back to article Apple MacBook butterfly keyboards 'defective', 'prone to fail' – lawsuit

Two Apple customers, fed up with the keyboards used in recent model MacBook notebooks, filed a lawsuit against the company on Friday in a San Jose, Calif, federal court. Plaintiffs Zixuan Rao, of San Diego, Calif, and Kyle Barbaro, of Melrose, Mass, alleging that Apple's model year 2015 or later MacBooks and model year 2016 or …


    1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: I love my Cherry keyboard!

      Apple did used to make good keyboards, their old Extended Keyboards of the early 90s were up there with Cherrys for typing feel.

  1. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Stuck keys

    The thing is that our Mac Mini (first generation Intel "Core") has had keyboard problems ever since I plugged it into a KVM switch. Ok, so it's a PS/2 switch so I needed a USB converter for the Mac, but I also needed a converter for the Acorn (PS/2 mouse to Acorn mouse) and my Linux box (which only has one PS/2 port and doesn't seem to like those multiplexing connectors). Of those three devices, the only one which ever has trouble is the Mac. More often than not, keys get "stuck down" and repeat. This is obvious when it's a letter key, less so if it's Shift or Option (Alt). Causes no end of hassle; "dad, why does a menu come up every time I try to click?"

    There is no way this is connected to the current issue, unless... unless there's some kind of software at fault?


    1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Stuck keys

      I don't know why you're getting downvoted.

      I tried a PS/2 KVM to USB on my mac mini, and 9 times out of 10 the keyboard just does not respond. When it is plugged out and in again it comes back.

      Ended up bypassing the KVM, just a pain when I want to switch between home and work machines.

  2. Arctic fox

    "The company, something of a lawsuit magnet because of its deep pockets,...."

    Hmm.. I think that one could equally well argue that people know that Apple can well afford the best legal help going? Something which would discourage both potential litigants and the possibility of hiring "no win no fee" lawyers (who would by definition be uninterested in a frivolous case* they would be unlikely to win?). After all unless you are very well heeled yourself going up against an example of "BigCorp" with pockets as deep as Cupertino's would likely be a very painful financial experience if you do not have a very good case. If we look at, for example, the activities of patent trolls we see that they rely on their targets folding rather than going all the way to a full court hearing. In general terms I cannot see Cupertino folding unless they have very good non-financial reasons for doing so. The best hope the litigants have here is that Apple will decide that the potential reputational damage outweighs their desire to tell hoi polloi to fuck off.

    *I am of course not suggesting that their case is frivolous. I am speaking in general terms.

    1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      Re: "The company, something of a lawsuit magnet because of its deep pockets,...."

      After all unless you are very well heeled yourself going up against an example of "BigCorp" with pockets as deep as Cupertino's would likely be a very painful financial experience if you do not have a very good case.

      Its very typical in this day and age that it makes no difference if your case is good or not, its about how much money you have.

      Big corp will keep you tied up in court so long that they bleed you of all your finances and the finances of your law team. If you are lucky they will throw you and out of court settlement covering most of your legal expenses... but without accepting liability.

      Apple has enough money they can pour into the law fund to drown all but the richest of litigants. It makes no difference at all if you have a case or not that's winnable on merit, Its getting it to that end game and across the finish line.

  3. Duffaboy

    The lack of response from the Apple Fanbois on this tread

    Must be cause their keyboards are ....

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Odd strategy from Apple ?

    I'm not a massive Apple fan - I think it's overpriced poseur kit. But that said, I would happy agree that - unlike the car crash of Android offerings - Apple kit "just works". It's the one thing that makes it a good recommendation for non-techy (better off) people.

    Mrs Page has an iPad pro, and it's an outstanding piece of kit.

    So the one thing Apple should be preciously guarding - and proactively stomping on - is anything which contradicts that selling point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Failure on all aspects.

      You compared a single manufacture, Apple, to an entire ecosystem, Android.

      Samsung, LG, etc are Android manufactures. You would have to single out an entire one, or all of them, as having more faults than Apple.

      This is not the case. Also, I don't think iPads are being claimed to be faulty. Just the phones and laptops.

      I've no idea why those particular products suffer so much, but it seems the constant design changes, with not enough wear testing (bending phones, breaking chips, keyboards and screens, or the rubber feet to the new speakers). Where as the iPad is a rectangle, and most of its design has stayed sane!

