Apple Denies Any Wrongdoing in $50M Butterfly Keyboard Settlement

Apple Butterfly keyboard
(Image credit: iFixIt)

Apple has agreed to pay off disenchanted customers who were irked by its problematic butterfly keyboard key-switch design, reports Reuters. Late on Monday, a preliminary settlement for $50 million was filed, still awaiting the judge’s approval, that will compensate class-action customers in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

Apple introduced the butterfly keyboard design back in 2015. At its unveiling, it was heralded for facilitating slimmer laptop designs (it debuted in the MacBook Air), as well as greater precision, quietness and stability. Unfortunately, these keyboards quickly gained a reputation for being unreliable, with keys failing to register actuations or becoming sticky, and so on. An inherent problem in the design was that it was susceptible to dust and particulate matter ingress. Though Apple went through several generations of butterfly switches, with additions such as dust membranes, Apple laptop enthusiasts were relieved when simpler and more reliable scissor switches returned in 2019.

From our potted history of butterfly mechanism keyboards, above, you won’t be surprised that the class action lawsuit covers the full period that these switches were equipped in new Mac portables; from 2015 to 2019.

(Image credit: iFixIt)

So, if you bought one of the Mac laptops with a butterfly keyboard during the period stated in the US states this class action covers, what can you hope to gain by way of compensation? The answer is that most will get very little. Lawyers expect the highest compensation amount will be $395 for those who replaced multiple MacBook keyboards. More common will be those affected by a single laptop needing a keyboard replacement, and these people will get up to $125 in compensation. Lastly, Mac users who replaced keys rather than the whole keyboard are in line for $50. Obviously, the $50 million cake is being cut into very thin slices. Conversely, lawyers working on this class action suit may seek fees of up to $15 million, says Reuters.

If you still suffer from butterfly keyboard blues, you have our sympathies, and you'll remain eligible for four years of free keyboard repairs.

Has justice been done? If they are lucky enough to be covered by this class action suit, those affected by unreliable keyboard issues multiple times over multiple replacements probably won’t be impressed by the compensation. Lastly, according to the source report, Apple denies any wrongdoing as part of its settlement agreement. It must be hoping to sweep this design flaw under the carpet, with a few people in a few US states receiving a paltry sum.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • elforeign
    I have a 2017 MacBook Pro and the butterfly switches haves never given me any issues. I love that keyboard and it works great. The keys almost feel capacitive as there's nearly no travel.
  • waltc3
    Another welfare stipend for starving litigation lawyers. Article doesn't say, but I wonder if the people who had a keyboard replaced under an Apple warranty get anything. Looks like only those who can show a paid receipt can collect. I don't buy Apple, so no problem here with my keyboards.
  • nitrium
    elforeign said:
    I have a 2017 MacBook Pro and the butterfly switches haves never given me any issues. I love that keyboard and it works great. The keys almost feel capacitive as there's nearly no travel.
    That sounds awful! I didn't think anyone preferred typing on phones/tablets vs a physical keyboard let alone one with mechanical switches.