Apple settles lawsuit over its reviled 'butterfly' keyboard for $50 million

You may not get a huge payout, however.

Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Apple could soon compensate MacBook owners for their troubles with faulty "butterfly" keyboards. Reuters reports Apple has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that it knew about and concealed the unreliable designs of keyboards on MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models released between 2015 and 2019. If a judge approves the preliminary deal, Apple would pay customers who needed repairs in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

The company won't have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement. It will have to continue offering free keyboard repairs for four years after purchase.

Apple introduced the butterfly keyboard in 2015 with the 12-inch MacBook. It was meant to enable ever-slimmer laptops without compromising stability, but the design quickly developed a reputation for extreme sensitivity to debris. Keys would get stuck or lose responsiveness if even tiny dust motes or crumbs slipped underneath. The company took steps to mitigate the problem (such as membranes) and eventually began reverting to more conventional keyboards starting with the 16-inch MacBook Pro from late 2019. Apple acknowledged that some were having problems and launched repair programs, but maintained that the majority of customers had no issues.

As with many class-actions, you shouldn't expect a windfall if you're affected. Attorneys said they expected a $395 payout if you've had to replace multiple keyboards, $125 for one full replacement and $50 if you only replaced key caps. The lawyers may also claim up to $15 million of the $50 million settlement in legal fees, which could limit the money available for MacBook owners. While the payouts aren't absolutely necessary when Apple has previously offered refunds for repairs, they're more likely to be symbolic than practical.