Despite its reputation as a successful tech giant, Apple has designed some products over the years that have mystified consumers for their general badness. But could Apple actually mess up the design of a keyboard so badly that it gets itself sued?
Well, it’s happening. A California law firm is seeking class action status over Apple’s “reinvented” keyboard, which it launched in 2015.
The keyboard, which began appearing on MacBooks in 2015, had mixed reviews when it first launched. It uses a butterfly-shaped mechanism of Apple’s own design, instead of the traditional scissor lever that most keyboards use. While that saves space - Apple says the keyboard is 40 per cent thinner than a traditional laptop keyboard – using it can take some getting used to. Most users expect a certain amount of “play” in their keys, but with the MacBook it can feel like you’re pressing buttons instead of typing. I got used to it, but I can see why some people wouldn’t like it.
My general experience with the MacBook I’ve used since 2015 has been a positive one, despite my best efforts. I’ve seen carpets in the desert that get treated better than I’ve treated this laptop. It’s bounced of at least two tile floors on two continents. I’ve never experienced so much as a sticky key.
But according to the lawsuit, the butterfly keyboards are susceptible to dirt and debris that make the keys inoperable.
“Apple’s butterfly keyboard and MacBook are produced and assembled in such a way that when minimal amounts of dust or debris accumulate under or around a key, keystrokes fail to register. The keyboard defect compromises the MacBook’s core functionality,” the lawsuit says.
It is unclear just how many keyboards are faulty. So far, the number of people named in the lawsuit is two. There is a petition on Change.org with 17,000 signatures asking for Apple to recall laptops with the keyboard, but that probably isn’t an accurate figure. Apple in the fourth quarter of 2015 sold about 5.7 million Macs, although the company doesn’t provide a breakdown of sales for individual models. Something else you should probably keep in mind; class action lawsuits are often criticized in the US as a great way for lawyers to make money with little benefit to the clients. The law firm behind this case also sued Apple over claims related to iPod batteries.
But I’m not saying that Apple doesn’t have a design problem on its hands. The company tried to reinvent the wheel with this keyboard, and complaints have been popping up on the internet for over a year. Even a number of prominent Apple bloggers have been complaining vehemently about this issue. Whether the keyboard is ruled officially as a dud remains to be seen, but Apple certainly has a design issue on its hands.