back to article It's now officially the WhackBook Pro: If the keyboards weren't bad enough, now MacBook Pro batts are a fire risk

Apple has urged its fans to stop using certain MacBook Pro models, and has issued a voluntary recall of the notebooks, after they were found to be prone to battery blazes. The Cupertino idiot-tax operation said today that the battery packs in 15-inch MacBook Pro models made between September 2015 and February 2017 have a nasty …

  1. LenG

    How long

    will Apple coast on a thoroughly undeserved reputation for high quality hardware?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: How long

      Well Mercedes have been getting away with it for a couple of decades now...

      1. jgarbo

        Re: How long

        Like Audis, cost of taxis while they're in the shop is ruinous.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: How long

      In general*, the company does have a good reputation for hardware and it's how it handles incidents like this that are responsible. With a recall the important thing is to do it before there are serious problems, ie. customer service is more important than individual engineering considerations.

      I've never owned an I-Phone but have had a couple of MacBooks because I have yet to find comparable models with the same feature set. That's changing now that everything is basically soldered onto the motherboard and Windows' Linux subsystem will make Lenovo's, HP's and Dell's offerings more interesting for developers.

      *Antennagate probably remains the biggest single fuck up because it was a design-induced problem. Again, customer service was key here. If the initial denials had persisted then it could have had a lasting impact, but it didn't and so they continued to sell phones by the bucket load.

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: How long

      I'm typing this on a Mid 2010 MacBook Pro and I'm the second owner of it. My youngest used it while an undergrad and a Masters student in Bioinformatics. So the keyboard was used far more than the trackpad as it was command line run mostly. Both are just fine. All keys work.

      It's had a new battery and more RAM since I got it and that's it. Still going strong, updated to Sierra. Last I looked gfxcardstatus is not High Sierra compatible and I don't like inevitable kernel panics so I'm Sierra bound for the foreseeable. Still getting updates from Apple and all and sundry.

  2. Mintyboy
    Flame

    What goes around comes around after apple were "taking the mick" about samsung phones and exploding batteries.... Icon for obvious reasons

  3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Flame

    So when is Apple going to announce a $50 charge for replacing the faulty batteries (like what they did to the iPhone 6S)?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Philippe

      It was $25

      They won't announce a $50 charge like the 6S because it was a $25 charge.

      Thanks for playing.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They don't have to, that will have to be free of charge under the various faulty goods act that exist.

      I've worked in electronics long enough to know that you can test as much as you want, you can only identify trends - especially with lithium batteries. You can't predict a failure down the line that easily, but what you can do is keep an eye on returns, identify something that doesn't age well and do a recall before it becomes a major issue. I suspect that's what is happening here.

      That said, I only bought a new Bosch drill because I wanted a spare. Its battery is still working fine, and that thing is no less than ELEVEN years old (I found the original warranty note in the box a few weeks ago). To me, that is an insanely impressive time for a lithium pack.

  4. Michael Jarve
    FAIL

    I'm reminded of...

    I'm reminded of the Good Omens incarnation of Famine when it comes to modern laptops, at least in the past 10-15 years. The IT shop I used to work at used to quote out multi-kilobuck 17" to even 21" Sager-Midern workstation-replacement laptops weighing 5 pounds or more, with specs that would make a contemporary Xenon system blush with pride. Not a one burst into flames, unless left to charge in an oven, or an enclosed vehicle during Minnesota's deceptively warm summers.

    I may be an old curmudgeon, but I really don't know where today's obsession with paper-thin, un-upgradeable, planned-obsolescence laptops came from. Maybe I'm stuck in the glory days of my G3 Pismo with two incredibly flexible drive/battery bays and processor slot, (and praise the Lord) DIMM slots, and battery life measured in days, and the long-term reliability of an old Volvo. I can't imagine that an inch-thick, highly upgradeable, high-value laptop would not be welcome, especially among the semi/pro crowd, trading for a fractional-inch form-factor and Timex watch upgradeability. I would gladly pay $6K+ for a modern take on the PowerBook Pismo G3. Even Lenovo, heir to IBM's industrial reputational might, hardly acknowledges the hard-core leather pajama, studs, and straps wearing Thinkpad group any more. To think that Apple once made one of the most enviable laptops made, not because a swallow could reach a velocity of 30 MPH carrying one, but due to its durability and expandabilty. It makes one really miss the near-end of the dot-com bubble days. You may have lost your life savings investing in Sun Microsystems, but at least you could buy a half-decent laptop.

