back to article Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness

A legal firm has launched a class action against Apple over claims the 2011 MacBook Pro suffered from "random bouts of graphical distortion, system instability and system failures". In the legal complaint, the plaintiffs said the "computer was described by many as a dud and defective from inception". The laptops in question …

  1. BillG


    And after these lawyers get done with it, Macbook users will end up getting 3% of the settlement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lawyers

      The supplier of the parts is ultimately responsible. These chips are supplied with the solder already attached. It's called BGA packing, ball grid array.

      The chips are placed on the PCB and it is baked on. Nothing the user of the chip can do about the solder not being up to much.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Lawyers

        While it is true that BGA packages are supplied with the solder attached, it is a blatant falsehood to claim that there's "nothing the user can do" (which in this case, "the user" means "Apple").

        The principal thing that Apple could have done is...

        WRITE "DON'T USE LEAD-FREE SOLDER" on the Purchase Order contract!


        Yes, you need to fill in more paperwork, but the major issue becomes that you need to manage some kind of disposal program, and pay for it. Which costs money, which is why (presumably) Apple made the calculated decision to use the technically inferior lead-free solder.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lawyers

          > WRITE "DON'T USE LEAD-FREE SOLDER" on the Purchase Order contract!

          It does not work that way. The RoHS directives were issued by and required for selling consumer electronics within the European Union. If Apple's products do not meet the RoHS requirements, they cannot be sold within the EU.

          > ... Apple made the calculated decision to use the technically inferior lead-free solder.

          The RoHS requirements were written by the EU in an assumed well-meaning attempt to reduce the amount of heavy metals being deposited in landfills. Based on my experience in electronics manufacturing, the RoHS directives were disliked by everyone who had to implement them.

          Besides the tin whisker problem, lead-free soldering processes have lower manufacturing yield, greater rework difficulty, and greater expense. No manufacturer would choose lead-free over leaded.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Lawyers

            A friend of mine worked for a renowned manufacturer of very accurate measuring equipment. He said that what little of their prodcuts they make for the Ministry of Defence was made with lead solder, as per the MoD's specifications. Mostly, they had to use the lead-free stuff which he didn't really like, though they trained him well and he got better with it.

            Apparently it doesn't like being left on the end of the soldering iron- it works better if its melted and used immediately.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lawyers

        Solder paste is still applied to the pads with BGA components, and the solder mask stencil is produced for the specific PCB by the contract manufacturer. While this still would be the contract manufacturers "problem", Apple is still responsible for ensuring that their contract manufacturer is producing quality product.

      3. henrydddd

        Re: Lawyers

        That is begging the issue. The consumer purchased a product that didn't work well. Apple is the liable party. It was Apple's responsibility to assure that the parts that they purchased were fit for use. If Apple doesn't like it, let them sue their suppliers for damages.

        1. Graham 25

          Re: Lawyers

          Yes Apple is the liable entity no doubt.

          When you say that the consumer purchased a product that didn't work well, do you have any data on that ?

          I am guessing that the number affected is very small and Apple replaced and/or repaired any faults just like they do with all items so i cannot see what the lawyers are doing other than trying to make money.

    2. ben_myers

      3% or less - the class action against Gateway long ago

      Gateway advertised several models of 486 systems as "Pentium Ready", because Intel had designed a Pentium "Overdrive" CPU with a Socket 3 pinout, a superset of the pin signals used by a plain old 486. Lo and behold, Micronics built oodles of motherboards for Gateway and somehow missed out an an important design detail. These Socket 3 Pentium OverDrives would work well only in a motherboard that had a write-through external cache, but the processor itself had a more aggressive and less stable internal write-back cache. This was back in the day when CPUs did not have much built-in cache memory, and motherboards were populated with cache chips manually inserted into sockets. So put a Pentium OverDrive into a Micronics/Gateway motherboard, and the system would turn into a slug. Back in these early days, bus-mastering controllers like SCSI host adapters would not work well with a write-back cache either.

      So a lot of people bought these Pentium OverDrive CPUs, installed them, and then the complaints began. It mushroomed into a class action lawsuit presided over and encouraged by some Philadelphia lawyers. Well, the lawyers got rich and members of the class action lawsuit got $50 discount coupons to buy the Pentium OverDrive that did not work. The judge who approved this settlement must have been about as ignorant of computers as can be possible.

      This was really Intel's fault. Motherboard manufacturers received Pentium Overdrive prototype chips with the more sensible write-through cache, so that's what drove the motherboard designs. Some bright bulb at Intel changed the design to use the marginally faster (we're talking <1%) write-back cache.

