A judge has classed a lawsuit against Apple for its controversial, allegedly flawed MacBook "butterfly" keyboard design, and has agreed that owners of an affected model will qualify for the class in seven states.
As of 2018, several MacBook owners in seven states filed lawsuits against Apple, claiming the company knew the butterfly-style switches were defective. In an order published Friday (PDF), Judge Edward J. Davila of the US District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to classify the lawsuit. All California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, or Washington residents who purchased a 2015-2017 MacBook, 2016-2019 MacBook Pro, or 2018-2019 MacBook Air now qualify for class .
The butterfly-style keyboard design was controversial from the start. Apple designed it to be thinner and offer a shorter rate of return. This saves space in the computer case and speeds up typing. Some users hated the feeling while others loved it. However, the bigger problem didn't seem to be that of preference, but rather that of basic function: the thinner buttons turned out to be more prone to failure in the real world, as even small dust particles that accumulate around the switches could stop working and require a complete replacement of the entire keyboard.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that Apple's actions, as well as internal documents of the company, show that Apple knew the design was flawed. They argue that the company violated several states' consumer protection laws by continuing to sell the defective products to consumers.
A 2018 report found that MacBooks were about 40 percent more likely to require keyboard-related repairs after the butterfly-style keyboard was introduced. Repeated repairs – keyboards that require an expensive second or even third repair – also increased significantly.
In June 2018, Apple admitted that the butterfly-style switches were causing issues, and the company launched a keyboard servicing program to address those issues. The program allowed affected MacBook owners to have their keyboards repaired or replaced at no charge for the next four years, and some customers who had previously paid for those repairs were able to request refunds.
Until mid-2018, Apple only sold MacBook models with butterfly keyboards. However, by 2019, Apple was already redesigning the MacBook Pro line of keyboards, and by 2020 the company was completely exhibiting the butterfly keyboard from its entire line of laptops.