  5. Randy Hudson

    The trackpad is a close second

  6. cantbebothered

    I've not experienced any problems with my keyboard getting stuck on anything, and I'm not the cleanest of gents, also share a flat with a cat with a shedding problem.

    I get the feeling I'm in a minority when I say I really like the feel of the butterfly switch keyboards, more than any other. I've had 4 gen of macbooks and this is my favourite keyboard by far. I have next to me now and older macbook with squishier keys and it doesn't feel any near as nice as the magic keyboard I have plugged into it.

    1. SuccessCase

      I'm definitely firmly in the Apple user camp and I too like the keyboard mechanical action very much. But I have to say there are some glaring design failures. First the keys are too large, and because they are also flat it is difficult to orientate your fingers on them and maintain orientation. This is putting aesthetic design over practical design. Second the tolerance between with the metal case and each key is too high. So if debris goes in (which is bound to occur at some point over the lifetime of a keyboard), but it is very difficult to get it out again. All Apple's previous keyboards have a larger space between key and space. Thirdly the travel being so limited means any debris build up is going to cause a problem, so they have to either find a way to make it so the debris can't get in (with a membrane or something - I would have been sceptical about a membrane until using the iPad pro keyboard, which despite my reservations, feels superb) or they have to implement a system to make it easy for the user to remove and replace the keys if debris needs to be cleared. Lastly Sir Johnny changed the cursor key layout, presumably just so the keyboard has aesthetic balance. As a touch typist and a programmer, this is extremely frustrating. I don't know any touch typist who prefers the new arrangement. It leads to continual miskeying. Arrgh!

      This keyboard is a real problem for Apple and they should issue a recall. I have used their kit for years. I love using Apple kit. But I now get a slight feeling of dread regarding using my MacBook Pro keyboard and I want to avoid it. I loved it when it was new, but I have a constant nagging doubt about the stuck keys issue. I had my keyboard replaced (under warranty) because the keys started to stick. Every now and then, instead of cmd+c copying my text, I would find the text I intended to copy replaced with the letter c. Really very annoying, even if it only happens once a day. Now I have no faith the issue won't start to recur once it is out of warranty. Not just the experience, but the thought of going to use my MacBook pro has become tainted with a kind of slight feeling of annoyance and I'm sure that will be true for many others experiencing this issue. Surely that is a very bad thing for Apple who justify their premium brand pricing with premium design.

      Plus, though they were helpful in-store and replaced the keyboard, I found their test annoying. They checked for stuck keys by typing gently on the keys and dragging gently across the keys. But the whole point it is an intermittent issue (once debris in in there it tends to move about and they keys miss every now and then). After they saw some keys sticking, they did the drag test again and said key x, y and z were not sticking every time. But that entirely misses the point. Once a key goes past its activation point (e.g. clicks down), it should activate Every. Single. Time. without the need for any additional pressure. That is the minimum requirement of a keyboard. That is the whole point in having an actuation point where the key clicks down. Once it passes that point, you should never, ever, be worried or guessing if they key press has actually registered. Their test is clearly inadequate and seems designed to give them a counter point for the customer request for a replacement keyboard rather than as a real meaningful test.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      I'm a Model M owner who also has the original 2015 Retina MacBook, with the first generation of the new keyboard. Here's the level of praise I can muster: it's not terrible. I've typed on much worse; they beat long travel but spongey. They look a lot worse than they are — my visions of a ZX81 or, at best, a 48kb ZX Spectrum were way off the mark.

      But it's still not my favourite experience. Though it does still work after three years, no problems whatsoever. Whatever the failure rate is, high or not, I can vouch that it's certainly not 100%.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No mention of Applecare here, extending the warranty is always recommended in business to avoid downtime.

    1. djstardust Silver badge

      Or they could actually manufacture the product to last for more than twenty minutes .....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        How no one suggested just getting insurance when Samsung note 7s were about to explode. But if Apple does the same thing, everyone defends "just get Apple care"? Weird lot.

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Well in the UK at least surely they are covered for this (other than accidental damage) under the sale of goods act for rather longer than Applecare?

