back to article Apple to pay $50m settlement for rotten butterfly keyboards

Apple’s ill-fated butterfly keyboard may be dead, but the company isn’t done paying for the pain it has caused customers. This week, the Cupertino electronics giant agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, according to court documents released Monday [PDF]. Plaintiffs in the now four-year-old court battle …

  1. Swarthy

    In their defense

    They tried to write out a full Mea Culpa, but the "o" and "e" keys were broken; the only thing they could write was "N0 WR0NG D0ING".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have thought for a long while that after aerialgate, batterygate and a couple of other gates, the boardgate thing was the last straw. And they fucked Ive off. He was in charge of design and must have cost Apple serious coin.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Ive

      Ive needed someone like Jobs to hold his worst impulses in check. Once he was gone there was no one who was able to say no to him. Sure Cook is CEO but he's a supply chain guy not a product guy, he wasn't evaluating prototypes and giving thumbs up or thumbs down like Jobs.

      With Ive gone Apple is looking to find a middle ground between design and functionality where compromise is necessary but neither totally compromises the other. You can see the M2 Macbook Air that got rid of the silly wedge form factor, the walkback of the unnecessary port removal on laptops, etc. for the changes/improvements that have been made on that front.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ive

        > Ive needed someone like Jobs to hold his worst impulses in check.

        After reading a couple times I eventually deduced that no apostrophe was missing.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Ive

        > Ive needed someone like Jobs to hold his worst impulses in check

        That's a touch simplistic thus, dare I say it, not as correct as it could be.

        This 'worst implulses' theme has been common on forums for a while, usually in comments that betray a naivete about modern product design process in general and Apple's (and Sony's*) design history and structure in particular.

        Removal of drives and ports from computers was a Jobs thing - iMac floppy disc drive (and hidden ports), Blue Ray 'a bag of hurt', hidden ports on original MacBook Air... All SJ.

        (*Apple's and Sony's stories are interwoven. Esslinger worked at Wega, consulted for Jobs for Apple, Pixar and NeXt. His work inspired Teiyu Goto who designed generations of PlayStation and the VAIO brand and had his design team at Sony use Mac's. Apple's iPod filled a gap that Sony could easily have filled by didn't. Jobs suggested GPS photo tagging to Sony. OSX for Intel was first ported to a VAIO laptop. Etc etc. Bang and Olufsen should get a mention too, for integrated multiroom audio before it was cool, telephone scroll wheel, refinement of class D amllifiers and decades of data about just how much anodised aluminium rich people will have in their living rooms.)

        What's interesting is the wider public perception of product design. It was on the ascendant before the blue iMac and then iPod made Ive famous - with names like Phillip Starck and Seymour Powell. Maybe Richard Sapper, though his lamp was in museums but not his Thinkpad for IBM.

        It's actually quite hard to casually look at the 1990s in retrospect because many original print sources are hard to find online. There's so little about Teiyo Goto online, my source is Digital Dreams: The Work of the Sony Design Center (first published 1999))

      3. Snapper

        Re: Ive

        You also see the poor iteration of the M2 MacBook Air in terms of speed and heat issues, which can be fixed by a simple application of a £10 heat sink.

    2. Solviva

      Re: Ive

      There's also staingate - got my MBP retina 2012 screen replaced 3 times for it. After approx 2 years the antireflection coating starts to disintegrate, leading to a 'stained' screen. The 3rd replacement still had the problem (no surprise really), at which point it was time to move to the post-butterfly 2019 MBP. (Un)fortunately that wasn't very coffee-resistant and suffered an untimely death after 2 years. Cue a return to the stained 2012 for 5 months whilst waiting for the 2021 M1 - which crashes every few weeks, but at least it has real function keys, a full set of ports and magsafe!

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Ive

        Baking soda is abrasive enough to remove the coating but not damage the glass, with some baking soda, water, a cloth and some elbow grease you can fully remove the coating and get a clean display again.

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Staingate et al

        Wait - that's a pretty long list of MacBook failures there, especially considering how "reliable" most Apple fans claim their MB's to be. I haven't had nearly close to that level of issues with Dell Latitudes / Dell Precisions / Lenovo ThinkPads that I've owned / used / been responsible for servicing, not at all.

