Apple has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit relating to the Butterfly keyboard found in various MacBook models between 2015 and 2019. The customers who sued Apple alleged the company sold laptops with defective keyboard mechanisms that were unresponsive, felt sticky, or caused characters to repeat.
Complaints of poor keyboard reliability were widespread during the “Butterfly” era, and trips to the Apple Store for repairs became commonplace. The culprit was a poorly engineered mechanism that fell victim to dust, grime, or other particles. When clogged, the keys would get stuck and stop responding.
Things got so bad that some 42,000 people demanded a recall on Charge.org, class action lawsuits were filed, and Apple quietly launched a repair service program for the keyboards. Instead of quickly replacing these faulty components, Apple redesigned the technology, rolling out new keyboards with silicone membrane meant to prevent sticking. But even those weren’t impervious to breaking.
Apple has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and won’t have to accept blame as part of this settlement. It will continue to offer free keyboard repairs for four years after purchase as part of its extended service program.
If a judge approves the settlement, Apple will pay MacBook customers who needed repairs in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Customers outside of those regions aren’t included in the class. A full list of affected computers can be found on page one of the lawsuit; it includes most MacBook Pro models from 2016 to 2019 and certain MacBook and MacBook Air models.
Payouts are estimated to be in the range of $50 to $395 depending on how many people join the settlement and eligibility group. As outlined, $395 is expected for those who had to replace multiple keyboards (Group 1), up to $125 for those with a single full replacement, and $50 if you only replaced keycaps. Lawyers can claim up to $15 million, or 30% of the $50 million settlement. A judge still has to approve the settlement.
Regardless of which group you fall under, the payout for this lawsuit will account for a small portion of the price of a new laptop. Moreover, Apple would pay what amounts to a drop in the ocean for the world’s richest company (by market cap) and won’t have to admit any wrongdoing.