  8. IGnatius T Foobar

    non-moving keys

    I expect at some point Apple will begin producing computers with touch-sensitive keys that simply do not move at all. It will make the computer that much thinner, and it will be terrible, but the Apple fanbois will hail it as the greatest keyboard ever, and other manufacturers will ape it in their designs as well.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: non-moving keys

      Sinclair could sue them if he patented the ZX80 or 81 keyboards.

      1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        Re: non-moving keys

        Sinclair could sue them if he patented the ZX80 or 81 keyboards.

        I doubt Sr Clive has enough money to win..... If apple music could afford it, they would have had apple (computer) back in court over breach of settlement agreement when apple (computer) agreed not to use the name apple in any music industry.

        The way the law is, apple music did not have the funds at the time to stop apple when they opened up "apple iTunes". I think that because of the time lapsed since they would not even win if they could afford it now.

    2. Luiz Abdala

      Re: non-moving keys

      I am expecting next from Apple that laser projection keyboard that just displays a laser grid on your desk. Instead of non-moving parts, no parts at all.

      Ironically, this one in Amazon works for iPad and iPhone...

  9. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Oh Ye Of Little Faith!

    Apple solved this problem years ago with the MacBook Wheel. The MacBook Wheel lets consumers accomplish everyday tasks like typing with just a few dozen spins and clicks of a wheel.

  10. Howard Hanek Bronze badge

    How Apple Creates 'Opportunities'

    Their hardware products are NEVER defective , their software never insecure, buggy or unstable. All the 'fixes' become part of the marketing plan to create that 'need' that only 'Apple' can meet. I doubt if many if any of the Macbook users will migrate to another platform over a keyboard issue that should never have occurred given the experience and resources of Apple. THERE's the real reason why Apple has become so lax. They think they can never lose......especially their customers once they hook them. I call it expensive junk production for people convinced the label is all that's important.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How Apple Creates 'Opportunities'

      > They think they can never lose......

      Nah. I bought a 2015 Macbook Pro (old style keyboard, USB A ports). At the time I seriously considered going the Thinkpad + Linux route, but I really wanted the retina display, and Linux HiDPI support is still not great.

      In a few years time, if Apple still don't give us a proper keyboard and Linux HiDPI is better, then that's the way I'll go.

      I do take some comfort from the high perceived level of complaints from Microsoft Surface users.

  11. IsJustabloke Silver badge


    he bought some thing that developed a fault in the 1st month and yet it wasn't fixed/replaced under warranty?

    how does that work then? if I buy something and month later it develops a fault it *will* be fixed and / or replaced

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hay Gran Dad, who uses a key board these days? Just dick Tate every thing exclamation mark delete !

  13. Tidosho


    Is this going to be a new Apple thing? TypeGate? Can I be credited with "coining the phrase"?

  14. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    It was all downhill from the Apple Extended Keyboard II

    In my time at Apple, "Extended Twos" were jealously guarded, and with good reason: anything earlier didn't have enough keys to program with, or it had the keys you wanted, but in places you didn't (Escape, to the right of the spacebar? Er....), and anything after* was either horrible to type on, or was horrible to type on and didn't have enough keys to program with (the first USB keyboard, shipped with iMac and PowerMac G3 had no Del key, for goodness sake...).

    ( * honourable exception given to the Apple Adjustable Keyboard, a prototype of which I had rescued from a departed co-worker's desk, and which set me on the road of being one of those people who goes on about how un-ergonomic most keyboards are... Despite being in the "keys in weird places" camp, it at least kept Esc at top-left, and when you got used to it, it was a really nice keyboard to type on. I wouldn't have liked to pay what it actually cost retail, though... over $200 in 1993 dollars is a lot, even by Apple's standards of the time)

    A friend has one of the new Powerbook keyboards, and I found it simply awful to type on, and I thought you couldn't get much worse than the previous MacBook keyboards. No key travel, and really "clicky" - reminded me of clicking a mouse-button, not typing on keys. Apple used to be good at the design rule that "form follows function", but they seem to have got it the wrong way round a lot in recent years - there was no reason to make the key action worse except to shave a barely-noticable millimetre off the device's profile when closed.

