June 26, 2018
In 2015, Apple introduced a new butterfly keyboard mechanism designed to allow smaller travel between keys, contributing to the lighter design of the MacBook. However, this change did not sit well with consumers, and it appears several years into owning the device, new defects are being discovered.
Apple Will Repair Some MacBook Keyboards
Apple announced on June 22 that it would begin offering keyboard replacements for specific MacBook and MacBook Pro models produced after 2015, all of which feature the redesigned butterfly switch. Apple has previously denied the butterfly switches are the cause of the problem, releasing a webpage in 2016 that shows MacBook owners how to clean their laptops with a can of compressed air properly.
Reports of these butterfly switches failing have scattered across social media, with some people reporting having to spend $700 for an out-of-warranty keyboard repair on the devices.
Plenty of Apple fans have lamented the state of the keyboards containing butterfly switches on the newest models of MacBook Pro, but until now Apple hasn't acknowledged any fault in the design of the keyboard itself. Three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the company in the hopes of getting them to recognize the issue, so perhaps the threat of litigation spurred on this repair guarantee for out-of-warranty customers.
The latest of these lawsuits accuses Apple of fraudulent concealment of the issue by deliberately trying to hide or downplay problems surrounding the butterfly switches in the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It seems Apple's acknowledgment of the issue may be an attempt to take the wind out of the fraudulent concealment lawsuit by publicly acknowledging a fix for "a small percentage" of MacBook owners who are affected by the issue.
Apple notes that this new program covers MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards for four years after purchase, but it does not extend the warranty of the product or any other defective part without the purchase of AppleCare.
Why the Defect Happens
There's plenty of evidence that the butterfly mechanism is behind the sticky keys being reported by MacBook users on the internet. According to one Mac fan who spoke with Genius Bar representatives at an Apple Store, he believes dust and debris factors were not adequately tested when Apple was designing the butterfly mechanism for their new keyboards.
Some investigation into the problem suggests that dust and debris getting underneath the keyboard is the primary cause of sticky keys. Because the travel distance for butterfly switch keys is so small, it can be nearly impossible for the end user to fix a laptop with sticky keys. Third-party repair services have begun offering keyboard repair for MacBooks to help address the issue, but Apple has finally acknowledged the problem for MacBook owners. So what's so different about the way butterfly switches work compared to the traditional scissor switch found on other laptops?
Butterfly Switch vs. Scissor Switch
The traditional scissor switch used in laptop keyboards features a silicone dome switch, two plastic pieces in a scissor-like formation, and a two-part assembly that requires a bit of travel to activate. The silicone dome is often responsible for what many people would describe as a mushy keyboard, so Apple has shied away from it in favor of a stainless steel dome switch in the butterfly mechanism.
The butterfly switch is also a single assembly part, which theoretically should mean fewer points of failure for the mechanism. However, its single assembly design means that if the switch is filled with dust or debris that cannot be removed with a can of compressed air, then it will exhibit the sticky keys behavior that Mac users across the globe have been complaining about since 2015.
The design makes it harder to clean with compressed air and so devices must be taken apart to be fixed.
In response to complaints about the butterfly mechanism on Apple's laptops released after 2015, the company has announced it will offer a replacement program for affected models. Here's a peek at the models that are involved in the dispute between customers and Apple over keyboard malfunction.
* MacBook Retina, 12-inch, 2015
* MacBook Retina, 12-inch, 2016
* MacBook Retina, 12-inch, 2017
* MacBook Pro, 13-inch, 2016 - 2 Thunderbolt Ports
* MacBook Pro, 13-inch, 2017m - 2 Thunderbolt Ports
* MacBook Pro, 13-inch, 2016 - 4 Thunderbolt Ports
* MacBook Pro, 13-inch, 2017 - 4 Thunderbolt Ports
* MacBook Pro, 15-inch, 2016
* MacBook Pro, 15-inch, 2017
If you have one of these devices that experiences the sticky keys issue, you can take it to an Apple Store or contact an Apple Customer Service representative to start the repair process for your device. If you already own one of these devices and you're looking for tips to prevent this from happening to your device, see our friendly tips and tricks below.
Preventing Sticky Keys on MacBook
Most users who are experiencing problems with sticky keys admit that dust and debris is the likely cause of the problem due to the short travel distance between the butterfly switch and the keyboard housing itself. If you already own one of the above devices, but you haven't experienced issues with your keyboard yet, be sure to check out these tips and tricks for making sure the issue isn't a problem for you in the future.
* Consider buying a silicone keyboard skin for your MacBook to help prevent dust and debris from accumulating beneath your keys.
* Never leave your MacBook open and unattended outside where the wind can introduce more debris to the keyboard.
* Use a soft sleeve to pad your MacBook and keep it safe from dust and debris when it isn't in use at your house or in your travel bag.
* If you are experiencing the sticky keys issue, try blowing the keyboard out with a can of compressed air to see if that helps. If the keyboard is still sticky, you'll need to set up an appointment with Apple's Customer Care to get your keyboard fixed.