    Now that we have tablets, phablets, massive-screen super computing cell-phones, convertibles, glorified Palm Pilots, and so on, I think there might be room, yet again, for decently sized, decently equipped, decently upgradeable laptops, with a decently long life. If you need something smaller, you're spoiled for choice.

    On the other hand, decency does not account for a lot these days.

    1. Jeffrey Nonken
      Joke

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      What do you mean? African or European?

    2. Dazed and Confused
      Pint

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      I'm quite definitely an old curmudgeon.

      But

      I've had a succession of "mobile workstations", I had the HP equivalents of your IBM, I loved by 8730 and even more so the 8740 that followed it (a laptop display you could comfortable read in the mid day sun in a coffee bar on the med, oh with 12bit per colour and 1920x1200 ). I spent years flying around the world with two of these buggers in my laptop bag, fortunately no airline ever asked to weight my laptop bag!

      When my much loved box started to play up I bought the replacement system, a ZBook or some such, which I loath, partly as the display is crap and partly because it is so damn heavy I just can't be arsed to carry the thing around, consequently it has hardly ever left my desk.

      So I've added an a super slim EliteBook 1040 (not an Apple, but they're all based on an Intel reference design which was shown here on El'Reg years back) laptop which is easy to carry round. It's light, it's slim, the display is light years ahead of the damn ZBook and it's fine for 90% of what I do when I'm not at my desk. OK, it's not upgradable, well it's got a 1TB M.2 SSD(OK that was an upgrade it's a standard slot), I really can't remember when I last wanted a cd when I wasn't at my desk. Extra disks, again normally only when I'm at a desk, my a multi TB USB device is easy enough, other than that I can access storage over the network. It would be nice if there was a low profile rj45 plug so I didn't need a dongle for wired network access, but most of the time WiFi lets me do what I want.

      Oh and the battery life of 1040 is way better than that of the big buggers I had before.

      As to heat, mostly it runs pretty cool. The only time it gets hot is due to MS arrogance. They think it's OK to load updated and reboot my laptop when it's in sleep mode. Except the stupid ****s don't understand that it's locked with pre-boot encryption, so it can't reboot till unlocked and HP's damn FW does not do the power management stuff before the OS is running, so if you've dumped the laptop on the bed when exiting the bog you can come back and find that it's damn hot. The workstations did the same and got just as hot.

      PS, why isn't there an standard for a micro Ethernet connector, or at least more micro than the RJ45.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weight of laptop bag

        you obviously didn't fly Thomas Cook and a host of other carriers.

        Sleazyjet didn't want to fly me from Stockholm back to blighty for this very reason notwithstanding the fact they'd flow me to Sweden in the first place.

        After that, I only flew with carriers that recognised that people carry stuff that should not be put in the hold and let you through.

      2. 0laf Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I'm reminded of...

        I'm with you but I think your engineers POV of making things functional, robust and repairable is vry much in the minority. Most people are not engineers and their primary concern is 'shiny'. They might moan about reliability and repairability when something goes wrong but their buying decisions will always be driven by shiny.

        1. Dazed and Confused

          Re: I'm reminded of...

          I'm not sure whether you were agreeing with Michael or I.

