Apple has launched what it's calling a keyboard service program for problematic MacBook Pro and MacBook laptop keyboards, following an uproar from users and three lawsuits over the issue.
Apple introduced a redesigned MacBook Pro in late 2016 featuring a "butterfly" keyboard mechanism, which aims to provide "more responsive and comfortable typing," Apple said at the time.
However, the keyboard is "defective" and "prone to fail," according to a lawsuit filed in May by the firm Girard Gibbs on behalf of two MacBook Pro owners in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Two other lawsuits have followed.
Apple, however, contends that only a "small percentage of the keyboards" in MacBook Pro laptops released since 2016 are exhibiting issues.
Troublesome keyboard behaviors cited by Apple include letters or characters repeating unexpectedly; letters or characters failing to appear; and keys that are "sticky" or "do not respond in a consistent manner," the Cupertino, Calif.-based company said on its service program page.
The service program covers 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models released since 2016, as well as 12-inch MacBook models released since its debut in 2015.
"The type of service will be determined after the keyboard is examined and may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard," Apple said. "The service turn-around time may vary depending upon the type of service and availability of replacement parts."
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The work itself will be performed either by an Apple Authorized Service Provider or by Apple personnel via the Apple Retail Store or Apple Repair Center.
The Girard Gibbs lawsuit against Apple prompted inquiries from thousands of individuals, according to one of the attorneys handling the case. "We've had a huge volume of [customer] intakes since filing the complaint," said Adam Polk, a partner at law firm Girard Gibbs, in a previous interview with CRN.
Polk said his firm started looking into the keyboard issue after being contacted by unhappy buyers of the laptops and seeing the traction for a Change.org petition, which sought a recall of all MacBook Pro laptops made since late 2016.
When the butterfly keyboard fails, "the keys stick and no longer register keystrokes," the Girard Gibbs lawsuit reads. "Apple's butterfly keyboard and MacBook are produced and assembled in such a way that when minimal amounts of dust or debris accumulate under or around a key, keystrokes fail to register."
If the debris can't be blown out, the entire keyboard has had to be replaced at a typical cost of $700 because the keys are not removable, said Jerry Zigmont, owner of MacWorks, a Madison, Conn.-based Apple consultant, in a previous interview with CRN.
Zigmont said he previously used a 2016 MacBook Pro that included the butterfly keyboard, but he later sold the laptop and bought a 2015 version of the MacBook Pro instead. "Most of my colleagues have done the same, and gone back to the 2015 model," Zigmont said. "There are very few Apple consultants using this newer generation of computers."
Nonetheless, the redesigned MacBook Pro has helped to spur a resurgence in Apple's Mac business since its release, with the Mac having its "best year ever" in fiscal 2017 with $25.85 billion in revenue, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in November.