    In my social circle, I'm surrounded by people who won't buy the new PowerBooks at all: When the 2015 MacBook Pro is finally retired, I think Apple will lose a sizeable chunk of its developer customers. Not that the company really cares, given how many new customers they've gained via iPhone owners buying matching laptops, but it has to be noted that a lot of the "cool factor" of Apple's computer products came from people in high-profile design and science settings using them - as time goes on, Apple has less and less to offer those customers to justify its price premium.

    1. Rob007

      Re: It was all downhill from the Apple Extended Keyboard II

      Nice comment I bought a 2015 MacBook Pro, and its great. I wanted the standard USB 3.0 ports and card slot so I could add memory and the full size HDMI port is a bonus. I find the keyboard good on it.

      It's a shame that Apple have put prioritised thinness over usability since.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: It was all downhill from the Apple Extended Keyboard II

      Call me a loser if necessary: I prefer the contemporaneous Apple Standard Keyboard. It's the same Alps keys, escape is in the right place, and control is still in the right place (i.e. where caps lock is nowadays), but the whole thing is much more compact — no F keys, no cluster between the main keyboard and the numeric keyboard. The cursor keys are in a row rather than a T but that took all of five minutes to acclimatise to, and I basically never use the del key. Also I feel like option+backspace was del at the time, rather than being delete a whole word as it is now, but it might have been some other combination.

    3. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      Re: It was all downhill from the Apple Extended Keyboard II

      Apple used to be good at the design rule that "form follows function"

      lo, you are having a laugh..... while St J was the boss then form always proceeded function. it had to look good first, with the exception of the prototype of an apple computer made of wood!, but once it went into manufacture, then it had too look good and the tech had to fit in....

  15. John 104


    Despite awareness of the defect, Apple touted – and continues to tout – the %Apple Product Here% as having a superior and highly responsive %Computing Device Here%,

  16. J27 Bronze badge

    Well, saw this coming. petitions have not the power to sway the mighty Apple (because they don't seem to care about after sales support anymore). Lawsuit was the only realistic option here.

  17. razorfishsl

    They are garbage products,

    The keyboards are so BADLY engineered, that some of the keys are raised and this impacts the screen when closed, those idiot apple engineers made the keys curved so that after a few months there are impact marks on the screen.

    so far I have had Two screens replaced due to the failure of the finish & the keys impacting and taking the finish off and all they do is fuck you over by reducing the guarantee on the new screen to 90 days.

  18. Torchy

    Expensive poorly manufactured crap.

    If you pay large sums of money and believe that because it is Apple that you are getting value for money then think again.

    Another example of a trademark in the race to the bottom when it comes to quality.

  19. steviebuk Silver badge

    Not surprised...

    ....just take a look at Jessa Jones on iPad Rehab on YouTube. She has been screwed by Apple just for replacing iPhone screens. She sends the original LCD with the cracked glass to China, the same place in China where they are manufactured as they make the best glass. They replace the glass and ship them back clearly marked as REFURBS. Yet Apple asked US customs to confiscate them as counterfeit.

    So is repairing our own kit with after market parts counterfeiting now? Next up, all garages to be sued for creating counterfeit cars after repairing them with after market parts.

    Apple needs to be stopped regarding this practice and the art of getting away with making shit that breaks soon after purchase.

  20. PaulR79

    "The company, something of a lawsuit magnet because of its deep pockets"

    I think it's more likely to be because of their failure to address clear problems and blatant design flaws unless they are hit with a lawsuit. It isn't one or two people kicking up a fuss over nothing when there are numerous examples of the issues but it looks like it will take this lawsuit to force Apple to deal with it properly. $700 to replace / repair a keyboard due to their own bad design choices is not a solution.

    Thin for the sake of being thin is pointless. If it breaks from normal use it isn't fit for the purpose it was designed for and should go back to the design stage until it is fit for purpose. I don't understand why Apple continues to get legions of fans when they're effectively selling people products that they know will break and then charging them extortionate amounts to repair them.

  21. royprime

    Apple hardware used to be brilliant. One of my clients used to swear by them with Laptops / Desktops and servers. Slowly over the years though the servers have vanished, the desktops (Mac Pro rubbish bin anyone) have become almost designed to fail and now the laptops have rubbish keyboards and you need dongles upon dongles to connect to anything.

    Such a shame, but then there's much more money in them shoving out yet another phone every few months that bothering with business clients and their needs. Now most of my clients have moved away from Apple apart from phones and ipads.


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