Apple offering free ‘butterfly’ keyboard repairs for new MacBooks

We’ve seen a lot of complaints from users about the slim ‘butterfly’ key-switch mechanism that features on recent MacBook models, and Apple has now officially admitted that it’s a problem. 

In a statement issued to 9to5Mac, the firm has said that while only a “small percentage” of keyboards in recent MacBook and MacBook Pros are affected, it will nevertheless repair these models free of charge.

If you’ve been affected, then you should be able to take your laptop to an official Apple store or Apple Authorised Service Provider to receive the new keyboard service program, which may involve the replacement of anything from a single key to the entire keyboard.

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The announcement follows research from Apple Insider, which collected and analysed data from Apple Genius Bars and Apple-authorised third-party repair shops that showed that the 2016 MacBook Pro butterfly key-switch keyboard failed around twice as often as the traditional scissor-style keyboard on older MacBooks.

The publication collected service data from the first year of release for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 MacBook Pros, and as much data as possible for the 2017 MacBook Pro, which hadn’t been on the market for a full 12 months at the time the study was conducted.

5.6% of first-year service events for the 2014 MacBook Pro were related to keyboard issues. This figure was 6% for the 2015 model. Both laptops use a traditional-style keyboard.

The proportion doubled to 11.8% for the 2016 MacBook Pro, which uses a butterfly key-switch mechanism. For the 2017 model, 8.1% of service events so far have concerned keyboard issues.

The data appears to have been backed up by the models Apple has now included in its repair program, which covers MacBooks going back to 2015, and Macbook Pros from 2016 onwards.

We’re hoping that the new service program will be effective, as past data suggests that the new key design is trickier to repair than previous models.

Eight of the 118 2014 MacBook Pro models that needed a keyboard repair in Apple Insider’s research were brought back for a second repair within 90 days. For the 2015 MacBook Pro, the same applied to six out of 114. None came back for a third fix.

However, for the 2016 MacBook Pro, things took a turn for the worse, with 51 out of 165 keyboard repairs requiring a second look within 90 days. 10 came back for a third repair. For the 2017 MacBook Pro, the figure was slightly less bad, with 17 out of 94 returning once, and three returning twice.

If you want a MacBook Pro with a reliable keyboard, it seems you might be best-off swerving the very latest models.

Have you experienced any issues with the butterfly key-switch mechanism? Share your thoughts @TrustedReviews.