Home / Technology / Apple MacBook butterfly keyboard lawsuit removes yet another hurdle

Apple MacBook butterfly keyboard lawsuit removes yet another hurdle

The MacBook Pro Touch Bar's virtual escape key is inserted to the right.

Apple redesigned the “butterfly” MacBook keyboard several times before giving up.

Stephen Shankland / CNET

A California federal judge certified an ongoing class action lawsuit against Apple earlier this month, removing a new hurdle for customers who say the company failed to resolve issues with the “butterfly” keyboards on MacBook laptops.

In a ruling issued on March 8, but published last week, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila gave the case status to the case, which was filed in 2018. Apple’s design for portable keyboards is at the heart of the matter, with customers saying that Apple knew the new “butterfly” design was wrong, but sold it anyway.

The Butterfly Mechanism, first released in 2015, was designed to allow thinner laptops than traditional “scissors” keyboards, whose switches under the keys require more space to move up and down. Apple said at the time that the butterfly was 40% thinner than traditional keyboards, but also four times more stable. “The keys are much more precise, much more accurate,” Apple Fellow Phil Schiller said at the time.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2017 with touch line

Apple’s MacBooks have been no stranger to controversy.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Not long after the introduction, customers began to complain that keys did not detect pressures as well, and that dirt and other debris came under the butterfly mechanism. The problems were troublesome enough for Apple to create a replacement program in 2018, while also trying to solve the problem.

The lawsuit marks another chapter in the saga of Apple’s MacBook design, which critics have said sacrificed quality and features for thinness.

Apple’s butterfly keyboard was not the only feature that has come under fire. Some customers also criticized the company’s touch bar, touch controls over the number keys on the keyboard that change, depending on the app a person uses, to display features such as emojis or a search box or call buttons. CNET’s Stephen Shankland, who bought a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar shortly after it came out in 2016, said it drove him “bonkers.” “I kept an open mind about the Touch Bar, which seemed smart and something that could dramatically change the way we use our computers,” he wrote. “Alas, I do not see the benefits.”

Class action lawsuits against Apple for the butterfly keyboards go a step further than criticism, citing internal Apple communications that plaintiffs claim managers knew about the issues. No matter how much lipstick you try to put on this pig [the butterfly keyboard] “it’s still ugly,” wrote one leader, according to the suit, previously reported by The Verge. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple did away with the butterfly keyboards starts in 2019. “Yes, it helped introduce thinner, lighter and more portable MacBooks, but we can safely say that the butterfly’s keyboard never triggered joy,” said CNET reviewer Dan Ackerman. wrote about the keyboards last year. “Perhaps the kindest thing we can say about the Apple MacBook Butterfly keyboard is, ‘Thank you for your service.’ “

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