Sunday, 24 June 2018 23:25

Apple launches 'keyboard service program for MacBook and MacBook Pro'

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After two class-action lawsuits in the US have targeted Apple's flat, butterfly keyboards on portable Macs from 2015 onwards, the company has finally recognised the issue and has launched a keyboard service program.

Apple's new keyboard, released in 2015 with the new ultra-thin MacBook at the time, features much less "travel" than MacBooks prior to 2015. The keys are larger, with much less space between them on the keyboard, but with much less travel they aren't as comfy to type on, and are also noisier.

The keyboard is in its second generation, and I read a comment elsewhere that Apple has refined this design further for the replacements it is offering in this keyboard service program, but it seems that people much prefer keyboards with more travel, more comfort and quieter typing.

Late last year, blogger Casey Johnston wrote an impassioned post, noting how Apple's keyboard was ruining his life, with various users including Johnston alleging various failures with this keyboard, notably that some dust can get under the keys and cause keys to either stop working, or start repeating characters.

Keyboard replacement under warranty would be free, but costs of up to US$700 were reported by those with out-of-warranty keyboards.

The issue has gained global attention, so much so that two class-action lawsuits have been started up to force Apple on this issue.

Thankfully, Apple has finally responded by enacting this keyboard service program, which obviously seeks to service eligible keyboards free of charge, and will refund those with eligible keyboards that ended up paying to get keyboards replaced.

However, there is also open questioning of whether this is enough, and if it is any more than just a bandaid

There is obviously strong hope that sanity will prevail at Apple and that newer, better and quieter keyboards will appear on an entire new range of MacBook and MacBook Pro computers later this year, or in 2019, but given Apple's propensity to deliver new Macs a zillion times slower than yearly iPhones and iPads, no-one but Apple's inner circle knows precisely what the company will do.

We can only add our voice to those clamouring for a vastly overhauled, redesigned, comfortable, quiet and perfected keyboard from the maker of the world's best computers, but seemingly, the world's worst and what was, at least previously, the keyboards that are the most expensive to repair.

That said, I've used the MacBook, MacBook Pro 13-inch with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the MacBook Pro 13-inch with four Thunderbolt Ports and Touch Bar, and didn't experience this problem, but I suspect my usage just wasn't long enough for sustained months-long extended usage to get any dust under the keys and experience this problem. 

I definitely did notice the noisier nature of the keyboard and the minimised travel, and always appreciated going back to my MacBook Pro 2013 13-inch keyboard, where the keys were quieter, the travel longer and the keys much bouncier and softer. I'm genuinely hoping that future MacBooks of all models can return to this kind of keyboard feeling and quietness, and pray that Jony Ive and Tim Cook are listening to their customers, who surely love form, but also greatly desire improved and bettered function, not diminished function. 

Here's the text from Apple's newly released keyboard service program page:

"MacBook and MacBook Pro"

"Apple has determined that a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviours:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly.
  • Letters or characters do not appear.
  • Key(s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent manner.

"Apple or an Apple Authorised Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge. The type of service will be determined after the keyboard is examined and may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard."

Eligible Models

"To identify your computer's model and to see if it is eligible for this program, choose Apple menu > About This Mac. Eligible models are listed below."

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

"Note: No other Mac notebook models are part of this program."

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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