      Fixing the write-back cache problem was simple. Intel made an "interposer", a thin circuit board inserted between the socket and the CPU. The job of the interposer was to force the CPU to boot up and run with a write-through cache. So they say. In my years of dealing with 486's, Pentium OverDrives and 486-workalikes from AMD and Cyrix, I never saw an actual interposer. I sold a few hundred kits with very fast AMD 486-like chips to disgruntled Gateway customers.

      If the members of the lastest Apple class action lawsuit are lucky, the settlement may be a generous one like a discount coupon for last year's iPhones sitting in an Apple warehouse unsold.

  2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

    Not so eco-friendly when it means the product it's in goes to the bin after 2 years instead of 10+ ...

    I gave up on that shit some time ago. Best eco-friendly decision I've ever made. Not sure why a big company like Apple still uses a solder that means people will have to buy replacement computers every 2 years. Oh wait a minute...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

      Bullshit, you really think Apple uses defective parts?

      They have too much of a reputation and image to destroy with crap unreliable products. Leave that sort of stuff to HP et al.

      They're OEM parts supplied to Apple. Off the shelf components.

      NVidia supplied parts had the same issue a few years ago and I got a free logic board replacement done by Apple for free, this was paid for by NVidia who admitted liability. This was on a three year old laptop too, so way beyond warranty.

      Lead free solder is a huge problem, The same issue affects the XBox 360 and PS3 as well.

      I think the only solution is massively up-rated cooling.

      1. Tom 35

        Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

        this was paid for by NVidia who admitted liability.

        Not right away, it was at least a year after laptops started dieing in large numbers before Dell, HP... started doing free out of warranty repairs. There was also an update to run the fan at full speed all the time. We had a few die twice as the new mother boards had the same defective part on them.

        1. returnmyjedi

          Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

          Apple are pretty good at dealing with defective items eventually, what grates me is how long it takes for them to fess up to the issues. My first Apple device was a third gen iPod which had battery issues from day one. After ten months of back and forth from the warranty centre (this was pre genius bars) they admitted it was an issue with the battery and replaced it (didn't extend the warranty though).

          Next brush was with a bunch of eMacs in my first job that had been bought by my predecessor and weird video glitches. It was only after we replaced the lot of them did Apple publicly admit there was fault.

          The iPhone 4's antenna issue was dealt with, but only after months of denial.

          When even Microsoft can outperform you with customer service (admitting the issue with the 360 and the rings of death, which they extended the warranty to three years with replacements/repairs) you know there's something amiss.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

        "Lead free solder is a huge problem."

        No it's not, it's an easy excuse. Poorly designed products like the Xbox360 and Macbook are the problem. The PS3 never had a problem, it had a properly designed cooling system, and a end defect rate of less than 0.1%. Compare that to the 60% failure rate that Microsoft suffered, and they are two totally different situations.

        Poor process at the manufacturing stage is another real issue. I have personally seen some real horror stories at a certain manufacturing plant in Doumen.

        1. tony2heads

          Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

          Surely it depends on which lead-free solder you use. There are many options and it is up to an engineer to pick an appropriate one and verify the process that solders components to the motherboard. Both are Apple's responsibility.

          By the way - anyone know which solder they chose?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

            As far as I know, there are no lead-free solder formulations that completely prevent tin whiskers. There are formulations that greatly reduce the growth rate of whiskers to the point where they should not affect a consumer product within its normal operational lifespan. For products that need to operate for longer lifespans, think 15 or more years, leaded solder is still the only reliable solution.

            In Apple's case, I believe the problem was not with the solder paste that was used during PCB manufacturer, but with the composition of the balls on certain BGAs from some of Apple's vendors. I would not even be surprised if those vendors were unaware of a problem. It may have been that the manufacturer of the balls altered the formulation slightly for one lot because they were running short on a particular metal that week.

            Regardless of whether the root cause of the problem is traced to Apple, their vendors, or their vendors' vendors, Apple sold the finished good to the consumer, so they are responsible for any defects from anywhere in the supply chain. Apple is one of the most effective companies in the world at managing the quality of their supply chain, so they know their responsibility.

            That said, like any publicly traded company, Apple must also try to limit their liability, particularly in a class action case where members of the class would likely end up receiving compensation without having to prove they were ever affected by the problem.

      3. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

        Bullshit, you really think Apple uses defective parts?