          My decision in buying a slim laptop was driven by deeming that at that moment in time what I wanted most out of a laptop was portability, and If I could find a machine that did enough of what I wanted and was really portable then great.The machine I'd ended up with was about 8lb plus at least another 2 for the 200W power station that went with it. The slim box is pretty shiny shiny, but it also weighs less than the power brick of the other one. Admittedly it was made easier by my requirement to have 24GB of RAM in my laptop finishing too, the baby one only has 8 and I'd have bought a version with more if it had been available. But for what I've used it for that has proved enough.

        2. Michael Jarve

          Re: I'm reminded of...

          This is tangential to the topic at hand, but germane to my post. I remember an advertisement for a Marantz branded stereo receiver that survived a house fire and fell two or three stories through a house, into a basement and, after having been burned, flooded, and pressed back into service, still operated to spec. I own the same model which was already 30 years old when my Dad passed it down to me. I replaced the electolytic caps, aligned the tuner, checked bias and DC offset (which drifted to only within a margin of error, per the service manual, which was included!), and I still enjoy it today at my cabin with a set of Wharfedale E-90 loudspeakers, which likewise have withstood the test of time.

      3. herman Silver badge

        Re: I'm reminded of...

        Well, I am officially an old curmudgeon and I am really glad that I don't have to lug an IBM 360 mainframe on wheels plus a 100 kW diesel generator along with me.

        So far I'm pretty happy with my relatively thin 2012 Macbook Pro and maybe I'll finally upgrade again next year.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: I'm reminded of...

          The 2015 models have more ports and don't have the keyboard problems, if you can get them. When not travelling, I have mine attached via HDMI/DVI to an old KVM and 4K monitor.

      4. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: I'm reminded of... @Dazed

        "When my much loved box started to play up I bought the replacement system, a ZBook or some such, which I loath, partly as the display is crap and partly because it is so damn heavy"

        According to HP quickspecs, Zbook 17 G1 (I'm guessing the model here) is no heavier than 8730w or 8740w - as always, depending on the configuration

        You're boasting about a 12-bit display (it isn't) with the 8740w, which is the HP "Dreamcolor" option for select laptops. The same type of display was (and still is) available with the Zbook and others. but since you didn't opt for it, you're comparing apples to oranges. The older models had the preferred 4:3 1920x1200 displays whereas the Zbook and 1040 have just x1080 FHD display.

        "They think it's OK to load updated and reboot my laptop when it's in sleep mode."

        Then you should disable that setting.

        1. Andytug

          The setting you need to disable is....

          (Windows 10) All settings, system, power settings, additional power settings, change plan settings, change advanced power settings, expand "sleep" in the window, then expand "allow wake timers" then set to disable as required. (You can search for "change power" to skip the first four steps).

          Obviously you then have to deal with the thing updating when you power it on manually, but depends which is the lesser of two evils for you.

          1. Dazed and Confused

            Re: The setting you need to disable is....

            Many thanks

        2. Dazed and Confused

          Re: I'm reminded of... @Dazed

          According to HP quickspecs, Zbook 17 G1 (I'm guessing the model here) is no heavier than 8730w or 8740w

          Well the quick specs can say what they like. The Z is heavier and it has a much bigger power brick.

          You're right that the 87x0w boxes have 1920x1200 as had my circa 2002 Dell. The "best" option on the Z was that laughingly called FullHD 1080 line. Since my standard bit of work involved having a remote desktop, which I needed to be at least 1280x1024 plus the usual surrounds fits comfortably on a 1200 line display and doesn't on the 1080 line display, the missing 120 lines make all the difference in the world. So the Z sits on my desk attached to a 32" 2560x1440 monitor which is good, I don't think my eyes are up for a 4K display unless I stepped up to 40" or so.

          The dreamcolor wasn't available when I got the Z or at least wasn't listed on HP's website, or I'd have bought it.

          You're also right, I got the colour depth wrong, it's 10 not 12, it's still 4 times better than the Z.

          The 1040 has the 2560x1440 display

          Then you should disable that setting.

          I've never found a way to stop it. If you know a way, I'd love to hear it.

    3. jason 7

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      Yes decent number of ports (including a USB at the back) and a full underbody panel so you can access all the hardware inside within 3 minutes.

