- Customers have been having issues with Apple’s butterfly keyboard in the years following the 12-inch MacBook’s launch in 2015.
- The problems emerged in the public eye again after Apple recently issued an apology.
- Below is a timeline of the major developments in recent years involving Apple’s controversial butterfly keyboard.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you’ve ever noticed that the space bar on your new MacBook Pro doesn’t work, or that certain letter keys don’t respond when pressed, you’re not alone.
In the years since Apple launched its butterfly keyboard on the 12-inch MacBook in 2015, customers have reported various issues – some involving keys that register twice when tapped once, keys that feel stuck, or keys that don’t work at all. The issue was brought to light again in March after The Wall Street Journal published a column about the problem, which prompted an apology from Apple.
Apple has said it’s aware that a small number of users are having issues with the third-generation butterfly keyboard, which can be found on products such as the 2018 MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air. The company has also determined that a small percentage of first- and second-generation butterfly keyboards may have similar problems. These keyboards can be found on devices such as the 12-inch MacBook and the MacBook Pros Apple launched in 2016 and 2017.
The newest laptop models fall under Apple’s warranty service, while issues with older versions can be addressed through the company’s Keyboard Service Program. If you’re experiencing any issues with your keyboard, you should contact Apple Support and take your laptop to an Apple Store to be assessed. Depending on the situation, Apple may need to replace individual keys or the entire keyboard. The exact cause behind these issues is unclear, but they could be the result of dirt or debris getting underneath the keyboard.
Apple introduced its butterfly mechanism in 2015, signaling a major redesign of the keyboard meant to accommodate the 12-inch MacBook's sleek frame. Apple described this butterfly keyboard as being 40% thinner than the traditional scissor mechanism used in older keyboards when it unveiled the device more than four years ago.
Here's how the problems have unfolded over the past several years.
March 2015 — Apple releases its first MacBook with a butterfly keyboard.
Apple launched its super-slim new laptop, simply called MacBook, in 2015. It notably included just one USB-C port and was the company's first laptop to come with the new butterfly keyboard.
October 2016 — Apple brings the second-generation butterfly keyboard to the MacBook Pro, and the complaints continue.
Following the launch of Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro, which saw the debut of the Touch Bar, customers continued to report keyboard problems.
In a Reddit thread from about two years ago, MacBook Pro owners said that certain keys would intermittently get stuck during use. For some users, this affected alphanumeric keys, while others reported that the space bar was affected.
Similar comments about the 2016 MacBook Pro were published in Apple's community forums.
October 2017 – The Outline criticizes Apple's keyboard problems, bringing more attention to the issue.
In a piece titled "The New MacBook Keyboard is Ruining My Life," The Outline's Casey Johnston described an issue with the spacebar on her MacBook that caused it to register two spaces instead of one when tapped. The piece also delved into how the butterfly mechanism works and reflected on her frustration with issue, as she mentioned visiting the Apple Store three times in an attempt to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, customers continued to report faulty keyboards throughout 2017 on Apple's Communities website and on MacRumors in its forums section, the website said in February 2017. The problems seemed to echo the previous complaints, with some users saying that certain keys stopped working, and others reporting that a key would register two presses for every one press.
October 2017 — A song parody mocks Apple's butterfly-keyboard issues.
The YouTuber Jonathan Mann, who has been writing a song every day for 10 years, published a tune parodying Apple's butterfly keyboard called "I Am Pressing the Spacebar and Nothing Is Happening."
The video shows Mann pushing the space key while the cursor on screen remains in the same place. He also touches on the tips Apple provides on its website, which include holding the laptop at a 75-degree angle and using compressed air to clean the keyboard.
The video now has 223,370 views, and Mann's YouTube channel has 39,000 subscribers.
May 2018 — A petition appears on Change.org urging Apple to recall laptops with defective keyboards.
A petition on Change.org urged Apple to recall every MacBook Pro released since late 2016. It also called for the company to replace the butterfly keyboards with redesigned keyboards "that just work."
The petition was published in May 2018, according to a report from 9to5Mac, and it has more than 36,000 signatures.
May 2018 — Apple faces a class-action lawsuit over its MacBook butterfly keyboards.
"The MacBook Pro is marketed and sold as top of the line - the 15-inch model's starting price is $2,399. But the MacBook is defective: it's butterfly keyboard is prone to fail. Thousands of consumers have experienced this defect. When the MacBook's butterfly keyboard fails, the keys stick and no longer register keystrokes. As a result, the user cannot type."
June 2018 — Apple launches a free repair program for owners of affected Mac laptops.
Apple launched its Keyboard Service Program in June to address the reported issues that have surfaced over the years. As part of this program, affected customers can get their keyboards fixed, free of charge, by visiting an Apple retail store or an authorized Apple service provider, or by mailing their laptop to the Apple Repair Center.
July 2018 — Apple launches a new MacBook Pro with the third-generation butterfly keyboard.
Apple released its most recent MacBook Pro in 2018, which brought the faster 8th generation Intel processors, Apple's T2 security chip, and a new third-generation butterfly keyboard, among other updates. Apple would later bring its latest iteration of the butterfly keyboard to the new MacBook Air in October 2018.
But The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the previously reported keyboard issues have continued to persist, even on the third-generation version.
July 2018 — Reports indicate the keys on the new MacBook Pro have a silicon membrane to keep debris out.
Following Apple's MacBook Pro launch, iFixit discovered that the butterfly switches in the third-generation keyboard are coated in a silicon membrane, which the website speculated could have been a measure to prevent dust from creeping into the device.
That theory was seemingly confirmed days later when MacRumors reported that an internal Apple document confirmed this silicon was indeed intended to keep debris from entering the keys.
March 2019 — Apple apologizes to customers affected by the butterfly-keyboard malfunctions.
Apple released a statement on March 27, in which it apologized to MacBook users affected by issues with its butterfly keyboard. The Wall Street Journal first reported the statement in a column highlighting the problem.
"We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry," Apple said in its statement. "The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard."
The prominent Apple blogger John Gruber called Apple's butterfly keyboards "the worst products in Apple's history" in response to The Journal's column.
April 2019 — The Basecamp chief technology officer says nearly half of the company's laptops with Apple's third-generation butterfly keyboard are failing.
David Heinemeier Hansson, the chief technology officer at Basecamp and the creator of the popular web-application framework Ruby on Rails, tweeted about the issues his company has been facing in regard to Apple's butterfly keyboard.
"Nearly half of all the 3rd-generation, membrane-enhanced keyboards in the 2018+ MacBooks are failing at Basecamp," he wrote. "This is not a 'small number.' It's a catastrophe and Apple should do a total recall."
Hansson followed up by conducting a Twitter survey, which indicated that 53% of the 7,577 respondents said they are experiencing keyboard issues but are "living with it." Eleven percent of respondents said they encountered problems but Apple repaired them, and 36% reported that their keyboard is perfect.