        1. ThomH

          Re: Staingate et al

          Most Apple fans will receive completely reliable MacBooks, as the statistical failure rate is a tiny slither of the whole. But that doesn't mean that Apple isn't culpable for some of the flaws, as here, where the issue could clearly have been avoided.

          Me personally? In twenty-ish years I've had a MacBook Pro with a GPU fault that happened late enough as not to really matter and a MacBook with a logic board that has failed twice, the first time after only about three years so during what should be a machine's normal lifetime.

          That's a pretty high subjective failure rate, but I'm damned if I can find any objective statistics so there's no reason to believe me any more than any of those other commenters you refer to.

        2. Solviva

          Re: Staingate et al

          In my case, the 2019 coffee-gate incident was entirely user error - but saying that the 2012 has imbibed wine & beer on more than one occasion and still runs fine, apart from the battery's rather shot by now.

          As for staingate, I suspect it has to do with the 0.001mm clearance between the screen & keyboard such that any flexing when moving causes friction between the two, then possibly depending on the make up of your own skin oils, they may have some dissolving effect. What I couldn't figure out though, on the first screen it started with 3 inch-ish long lines that intersected to form a triangle. Nothing on the keyboard matched any of those lines and I don't remember carving them out!

          Since I got the 2019, I've kept the original greaseproof like paper that it's delivered with and religiously placed that over the keyboard when it's closed. Either staingate is fixed (I guess it is) or this works. Even if no more staingate, this avoids greasy imprints of the keys on the screen when closed anyway.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Ive

      Boardgate: lead free solder implemented incorrectly effecting GPUs on Macbooks Pros. Happended with XBOX 360 consoles too. Not Jony Ive.

      Aerialgate: phone losing signal if held in a way that interfered with the aerials. Likely slipped through advanced testing because bulky cases were used to disguise the late-stage prototypes 'in the wild'. Ditto, not Ive.

      Batterygate: concept to improve stability by throttling CPU if batteries were older, I.e, slow downs are better than crashes. The problem was with Apple's communication of this, left Apple open to accusations of money gouging. Again, not Ive.

      Butterfly keyboard: main issue was poor reliability. The story of exactly why the engineers couldn't achieve the reliability they evidently once thought they could is unknown, and likely nuanced and interesting. After all, how do decision makers assess the claims of engineers about future parts? NB, Steve Jobs did similar, insisted on a glass iPhone screen before the glass technology was quite ready, but Corning pulled through his Jobs' gamble paid off.

      1. Andy Taylor

        Re: Ive

        All the 200x Nvidia powered MacBook Pros were affected and Nvidia paid the bill.

        I replaced hundreds of logic boards on up to 6 year old machines when I worked at the fruit store.

        One of the Apple-centric YouTube channels featured an early prototype iPhone. It had a plastic screen similar to the iPod Classic - that would have scratched so easily.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Ive

          Jobs' argument was this: if the screen picks up scratches in the pocket from keys and change, that looks like poor material choice, Apple's fault. If a glass screen shatters due to a drop, the consumer feels partially responsible. So he insisted on it.

          The thing is, the glass manufacture hadn't been completely solved at the time Jobs announced the iPhone to the public. I can only imagine the relief when it worked.

          (We've since seen similar with Apple announcing a wireless charger, only this time the challenges evidently proved insurmountable and Apple never released it).

    4. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Ive

      I want to say that I remember seeing a quote from Jobs just ahead of his handing over the reigns to Cook, that he was making it so that Ive couldn't be fired. Fortunately for Cook, he decided to leave on his own to start his own company and then they could just not renew any contracts.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Ive

        'Fortunately' for Cook?

        It's been clear that Ive had been bored for some time... I mean, mission successful for helping to save Apple, and redefining the product categories of MP3 player, phone, tablet, and smart watch. And created some of the best received laptop and desktop computers along the way. But these products are mature now, the design choices are now evolutionary, not speculative.

        It's popular to throw shade on Ive these days, and for sure, he's been given a lot of adulation in the past - which he couldn't accept. Both positions obscure the real stories, the real processes, the reality of the team work, the conversations, attitudes and ideals that shaped the products and the market.

