Apple fails to bury a lawsuit against its ‘butterfly keyboard’

Apple has lost its bid to have a class action lawsuit launched against it rejected. The lawsuit alleges that Apple knowingly withheld information about a flaw in the butterfly keyboards fitted on its MacBook laptops.
MacBook Pro 2016
Apple’s butterfly keyboards caused issues for a lot of Apple customers. Photo: Pxhere

A Federal District Judge in California has rejected Apple’s appeal to have a class action lawsuit against it thrown out.

According to reports by Reuters, US District Judge Edward Davila ruled on Monday that the lawsuit can proceed.

The case against Apple relates specifically to the ‘butterfly keyboards’ which were fitted to a number of different MacBook models from 2015 onwards. Apple has since returned to using conventional scissor-switch keys, presumably due to the backlash against its now infamous butterfly keyboards.

What is a butterfly keyboard?

Apple’s butterfly keyboard technology was first introduced on its 2015 12-inch MacBook. The new butterfly key switch mechanism was designed to allow Apple to make its keyboards even thinner and quieter.

But some fundamental flaws in the design of Apple’s butterfly keyboards became apparent after they were subjected to real-world use.

Most laptops have scissor-switch keys which, while slightly thicker than Apple’s butterfly keyboards, have proven to be reliable over periods of long-term use.

Scissor switch mechanism
The Scissor switch mechanism is found on most laptops. Photo: Daniel Beardsmore via Wikimedia Commons

While scissor-switch keys rely on an x-shaped plastic switch to support the key, Apple’s butterfly keyboards implemented a new component which more closely resembled a v-shape.

The main flaw of the butterfly keyboard appears to be its susceptibility to getting small bits of food, dust and other debris lodged beneath it. Laptops are inevitably exposed to this sort of dirt throughout the day.

This led to keys becoming stuck and failing to register keystrokes after minimal use. Apple presumably designed and tested its butterfly keyboards in a controlled environment. But when it came to use in the real world, the menace of dirt caused problems.

The class action lawsuit against Apple

Apple’s butterfly keyboard is certainly not the first product to fail once it reaches consumers. Design flaws are common and are just an unfortunate fact of life.

In this case, however, Apple customers claim that Apple knowingly withheld its knowledge about the butterfly keyboard’s flaws.

When customers brought their affected MacBooks in for repair, Apple allegedly fitted the same type of butterfly keyboards as replacements.

In this way, the lawsuit against Apple claims that Apple did not provide an ‘effective fix’ for the issues customers were having with their products. The failure of the butterfly keyboards was not a result of excessive use or mishandling by customers, it was a known design flaw in the component supplied by Apple.

Apple scissor switches
Apple has since returned to using scissor switches. Photo: Daniel Beardsmore via Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that Apple did not fully compensate its customers for the repairs which were the result of its own faulty components.

While Apple still hasn’t acknowledged the flaws in its butterfly keyboards, it has since removed them from its newer MacBook models.

Because so many MacBooks were affected by the butterfly keyboard issues, the lawsuit could be end up being a significant hit to Apple if successful.

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