      I hate all these puzzle box laptops that require full disassembly with cheap brittle plastic tabs breaking left and right just to change the RAM or HDD/SSD.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      For many people, device weight is key which is why we're seeing so many products around 1.2 kg but with still very good battery life. This is in no small part due to increasing energy density in the battery packs and thus an increased, though still small, fire risk. But also, external battry packs with >= 20 aH are cheap and can charge any or all of the devices people lug around with them, this discourages manufacturers from putting even bigger batteries in.

      The built-in obsolescence is really a different topic: a lot of the improvements could be done while keeping the devices upgradeable and serviceable. While we customers could do more here, regulation might also be required, because you can only buy what's on offer.

    5. microbug

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      It’s worth noting that these device fires are usually in the order of 10 in a million. Your shop might never have sold enough to encounter one, if you laptops were also at risk.

    6. FIA Silver badge

      Re: I'm reminded of...

      I may be an old curmudgeon, but I really don't know where today's obsession with paper-thin, un-upgradeable, planned-obsolescence laptops came from.

      I suspect it's when computer hardware transitioned from being bought and used by IT professionals and extended out into being tools used by the masses.

      Us IT people like upgradability, but the great unwashed don't even consider it, it's just an appliance to them. Once you hit that point where most of your customers fall into the latter demographic then you start to disregard things like upgradability in the name of cost. (Probably not unfairly either). If you can sell a million things and have a lower failure rate and cheaper production and after sales support costs by not using a socket (and the design/support issues that go with it) then you will.

  5. J. R. Hartley

    Pfft

    Apple hardware has always been shit. It got slightly less shit when they stopped designing stuff themselves and went with USB and x86. But it's still essentially shite. The Appke Reality Distortion Field is still working well in 2019.

  6. stuartnz

    Every crisis is an opportunity

    "You can keep your explosive MacBook at a safe distance by sitting it on top of one of our $999 monitor stands - a bargain!"

    1. ocflyfish

      Re: Every crisis is an opportunity

      This comment wins. No other comments are necessary. <mic drop>

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Wait a minute...

    2017 is 'older generation'? Does no-one design anything to last any more?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Nope. It is designed to get your money. After that, it can die.

      1. herman Silver badge

        "After that, you can die." - TFIFY.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Apple don't want you to die, they need you around to buy next year's shiny when the one you've got breaks.

  8. MiguelC Silver badge
    Gimp

    "idiot-tax"

    I like the hyperlink you chose to highlight that moniker, is it a case of preemptive defense against fanbois? (particularly the likes of this)

  9. NeilPost Silver badge

    are these the same ones John Lewis have on (cough) fire sale right now ??

  10. Hans 1
    Windows

    But Cupertino Idiot Tax Operation is an insult to the CUSTOMERS; that only idiots would buy Apple.

    Only idiots would buy laptops with soldered RAM and storage.

    You can cry all you want, you are an idiot and as such your opinion does not count.

    1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

      Re: Cupertino Idiot Tax Operation is an insult to the CUSTOMERS

      "Only idiots would buy laptops with soldered RAM and storage."

      Apart from the rudeness of this comment, it shows you really don't understand what you are talking about. Soldered components are much more reliable than replaceable. These days replaceable components are no so important because the machines are cheap – if you need an upgrade trade it in or sell to someone and get a new one.

      But usually, one gets enough memory and storage these days to last for years. Yes, I got more memory and storage in this 5-year-old iMac, and sometimes it gets pressured, but I'm running with heaps of web pages open, numerous PDFs open, development environments, etc. But I don't see any reason to upgrade soon.

      So from this 'idiot' - you are wrong.

      1. Hans 1
        Windows

        Re: Cupertino Idiot Tax Operation is an insult to the CUSTOMERS

        Soldered components are much more reliable than replaceable.

        Bullshit. Ever heard of faulty RAM ? Do not get me started on SSD durability, please, thanks.