        Sony have, like Apple, traded on design to communicate a level of quality and care in the mind of consumers over decades. They don't need to name an individual designer in order to communicate this. Apple iMacs used to carry Harmon Kardon badges to denotes the speakers were somehow better than average - they've not needed to for years.

        Nokia used to have similar ideals, then the middle management came in.

  3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington

    "customers from the following states are eligible to receive compensation: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington."

    And if you live anywhere else, good luck going through the entire case all over again, since it never got to court and doesn't apply to you. Clearly Apple decided it's much cheaper to pay out $50m now while kicking the can down the road for every other jurisdiction in the hope others will fail to organise or just feel it's not worth 4 more years for something they have already written off as "lost" anyway.

    1. Auntie Dix

      Re: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington

      "California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington"

      This cheap-for-Apple, lawyer-enriching, victim-curtailing case highlights some of the backward, expensive, ridiculous "justice theater" of U.S. law and product liability.

      Apple sells its shoddy, overpriced crap nationwide and worldwide. The penalty should apply nationwide and worldwide (the latter, for WIPO signatories).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talk about pattern and practice..

    We have been a Mac shop for a long time, and we learned a long time ago how this game works. When a device has a defect, Apple first goes through denial, then a period of withdrawal where they avoid talking about it, perhaps followed by a bit of victim blaming, then acknowledge it grudgingly but say it only impacts a handful of devices, then as the howls mount, admit it actually is bad enough they have to do something about it. Then the lawsuits start. Those that save their paperwork may be in for a tidy little payout, or pennies and pain, but in the end, they (Apple) never lose money on the deal. They only have to occasionally give a little of your back. With no admission of wrongdoing.

    Why would they ever stop.

    The next one looks like it's going to be broken screen glass on the Macbooks, just where the hinge on the top case meets the glass. They moved the pivot deeper and there is zero clearance now. You also know they are aware of the issue because the installed tape over the contact area at the factory, instead of shaving 1.5mm more metal off the case to provide a little clearance. First time a crumb or bit of grit gets in there, boom, cracked screen glass.

    We already send two in, told my co-worker to start a spreadsheet to start tracking the RMA's. Today's paperwork is tomorrows payday. $$

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Talk about pattern and practice..

      Today's paperwork is tomorrows payday.

      Advice to live by.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Talk about pattern and practice..

        That's what my boss used to say when I worked in the counterfeiting industry.

    2. R Soul Silver badge

      Re: Talk about pattern and practice..

      "When a device has a defect, Apple first goes through denial, then a period of withdrawal where they avoid talking about it, perhaps followed by a bit of victim blaming, then acknowledge it grudgingly but say it only impacts a handful of devices, then as the howls mount, admit it actually is bad enough they have to do something about it"

      Remarkably similar to the Kubler-Ross model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Talk about pattern and practice..

        And something almost every company who supplies "product" to "users" goes through if a user reports a problem. The speed they go through the stages seems to relate to how highly regulated their industry is in any particular jurisdiction.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About priorities.....

    "Customer satisfaction is our first priority"

    "Security is our first priority"

    ......etc., etc.,.....

    Actually -- "High prices and monster profits are BOTH our only priorities......f**k the rest of it!!"

  6. Ikoth

    There's ANOTHER butterfly keyboard?

    That headline will evoke (fond?) memories of the Thinkpad 701, in those or us of a "certain vintage".

    I worked for an IBM reseller at the time and the butterfly keyboard on the 701 generated a great deal of interest from mechanically minded prospects.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: There's ANOTHER butterfly keyboard?

      I loved mine, and hated when they didn't evolve the idea on to later models. It was such a neat device.

  7. aerogems Silver badge

    I had one of the "afflicted" models at a previous job. When I was issued my initial laptop the spacebar was completely inoperative. The key was stuck and wouldn't move up or down. I remember describing the issue to the company IT tech and watching as mentally they just checked out and started reciting a speech about how all they could do is try to use compressed air to blow out anything under the keys. It wasn't until I explained this was a different issue that any sign of life returned to their face.

    D'oh icon because it's pretty close to how the person looked when I said I had an issue with the keyboard

  8. jilocasin

    No systemic defect....

    No systemic defect.... you're just holding it wrong.

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