        In the present case the product they sell craps out. Either they use defective parts, or a defective design. There's no other explanation. "you're holding it wrong" is not the kind of excuse you can re-use too often.

        They have too much of a reputation and image to destroy with crap unreliable products.

        I think you'll find their reputation has somehow survived so far, a fact on which I won't comment.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

      Not sure why a big company like Apple still uses a solder that means people will have to buy replacement computers every 2 years.

      Because they want to be able to sell their products in the EU?

    3. Random Handle

      Re: eco-friendly lead-free solder, heh?

      >Not sure why a big company like Apple still uses a solder that means people will have to buy replacement computers every 2 years. Oh wait a minute...

      In England and Wales we have the Sale of Goods Act which is rather more generous than EU minimums....Apple computers (also iPhones & iPads) have a Statutory Warranty of 6 years in respect of hardware failure - except batteries which they can charge you to replace after a 'reasonable' period.

      In a true masterpiece of jujitsu marketing they point this out to UK consumers (the law requires it) before going on to sell them AppleCare anyway:

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can confirm

    That these MacBooks are coming in thick and fast. They seem to have a similar problem as the 2010 models where the GPU suffered failures, except the 2010 models were covered under a repair program.

    I've had several where the replacement logic board was either DOA with the same problem, or failed with the same problem a couple of months after the repair.

    Apple, so far, has ignored the issue.

    Anon for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can confirm

      "Anon for obvious reasons."

      Perhaps you work for a competitor?

      Anon for no particular reason.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: I can confirm

      And I've just given in my mid-2012 MacBook Pro with exactly the same symptoms for a logic board swap. Since it's out of guarantee, not under Apple Care, and not (yet) subject to a recall or legal case, I'll have to pay myself.

      Combined with iOS 8's recent debilitation of my household's iPad2s and iPhone 4s, you can imagine I'm not so happy with Apple at the moment.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Mine is an iPitchfork, its smaller and lighter (thanks to only having 3 tines) and has a coloured handle........wait a minute.....hang on....its......its a fork!.....i've been done!....again!

  5. Breen Whitman

    I wouldn't make a complaint against Apple lest I get a visit from Le iDrone courtesy of the CIA/Apple Corporation.

    Also, Fema camps are for holding disaffection Apple users, and readying them for "re-education".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tin whiskers and lead-free solder

    The issue with tin whiskers and lead-free solder is well known in the electronics manufacturing business as companies had to implement the RoHS directives over the last decade.

    There has been a lot of research into different formulations of solder paste and component contacts to try to mitigate the problem, but as far as I know, there are no silver bullets that can prevent the problem altogether.

    It is such a significant problem that military and avionics electronics usually get waivers to continue using leaded processes and components. We even have to have off-the-shelf components re-balled with leaded balls for those applications.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Silver bullets

      They were already using silver bullets - silver is one of the metals commonly used in lead free solder :)

  7. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not unexpected

    "Apple’s customers paid a premium for their products and were promised, and came to expect, the highest levels of performance, graphical richness, and durability. "

    Why would they expect that? Apple's machines have been plagued by reliability issues. One model will be rock solid reliable, another will have all sorts of reliability problems (usually heat-related.) This has seriously been going on for at least the last 15 years; every time it happens, the Apple fanbois convince themselves that it's just some 1-time fluke and that it won't happen again.

    Now, fanbois, don't reply with a list of other computers that overheat; I know this isn't an Apple-specific problem.

    I've seen 3 big problems vendors have:

    1) Some vendors put enough cooling capacity in, but seem to think it's just fine to let the chip run to like 90C before they kick the fan up (it's really not). This was what did in the NVidia chips, the temps on these systems was within the allowable limits of the die but the solder didn't tolerate the temperature. In some cases a BIOS update was simply released to kick the fan up at a lower temperature. Apple has had a long and troubled history with this, Jobs HATED fan noise apparently, and would have fans removed from designs that should have had one, and in other cases they'd set the fan to run FAR later than it should have.

    2) Some seem to think it's fine to assume the CPU and GPU won't be run 100% for long and put like 20W of cooling on a 35W TDP chip (this is a flat-out dumb setup IMHO!) When the P4 came out, some vendors decided since it thermal throttles anyway, why put in proper cooling? (Even on a few desktops!). Ugh.

    3) And of course, some will put exactly 35W of cooling in a 35W TDP solution, which works great until you get a little dust in there, then the cooling is inadequate.

  8. tempemeaty

    I hate to say it but....

