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Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Apple, It's Time to Repair Faulty Macbook Pros

Apple is known for its exceptional customer service and high quality products. Customers often recount stories of bringing faulty and defective products into local Apple stores and having them replaced on the spot, free of charge. These stories demonstrate Apple’s oft-touted commitment to the customer. CEO Tim Cook echoed this sentiment in his claim that Apple has the “highest customer satisfaction and loyalty in the industry.” Superior customer service is one of the cornerstones of Apple’s strategy and a major reason why Apple’s products dominate college campuses, Boston College included. Unfortunately, this core philosophy is currently being violated with regards to Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.

Apple revamped their Macbook Pro lineup in 2016, creating a thinner machine with fewer ports and a new “butterfly” keyboard mechanism to replace the earlier “scissor” design (the difference is explained here). Since this update, each new generation of MacBook Pros has suffered from similar keyboard issues: keys sticking, keys not registering, or even keys registering twice.

While I have not experienced any of these issues with my own 2015 Macbook Pro, my brother has with his laptop. It is thought that these issues might be the result of crumbs or dust getting lodged under the keys, and Apple’s suggested fix is to use a can of compressed air to clean the keyboard. This has worked for some, but not all users. Customers continue to report keyboard issues, even in the most recent generation of MacBook Pros, which Apple claims is not affected by the issue.

While it took the threat of class action lawsuits for Apple to do the right thing, they ultimately began offering free repairs of all defective keyboards up to the Macbook Pro 2018 models (list of all models eligible for repairs and details about the program can be found here). The program also allows customers who previously paid for their keyboard repairs to receive a refund.

Nevertheless, Apple has more work to do when it comes to keyboard issues. While their recall program was a great step in ensuring customers have the best possible experience, it must be expanded to include the most recent generation of MacBook Pros. Keyboard issues on these models are still prevalent, and can even be seen on Apple’s own website. Thus, I am calling on Apple to live up to its values and do the right thing for both its customers and its image as a brand by expanding this program.

The problems with Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t end with the keyboard. While not as widespread, display issues have created a controversy now known as “flexgate.” Screens begin to fail after the repeated opening and closing of the laptops that occurs over years of normal use, starting with the appearance of a stage light effect across the bottom edge of the display. Soon after the onset of this effect, the entire screen fails when the laptop lid is opened past 90°, rendering the MacBook completely useless. The issue is supposedly related to the flex cable, which connects the screen to the rest of the computer. It is too short, and as a result wears down with normal use. Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge this issue, but the problem was fixed by lengthening the cable in the most recent model.

I was aware that customers had experienced this problem, but it wasn't until a friend of mine at BC experienced “flexgate” firsthand that I appreciated the severity of this issue. I spotted the beginnings of the trademark stage light effect, and after only a few days, the screen had completely died. My friend went to the Apple store, where the employee who helped him suggested that the hard plastic shell he had on his laptop had somehow caused the display issues; however, there were no signs of physical damage on the computer, and he had never once dropped his laptop. Ultimately, Apple refused to cover the cost of the repair. Since the cable is soldered to the display, the entire screen had to be replaced, and my friend had to cough up the $500 himself.

How Apple could not repair my friend's MacBook Pro is beyond me. The display exhibited signs of the flex cable issue and was clearly defective. No computer should have its display fail after only two years, especially given the computer had never been dropped or damaged. Even if the issue had not been caused by the flex cable, the frequent, identical display failures in 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros is unacceptable.

With users reporting similar experiences, and Apple’s implicit acknowledgment of the issue by their lengthening of the flex cable, there is only one right thing to do: Apple must publicly acknowledge the problem and create a repair program similar to the aforementioned keyboard program, offering refunds for customers who have already paid to have their laptops repaired.

Issues like these damage Apple's brand image and harm afflicted users' customer experience, stopping users from upgrading or buying new MacBooks. Apple’s products are known to “just work,” but the hardware problems plaguing the MacBook Pro models certainly do not support this image. Thus, it is imperative that Apple rights this wrong—if not for the customer’s sake, then at least for the company’s.