearheaded by Jony Ive in his pursuit to keep Apple’s notebooks as thin as possible.

To this point, Apple at the time boasted that its new keyboard design was 40% thinner than a traditional keyboard. It also exclaimed that the design allowed for “greater precision” when striking keys. In practice, the travel for each individual key was too short and typing often felt odd.

It’s also worth noting that after years of lawsuits and thousands of customer complaints, Apple a few years ago took the rare step of issuing a public apology for the design.

“We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry,” an Apple spokesperson said in early 2019.

While there’s never an excuse for a faulty keyboard, the issue was exacerbated on account of the MacBook Pro’s sticker price. Imagine paying $2000 for a laptop only to find out that the keyboard is prone to failure for no reason.

Apple tried to improve the butterfly keyboard design over the years, but it was all futile in the end.

State of the MacBook Pro today

Today, Apple’s MacBook Pro is a beast of a machine. It’s fair to say that Apple’s notebook lineup today is the best we’ve ever seen. For starters, the keyboard works. And second, Apple completely changed the game with its M1 processor.

As we wrote previously:

The performance gains and power efficiency that the M1 brings to the table accomplished something that was seemingly impossible. It managed to get people hyped up for computer hardware. Sure, we’ve seen Apple iterate on the MacBook and iMac line, and sure, there is the Mac Pro, but Apple’s line of M1 laptops is the first time in a long time that we’ve seen genuine excitement for entry-level Macs from non-pro users.

Mac sales in recent years have exploded across the board. We’ve seen blazing fast MacBook Air models and even a brand new MacBook Pro design with a notch. The new notch design provides users with even more screen real estate.

Looking ahead, the future of the Mac has never been brighter, largely because Apple was able to acknowledge its design missteps and regroup.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.