    Apple in this case has not acted like a premium product company. IMHO Apple has done this to many times. Anymore of this kind of abandon the customer and it's product tactic and Apple will permanently damage it's reputation. Do they want to continue to be the Rolls Royce of computers? I know how Rolls Royce dealt with a defect. I know of an instance! It was replaced on the spot. Why? Rolls Royce doesn't make defective products and their reputation for best car manufacture demands it. You can't maintain that reputation any other way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hate to say it but....

      4 out of the 6 2011 MacBook Pros that my company bought have had melted motherboards due to the discrete GPU and discrete CPU sharing a common heat sink - heat pipe system. it's not just the BGA/Solder - that was a previous fault - this fault was exacerbated by a new thermal design.

      Apple offered to repair once for free (as the first fault happened 13 months after purchase) except withdrew that offer as it was a business laptop not a commercial laptop. Commercial market laptops only have a 12 month warranty in EU, whilst VAT paid ones go on beyond 2yrs sometimes.

      I stopped using the discrete GPU, (was previously doing scientific GPGPU programming with it) and replaced HDD with SSD to keep the heat down.

      I agree that Apple in this case has not acted like a premium product company. they have lied to my face, "no widespread problems exist with the 2011 MBP" when I knew that they did, and they knew that I knew that problems existed!, and they charged me £500 for the new M/B, which they installed, de-installed then re-installed again as we were arguing!

      apart from that it's great!

      1. ratfox

        Re: I hate to say it but....

        Apple in this case has not acted like a premium product company.

        There is absolutely nothing in luxury products that guarantees better quality or durability. You might buy a watch that is 100 times more expensive than a cheap swatch, but that does not mean it will last 100 times longer.

        I can't recall any case where people sued Louis Vuitton because the quality of their bag was, actually, not worth the price. I assume the strategy of these lawyers is that Apple will settle soon in order to keep the lawsuit out of the news; I'd be really surprised if their argument that price should mean quality is upheld in court.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: I hate to say it but....

          "There is absolutely nothing in luxury products that guarantees better quality or durability"

          [IANALBIPOOTI ...]

          Price is one part of the context surrounding the "implied terms" of quality in the UK's Sale of Goods Act (SOGA). A £600 washing machine would usually be expected to last longer than a £150 one, unless the more expensive one was for a specific low volume use (e.g. in a caravan) and the buyer had used it as if it was for normal volumes. But a premium product like a Louis Vuitton bag is not always more expensive because a "reasonable person" has a higher expectation of durability. One might possibly have a case with such an item if it were badly made, however (as 'freedom from minor defects' and 'appearance and finish' are also possible implied terms).

          The whole SOGA is based, very reasonably, on what a reasonable person would expect. It is quite possible a judgment would take into account that a reasonable person knows that a Mac will be more expensive than a similar specification PC and that the premium implies qualities other than increased durability (compared to the PC) --- but it is also quite possible that a judgment would say that an expensive computer should last longer in normal use. If it turns out you've been maxing it out 24/7 the judgment may be different again.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soldering technology aside...

    Do Lawyers really use Facebook? Now THAT is worrying!

  10. Frank N. Stein

    I reckon I'll be avoiding Macbook Pros that were produced between the affected dates in 2011 and 2012. My Macbook Pro 2008 just hums along with Yosemite on it.

  11. ScaredyCat

    2011 MBP Lots of issues

    I've had quite a few issues with my hi-res 2011 MBP. Battery died after upgrading to Lion cost me £99 to replace. - I firmly believe that Lion update was the cause. Then the graphics card started making stuff all blue. Apple replaced the mother^H^H^H^H logic board free of charge, but interestingly when I had to sign for the repair it was listed as a repair under EU law (not fit for purpose). I half expected to have to fight over payment but they didn't charge me. Now, even with the replacement I'm starting to get artifacts appearing on the screen again. :(

    I wont be buying another mac, not only becasue of this but generally becasue I don't what a highly reflective screen and matte is no longer an option.

  12. cs94njw

    I've always tried to nail down why I find Apple irritating, and maybe this is it.

    They charge premium prices for painting their kit white, and then making you buy proprietary hardware to go along with it. Which is irritating and quite blatent.

    But after all that, if you can't then expect a certain level of service from that company, you are being screwed.

    You go to a posh/premium car showroom, they will give you nice tea/coffee, and even food.

    You go to a posh/premium hair dressers, they will give you wine.

    You buy from John Lewis, they give you a good warranty, and less crap when you have problems.

    When you pay premium prices, you expect an above average service.

    Apple are getting arrogant, and they need to think about the customer more.

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