        Apart from the rudeness of this comment, it shows you really don't understand what you are talking about.

        The only way to break through a "reality distortion field" as strong as Apple's is to make use of strong words.

        In summary, thanks, but sorry, your opinion does not count.

        1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

          Re: Cupertino Idiot Tax Operation is an insult to the CUSTOMERS

          Hans 1 put in an opinionated post

          "Only idiots would buy laptops with soldered RAM and storage.

          You can cry all you want, you are an idiot and as such your opinion does not count."

          Hans 1 is wrong on several levels so I said

          "Soldered components are much more reliable than replaceable."

          Hans 1 replies "Bullshit. Ever heard of faulty RAM "

          Again more abuse and misinterpretation. What I am talking about is soldered connections are more reliable that pluggable – that is their fundamental nature. Hans 1 does not know what he is talking about.

          Hans 1 "The only way to break through a "reality distortion field" as strong as Apple's is to make use of strong words."

          Hans 1 does not understand the origin of the "Steve Jobs reality distortion field" which was not a pejorative comment but a comment made by his friends that Jobs was able to see things in different ways contrary to accepted (but wrong) thinking.

          Hans 1 claims that he has to use strong words. Only those who really have nothing to say resort to abuse. The way to counter inaccuracies and wrongness is to quietly point them out as I have done here – and hopefully do most of the time.

          "In summary, thanks, but sorry, your opinion does not count." Not opinion – solder is more reliable than replaceable. The need for replacement is mostly historical, but there might be cases where that is wanted. Hans 1 wants a typical industry religious debate, rather than considering the pros and cons and situations where either is applicable (like the connection-oriented and connectionless debates in networking).

          These anti-Apple rants of most people (fanned by the reg) are just such religious debates. They ignore what Apple has done and how Apple was very much responsible for taking computers away from the white lab coats and put them in the hands of people – something still resented by the white coats.

          So Hans 1 take your blowing off elsewhere.

  11. Philippe

    This is not the Macbook Pro with the butterfly keyboard.

    The whole article is based on the assumption that both keyboard and battery are borked on the Macbook Pro 15 inch, hence it's a lemon.

    They have idenitifed some 2015-17 Macbook Pro 15 inch having problems. Thosare totally different laptops.

    As for the Keyboard problems on the new generation launch at the end of 2016, it has been addressed with a new generation a year of the "butterfly" mechanism.

    Apple over-engineered themselves into a hole with it but it's definitely not a lemon.

    1. SimonLoki

      Re: This is not the Macbook Pro with the butterfly keyboard.

      You can't go bringing facts into an Apple bashing session...!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: This is not the Macbook Pro with the butterfly keyboard.

      No, the keyboard was launched in 2015 and we're on the third version of it now in 2019. And Apple are that confident about their fix it already has an extended guarantee... but they're still selling it to you anyway.

      As for the battery problems, this is the second recent machine with a recall. The 2016 13" MacBook Pro is the first and it has a butterfly keyboard so that machine is a real lemon. Not just because of the battery and the keyboard but also due to the other design failures such as the display cable breaking meaning you get no display, SSD failures, and your CPU shorting out and killing itself in humid weather.

      Take it away Louis Rossmann...

      (oh, and his Apple laptop recommendations are... nothing in the past five years)

      1. James R Grinter

        Re: This is not the Macbook Pro with the butterfly keyboard.

        The Mid-2015 McBook Pro (the model involved in the recall) does not have the “butterfly” keyboard.

        It was introduced on the lightweight MacBook of that era.

  12. Rich 2 Silver badge

    "Because customer safety is a top priority.."

    No it isn't. Making money is a top priority

    1. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

      >>"Because customer safety is a top priority.."

      No it isn't. Making money is a top priority<<

      Not true. That is what the rest of the industry is doing. Others sell your information to make money. They can copy Apple's designs and save lots on R&D. So your comment is trite.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        They can copy Apple's designs and save lots on R&D.

