Additional Details About Apple's New MacBook and MacBook Pro Keyboard Service Program

Following a few years of anecdotal complaints, and no less than three lawsuits, Apple on Friday initiated a new worldwide service program offering free repairs of MacBook and MacBook models equipped with low-profile, butterfly mechanism keyboards, which have been a source of frustration for some customers.

13inchmacbookprokeyboard
We've already reported about the service program in more detail, but the gist is that Apple and Apple Authorized Service Providers are now offering free repairs of affected 2015-and-later MacBook and 2016-and-later MacBook Pro models with sticky, unresponsive, or inconsistently functioning keys.

Many questions have arisen since the program was announced, so we wanted to consolidate some additional information that we have gathered from Apple and other sources we have spoken with:

  • Apple distributed an internal document on Friday with more information about the service program. It notes that keyboards damaged due to attempted repair are still eligible for free service under the program. If your MacBook or MacBook Pro has physical top case damage unrelated to the keyboard, it also remains eligible.

  • As to be expected, if your MacBook or MacBook Pro keyboard has liquid damage, it is ineligible for the program.

  • If a key press is not recognized, key presses feel abnormal or sticky, or keys are loose or missing, Apple has instructed its authorized service providers to clean or replace the affected keycaps if possible.

  • Keycap replacement kits are available for English keyboards in ANSI and ISO layouts, along with British, French, German, Danish, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Chinese, and Japanese keyboards.

  • If characters are repeating, or previous keycap replacements were ineffective, Apple has instructed its authorized service providers to replace the whole keyboard, which requires replacing the whole top case, including the trackpad and speaker grilles.

  • Be prepared to go a week-plus without your MacBook. Apple quotes a turnaround time of five to seven business days for service to be completed at Apple's off-site repair centers, but wait times may increase as an influx of customers take advantage of the program.

  • In some cases, the Apple Store may be able to offer on-site service, but expect to wait for at least a few hours.

  • If your MacBook or MacBook Pro experiences keyboard issues after being serviced under the program, Apple says customers can bring their unit back in to be looked at again. This suggests, but doesn't explicitly state, that the program may be used more than once.

  • Apple is offering refunds to customers who paid to have an eligible keyboard repaired prior to this program, but a Genius has advised us that refunds are not available in person at an Apple Store, and must be requested by contacting Apple Support by phone, online chat, or email.

  • It's still not entirely clear if the replacement keyboards have been slightly revised to address the issues that prompted the service program in the first place. Apple has been fairly communicative with me about this program, but has so far skipped right over this question when asked.

  • We do know that Apple has been replacing 2016 MacBook Pro keyboards with the 2017 version, which has slightly different markings on the Control and Option keys, but a Genius we spoke with believes the 2016 and 2017 keyboards are functionally equivalent.

  • iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens also told me he believes the keyboard design hasn't changed at all in a few years.

  • However, anecdotal reports from customers suggest the 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard "has a different feel to it," with some calling it "better" and less prone to issues. Marco Arment, for example, said it is "more 'damped' in both feel and sound, as if there's more rubber somewhere."

We'll share any further information as we come across it. In the meantime, if you are experiencing keyboard issues, read our article on How to Get a MacBook or MacBook Pro Keyboard Repaired Free Under Apple's Service Program.

Remember to back up your Mac before sending it in for service.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro 14 & 16"
Related Forums: MacBook Pro, MacBook

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Top Rated Comments

geoff5093 Avatar
78 months ago
I miss the old keyboards.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
78 months ago
Be prepared to go a week-plus without your MacBook

Perhaps Apple will give out loaner iPads to affected customers for the interim of the repair, since tablets are capable replacements for laptops according to Apple ;)
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lone Deranger Avatar
78 months ago

Be prepared to go a week-plus without your MacBook. Apple quotes a turnaround time of five to seven business days for service to be completed at Apple's off-site repair centers, but wait times may increase as an influx of customers take advantage of the program.
And this is why the MacBook Pro/Apple service is not Pro level anymore. 5-7 days without a business machine just to fix a sodding repeating keypress?? Just how does Apple expect that works in a professional environment? Great if you're a huge company with spares lying around. Not so great if you're a freelancer or small boutique.

If not being able to provide on-the-day repair (for something as silly as failure from dead skin cells) is what Apple considers an acceptable compromise for a mere 1mm height saving, then they have utterly lost the plot.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
slimtastic Avatar
78 months ago
These keyboards are a disaster. I want a 2018 MBP pretty badly, but will NOT be getting that no matter how great it is, if the keyboard on it is not better. Current 2015 MBP has a fantastic keyboard. I'd argue my 2012 MBP keyboard is even better.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Glassed Silver Avatar
78 months ago
Glad I've avoided this mess entirely. The MacBook Pros lately seem gimmicky and prone to issues. Hardware advancements from Intel have stagnated as well. I hope to see some meaningful updates in the next year as Apple begins working more closely with in-house professionals and perhaps takes on a bigger role in hardware development.
This is a massive management problem.

Any hardware designer worth their Apple payroll money will have warned by yelling at the top of their lungs, but management wanted a slimmer sleeker MBP.

Those in-house professionals will be working for that kind of management. Unless heads roll of course.

That being said, the way Apple treat cases like these will likely not change. Widespread issue? Ride it out until you're forced or pressured legally to respond in a "generous" manner.

This is your premium brand manufacturer with decades of experience building desktops, laptops and other prosumer and professional gear. They've always gotten away with this tiptoeing technique and what would interrupt that series? A change of heart? Not as long as the stock keeps going up up up.

That's one of the many reasons I'll never understand this disconnected love for Apple's success. I mean on some level I do, but this hard-on people without stock get is beyond me.

Every ATH is another sign to them to not change ANY of the things that reap them profits at your cost when it'd be perfectly reasonable to expect better.

When I say the company's going downhill I don't mean stock or market share, I'm talking their supposed values and actual competitive advantages that get fed to the walled garden keeping anyone in just good enough.

It's lazy and complacent.

Glassed Silver:mac

edit: fixed doubling
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dave-Z Avatar
78 months ago
I miss the old keyboards.
Yeah. They got rid of the perfect keyboard to save a millimeter or so. Not worth it at all.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)