Apple on Monday agreed to pay a $50 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit over so-called butterfly keyboards, a component of some MacBook laptops that has left many users fuming with frustration at typing errors.
The butterfly keyboard, a thin model intended to provide greater precision, ultimately turned out not to be as graceful as the nectar-seeking creature’s fluttering wings. Many customers complained that characters repeated when pressed or did not appear on their screen at all. Some said the devices had keys that felt sticky and didn’t respond consistently.
The type meltdowns sparked a class-action lawsuit filed in 2018, leading to the settlement filed Monday night after four years of litigation in the San Jose Division of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. Apple said the agreement was not an admission that it was wrong.
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila has yet to approve the proposal, said Simon S. Grille, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“Plaintiffs are pleased to submit to court for approval their $50 million settlement with Apple, which would resolve many years of disputes over the MacBook butterfly keyboard,” said Mr. Grille and Steven A. Schwartz, a plaintiff, in a statement. “MacBook buyers across the country are eligible to participate.”
As a result of the agreement, Apple was soon able to make amends to MacBook users who received repairs from 2015 to 2019 on a laptop with a faulty butterfly keyboard. Customers said the company was aware of the defect on these MacBooks; Apple offered free repairs to customers with the faulty keyboards in 2018 and then phased them out.
The company has proposed paying amounts ranging from $50 to $395 to affected customers.
The lawsuit represents buyers of about 15 million computers, the court documents said.
Apple strongly denies liability,” the court documents read. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
“The proposed settlement to resolve this matter does not constitute an admission of guilt or any wrongdoing by Apple,” the agreement said.
Anyone in the United States who has received repairs for keyboard problems for MacBooks purchased from 2015 to 2017, MacBook Pros from 2016 to 2019, and MacBook Airs from 2018 to 2019 can claim a portion of the settlement. The company will consider customers who have received replacements of a “top case” – including the battery, the touch-sensitive pointing device known as a trackpad, the speakers and keyboard – or of a “keycap”, which refers to the covers for letters on the keyboard.
“All Settlement Class Members who have gone to Apple or an authorized service provider and have received a ‘Top Case Replacement’ or a ‘Keycap Replacement’ within four years of the purchase date of their classroom computer are eligible for a cash payment,” according to the court documents. .
Customers are categorized into one of three groups, depending on the extent of repairs their devices have received at that time.
The first group includes people who have received two or more replacement top cases, the court documents said. They get a maximum of $395.
The second group – users who received a replacement top case that didn’t solve their problems – will receive up to $125. The third group includes people who have replaced a keycap, but not the entire top case. They are eligible for up to $50.
Many customers will be contacted by Apple, but people can also make claims with documentation showing that repairs have been made.
Plaintiffs representing the consumers plan to seek awards of up to $5,000 each of the settlement money, the court documents said.
Apple introduced the troubled keyboards with an “all-new MacBook” in 2015. The butterfly referred to a new switching mechanism that extended like wings beneath the keys, unlike the more common and thicker scissor-shaped switches. The keyboard was billed as “34 percent thinner” and “four times more stable” than the previous scissor model. But it also seemed prone to collecting dust and experiencing other problems. Soon customer complaints started.
Over the next five years, Apple tried to tweak the keyboard in updated models before completely abandoning it in 2020, when all of its laptops included a redesigned and well-received keyboard that reinstated the scissor switches.
Jesus Jimenez reporting contributed.