        I am intrigued by your ideas and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    2. Flywheel Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Making money is a top priority

      And surely the idea is to hope that as few people as possible are injured by pyro-incidents so that payouts are kept to a minimum. Gotta preserve that bottom line..

  13. Richard Jukes

    All macbooks are lemons because they lack a trackpoint. We need more laptops with trackpoint.

  14. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

    Get some perspective

    Electronics can develop faults, even in very well designed devices (as Apple's are). Apple tests all components very carefully and uses the same components for the manufacturing run – others don't.

    The only report I can find of a fire was on May 30. Seems Apple have quickly swung into action identifying the problem and issuing a recall because of 'some risk of overheating and fire'. Compare that to Samsung, where they quickly bring product to market and they had a far more serious fire risk.

    So it is a matter of perspective and scale.

    1. Tom 64

      Re: Get some perspective

      Apple's devices are well designed;

      - to look good (to better appeal to the great unwashed)

      - to be as cheap to manufacture as possible (the better for profit)

      It's the second point that causes them to fail right after warranty and explode in some poor punters face. Safety and longevity don't get a look in.

      1. Da Weezil

        Re: Get some perspective

        "Safety and longevity don't get a look in."

        May be the case now, but then I look at my partners 15" Macbook Pro from..... 2008. OK it has has a new HDD, a fan and a dvd drive over its 11 years, but even stuck in time as it is on El Capitan - it soldiers on battle scarred from many travels, and last month we finally treated it to a new battery - admittedly as pattern part as the Apple part is long since obsolete. It has demonstrated the sort of build quality we expected from it.

        Cant claim that amount of longevity from anything Samsung I ever owned The smart TV blew its motherboard at only 13 months, the galaxy S3 LTE dropped its USB socket at 15 months , and being told by Samsung support that this would be classed as damage because i had clearly been charging it too often was enough to ensure that in future, I spend Nothing on anything with the Samsung badge, Cleasrl;y they only build ornamental stuff - I wanted a smartphone I could use daily.

        My iPhone 6+ has lived through my 4 years in an industrial unit where I was daily crawling around machinery with it in my pocket and has been flawless, and remains so snug in its Survivor case, I'm not interested in the new phones, they lack what I want, and I have no interest in thinnner/shiney, I buy kit that lasts, sadly I'm not sure where I go from here, except that it WONT be any of the current favourites, I guess I will see how long the 6+ lasts!

        Personally I think Apple have lost thier way under Cook.

  15. Hans 1
    Paris Hilton

    Apple's devices USED TO BE well designed;

    I had the original Ti 550 with Gigabit ethernet, when high end Dell's, Thinkpads, HP lap^H^H^Hdesktops were thicker than three or four stacked Powerbooks, where two keypresses released the keyboard for RAM replacement, 6 screws and you could replace hard and optical drive ...instructions were in the manual when on ANY other Windows laptop unscrewing voided warranty.

    Now, that Powerbook was thin enough and serviceable, looked good ... I would get that thing out on 1st class transatlantics and others would pack their laptops away ... the design lasted well over a a decade. Today, they have won, what ? 2 mm ? At the cost of what ? was that worth it ?

    PS: If you buy a laptop with soldered RAM and storage you are an idiot and your opinion does not count.

    PPS: See PS

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Holy Rats

    My work Jesus Mac is on the recall list, must be that original sin thing. Might be in for a forced vacation while the bulgy batteries are fixed (not slated for replacement for another 10 months).

    OTOH, I've seem some balloon like inflated LiON batteries in DVD players left in cars (used by kids to watch DVDs on long trips) that would make your hair stand on end, and those were cheap Chinese players. With higher quality Jesus batteries the Mac should resist spontaneous combustion. No, I don't live in New Jersey (and my smoke detectors actually work)!

  17. MaxNZ

    Turn around time

    I booked my Macbook in for battery replacement Friday afternoon and was told could be up to two weeks - not the news I was wanting as I am heading overseas. I ended up getting the machine back on Wednesday afternoon - in time to take it away with me.

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