Apple Issues Voluntary Recall for Some 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro Models

Heads up! If you’re using an older 15-inch MacBook Pro—the version with lots of ports that predates the current Thunderbolt 3 models—Apple has started a recall program to replace batteries that could explode and catch on fire. (We’re not kidding.) The affected MacBook Pro models were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017. To confirm which model you have, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu () in the upper-left corner of your screen. If you have “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015),” enter your computer’s serial number on the program page to see if it is eligible for a battery replacement.  If it is included in the recall, shut it down and stop using it immediately! Contact us for a free battery replacement, and if you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

MacBook Pro Recall

(Image courtesy of Apple)

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Catching up: New MacBook Pros, New iPod touch, OS Updates

Apple is well known for its splashy media events, now usually held in the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s new Cupertino campus. But Apple reserves such events for major announcements. Smaller announcements, such as minor updates to particular product lines, operating system updates, or new repair programs, get only a press release, if that.

But just because a change doesn’t merit much fuss doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting—if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to buy a new Mac, for instance, an announcement of a small MacBook Pro revision might be exactly what you want to hear.

Here’s a roundup of Apple’s recent announcements in May 2019.

New MacBook Pro Models Feature Faster CPUs and New Butterfly Keyboards

Although Apple has a reputation for innovation, the company should also be lauded for its evolutionary changes, which are much more common. To wit, Apple quietly updated the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with a Touch Bar with faster CPUs while keeping the prices the same.

You can now buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro with the latest 9th-generation 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, making it the fastest MacBook Pro ever—the previous model offered only a 6-core processor. The 15-inch models also offer faster graphics processors as options.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models didn’t receive the same level of changes, but they gained slightly faster 8th-generation Intel processors that provide minor performance improvements.

Both models now come with the fourth generation of Apple’s controversial butterfly keyboard. We’ll have more on that issue soon.

Apple Launches MacBook Pro Repair Program for “Flexgate”

13-inch MacBook Pros from 2016 are susceptible to a display-related problem the press has dubbed “Flexgate.” According to Apple, affected Macs exhibit one or both of these symptoms:

  • The display backlight continuously or intermittently shows vertical bright areas along the entire bottom of the screen.
  • The display backlight stops working completely.

The problem is related to a flex cable connected to the display that’s too short and too fragile; some repair experts have suggested that failure is inevitable.

If your 13-inch Mac is showing either of these symptoms, you can now take advantage of Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program to get a free repair. You can have your Mac fixed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, and if you already paid for a repair, you can request a refund from Apple.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 Add New TV App; iOS 12.3.1 Fixes Calling Bug; macOS Addresses ZombieLoad

As you’ve no doubt noticed in your Software Update notifications, Apple recently updated all its operating systems: iOS 12.3.1, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3. If you’re already running iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, it’s fine to update.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 are notable primarily because they include a new version of Apple’s TV app. This app now provides access to “channels,” by which Apple means subscription-based streaming video services like HBO and Showtime. Apart from letting you subscribe to such services inside the app and playing content from them in the app, the new app looks and works much like the previous version. The new app will also support Apple’s original content on the Apple TV+ service later this year.

Shortly after iOS 12.3 shipped, Apple released iOS 12.3.1, which fixes a critical bug that could prevent your iPhone from making or receiving phone calls. So if you upgraded to iOS 12.3, be sure to update to iOS 12.3.1 right away.

Similarly, it’s worth updating to macOS 10.14.5 to protect against a security vulnerability called ZombieLoad, and if you’re still running 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, be sure to install Security Update 2019-003 for the same protection.

New iPod touch Gains the A10 Chip and a 256 GB Configuration

Finally, Apple showed a little love to the littlest iOS device, the diminutive iPod touch. In the new model, Apple swapped the old A8 chip for a faster A10 chip that promises up to twice the performance. That added performance enables the new iPod touch to support Group FaceTime calls and enhanced augmented reality (AR) games.

The only other change in the iPod touch is that Apple now sells a 256 GB configuration for $399, joining the 32 GB configuration at $199 and the 128 GB configuration for $299.

(All images courtesy of Apple)

Here’s What You Need to Know about the Apple Butterfly Keyboard

Apple Butterfly Keyboard

When Apple introduced the 12-inch MacBook in April 2015, the machine was the thinnest Mac ever, with a tapered design that starts at a mere 3.5 mm and grows only to 13.1 mm. A change from previous laptop models that made such an incredibly thin design possible was a new keyboard that swapped a scissor-style switch under each key for a new “butterfly mechanism” that’s 40 percent thinner.

In October 2016, Apple started using a second generation of the so-called “butterfly” keyboard in the MacBook Pro line. Then, in July 2018, Apple updated the keyboard to a third-generation design that added a thin silicone membrane under each key to protect from dust and other foreign objects. That third-generation keyboard made its way into the MacBook Air released in October 2018. Then, in May 2019, Apple once again updated the keyboard in the latest models of the MacBook Pro, telling journalists that the fourth-generation design has a “materials change” in the mechanism.

Why has Apple kept tinkering with the butterfly keyboard? Put frankly, because it has had problems. Although there are no independent estimates of what percentage of Macs equipped with butterfly keyboards are afflicted, many users have complained about keys sticking or feeling crunchy, keys failing to fire at all (so no letter is typed when the key is pressed), and keys repeating (so multiple letters are typed per keypress).

In fact, in June 2018, just before the third-generation design appeared in the MacBook Pro, Apple acknowledged that “a small percentage” of first- and second-generation butterfly keyboards were affected and launched a repair program to fix them for free, even if they were out of warranty. (The fact that a class-action suit surrounding the butterfly keyboards was filed against Apple in May 2018 might have been related.)

Alas, the silicone membrane didn’t resolve all the issues, and after the E and R keys on her MacBook Pro failed, influential tech journalist Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal wrote a hilarious column entitled “Appl Still Hasn’t Fixd Its MacBook Kyboad Problm,” complete with interactive switches so you could read it with or without the various missing and duplicated letters. Plus, a repair technician tore down a MacBook Pro keyboard to show why he didn’t think dust was an issue. Apple apologized to the Wall Street Journal, saying:

We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry. The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.

So when Apple released the fourth-generation butterfly keyboard with the current MacBook Pro models, the company also extended the Keyboard Service Program for MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro to cover the third-generation keyboards. The repair program lists the exact models that are covered, but it basically comes down to any 12-inch MacBook, MacBook Air models released in late 2018, and MacBook Pro models starting in 2016 and up to 2019.

What’s the practical upshot of all this for you?

  • If you have a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro with one of these butterfly keyboards, and it’s working properly, that’s great! Do nothing—hopefully it will keep tip, tap, typing away.
  • If you have one of those Macs and are having problems, contact Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for a repair. Before you hand over any Mac for repair, make sure you have at least one and preferably two backups of your data, since Apple sometimes replaces storage devices while doing seemingly unrelated repairs.
  • If you already paid Apple to have your butterfly keyboard repaired, contact Apple to request a refund.

It’s too soon to know if the fourth-generation butterfly keyboard will resolve all the complaints, but whenever we’re not typing, our fingers are crossed!

(Featured image by Adam Engst)