In a rare but not unprecedented acknowledgement of fault in one of its products, Apple announced Friday that it would cover the cost of repair of recent MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, for free, for four years from the date you purchased it. It won’t keep your keys from succumbing to a speck of dust, but at least you won’t have to pay for the fix.
Apple’s keyboard woes have been well-documented, if anecdotal; The Outline was a vocal critic as early as last October. Complaints have plagued the so-called butterfly style keyboard since its launch; recent models have suffered key failure with no apparent catalyst. Apple faces no fewer than three class action lawsuits over the apparently flawed design.
The program should provide at least some peace of mind to MacBook owners, although it remains to be seen if future versions of Apple laptops will address the underlying issue.
Because the problem seems inherent to how the butterfly keyboard is constructed—once debris gets under the keyboard, it can’t get out again, neutering presses—there’s no simple solution, and certainly no at-home fix. So instead, Apple will let you bring your laptop in for repair, either at an Apple Store or an authorized service provider—or mail it to an Apple repair center—and the company will fix your faulty keyboard for free.
“Today we launched a keyboard service program for our customers that covers a small percentage of keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models which may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors: letters or characters that repeat unexpectedly or don’t appear when pressed or keys that feel “sticky” or aren’t responding in a consistent manner,” Apple said in a statement. “Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will examine the customer’s device to verify eligibility and then perform the service free of charge. Service may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard.”
Nine models are eligible for the repair, including Retina MacBooks dating back to 2015, and MacBook Pros from 2016 onward. Apple also appears open to offering refunds to anyone who paid for a keyboard repair out of pocket until this point; you can see full details about the program at this website.
The program should provide at least some peace of mind to MacBook owners, although it remains to be seen if future versions of Apple laptops will address the underlying issue, or if Apple will soldier on with a butterfly design that, while sleek and slim, seems to cause semi-regular headaches.
It’s also the latest in a very occasional series of Apple copping—sort of—to its mistakes. When iPhone 4 owners decried apparent signal loss, Cupertino first told customers, essentially, that they were holding it wrong. The eventually gave out free “bumper” cases that negated the issue. More recently, Apple acknowledged that it slowed down older iPhones in an effort to preserve battery life; it went on to offer a discounted battery replacement plan instead.
As in those previous incidents, the problem appears to stem from prioritizing design over functionality. And as before, the fix comes only after a sustained outcry. Still, better to be late to an accommodation than not to offer one at all.