Apple’s butterfly keyboard fixes: ‘Lipstick on a pig’

From The Verge’s “Angry MacBook owners get class action status for butterfly keyboard suit” posted Monday:

The suit says Apple knew its thinner keyboard was rotten.

A judge has certified a class action suit against Apple for its fragile butterfly keyboard design. The suit covers anyone who purchased an Apple MacBook with a butterfly keyboard in seven states: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, and Michigan. That includes people who bought a MacBook model dating between 2015 and 2017, a MacBook Pro model between 2016 and 2019, or a MacBook Air between 2018 and 2019.

The butterfly keyboard was slimmer than Apple’s previous design, which used industry-standard scissor switches. But many disgruntled MacBook users found that Apple’s revamped keyboard failed when even tiny particles of dust accumulated around the switches. That resulted in keys that felt “sticky,” failed to register keypresses, or registered multiple presses with a single hit. Apple tweaked its butterfly keyboard multiple times, but after continued complaints, it abandoned the switches in 2020.

This suit claims Apple knew for years that its butterfly switches were defective — and that its incremental changes weren’t fixing the core problem. It cites internal communications inside Apple, including an executive who wrote that “no matter how much lipstick you try to put on this pig [referring to the butterfly keyboard] . . . it’s still ugly.”

My take: Never write emails.

12 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Wow! As I read (actually listened) to the article it was as if I were listening to a class action suit filed against one of the established automobile companies who had an internal parts problem in one of their car models driven by consumers on highways but failed to do a recall, resulting in numerous accidents and deaths. Thanks to the Almighty, no lives at stake here just a bunch of disgruntled consumers muttering anguished comments at stuck keys and erratic keystrokes.

    Question! Does this all come to roost with Sir Jony Ives? BTW, what is he doing these days?

    2
    March 23, 2021
  2. Roger Schutte said:
    My daughter’s MacBook Pro has been in 3 times for keyboard replacement. She works from home and this being a multiday repair has been more than a minor inconvenience. I sent her a link to this class action suit and she replied that her W key is acting up. Prediction: Sir Jony’s departure will be looked on as a good thing much sooner than later.

    3
    March 23, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Prediction: Sir Jony’s departure will be looked on as a good thing much sooner than later.

      It’s sad that following years of successes Ives may be remembered for one design failure.

      1
      March 23, 2021
      • Roger Schutte said:
        Not to nitpick Gregg, but I have experience with each of these and they were problems. – Roger

        Mac G4 Cube – a design disaster where no consideration was given for manufacturing difficulty.

        The design of the Trashcan Mac Pro was so bad it wasn’t (or couldn’t be) updated for 6 years and necessitated a totally new design to replace it.

        The 4th gen MacBook Pro’s (2016 to 2019) brought us the butterfly keyboard (see class action suit), the much maligned Touch-bar and only USB-C port(s) at the expense of every other port that Professionals would use.

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        March 23, 2021
  3. John Frantz said:
    My question is whether any other laptop manufacturer would have gotten a class action suite for a keyboard that can start to stick after much use (mine never did).

    Apple does replace them even after warranty but I wonder if other companies would have found themselves needing to do that.

    2
    March 23, 2021
  4. Joe Murphy said:
    John, for your answer, I’ll paraphrase Bart Yee:
    ‘Why do people sue Apple? Because that is where the money is!’”

    Roger, no slight intended to your daughter’s, and others, more than minor inconvenience.

    3
    March 23, 2021
  5. Don Donofrio said:
    Several comments:
    – I am happy to see the end of the House of Sir Jonny. Without SJ to keep a balance, I think he wielded too much power. Who is going to say no to the guy who at lunch with SJ every day. We will know for sure if / when a new Apple TV ships and what the remote looks like.
    – hard to believe someone put that in writing. At some point Apple must weigh what will come out during a trial against the cost of settling. But they pretty much have to fight everything, or it would only encourage _more_ suits.
    – I never have liked the lipstick/pig saying, even before it got mixed with with Sarah Palin, but the photo is funny.

    0
    March 23, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      I think Apple’s laptops under Ive got “anorexic” – the drive for thinness that created a loss of functionality. Form should follow function, not prevent it! The gross weight for ‘laptop + necessary stuff’ grew, when I had to toss more stuff in the bag to achieve the same functionality as earlier MB Pros.

      3
      March 23, 2021
  6. Jerry Doyle said:
    We know engineering tends to drive design at most companies except Apple. When Steve Jobs was alive, the process tended to the reverse. Early on with the original Macintosh it was Steve who approved the design of the case and it were the engineers who had to fabricate their boards & components to fit. Phil Schiller once made the comment, “….Steve kept impressing on us that design was integral to what made (Apple) great and design dictated engineering, not vice versa. This could become a debacle as in the “butterfly keyboard” and in the use of a solid piece of brushed aluminum for the edge of the iPhone 4 where engineers worried the antenna would be compromised.

    Jony Ive would become upset with Steve taking too much credit as if the idea or design originated with him. True, the two were spiritual design partners who collaborated in symbiosis. It is for this reason Ives reported directly and only to Steve Jobs. Jobs is on record as saying, “… (Jony) has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.” That all changed when Steve died and Tim Cook became CEO.

    Continue…..

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    March 23, 2021
  7. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continued….

    History has a way of judging legacies of individuals better than contemporaries. We are on the cusp of seeing history informing us that Apple needed Steve Jobs badly and that his influence within the company carries on for that reason. We are on the cusp of seeing history informing us that Jony Ive needed Apple badly and that his influence within the company while welcomed, embraced by Jobs and respected by all, is beginning to be viewed as gratuitous at best as the company carries on without him.

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    March 23, 2021
  8. David Drinkwater said:
    I’d like to propose an alternate reality:

    1) Of COURSE, Apple needed Jobs as a visionary (who happened to think that design was just as important as Engineering: there are arguments for and against this thought process).
    2) Jony Ive, as a designer, was very good at developing the designs that Steve Jobs wanted – engineering be damned.
    3) Some of those designs may not really have meshed with what Engineering could deliver at the time, but Steve wanted them, so Jony delivered.
    4) It is unreasonable for us to assume we know better than behind closed doors how those decisions were made and who “agreed” to them.

    I’m happy enough to think that Jony probably got out of that business with enough money to “get by”.

    And I think that before, during, and after Jony, Apple has had some pretty cool designs. Even if, like the G4 Cube (I have one at each end of my fireplace mantle – sans hard drive) or the butterfly keyboard or antennagate, they were Engineering Challenged.

    0
    March 24, 2021
  9. Don Donofrio said:
    if you haven’t already taken the PRAM battery out of your pair of cubes, you should remove them before they leak all over the place.

    Going in to double check is a good excuse to use the beautiful handle mechanism to pull out the “reactor core”.

    0
    March 24, 2021

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