Apple is Still Trying to Make its Butterfly Keyboard Design Durable

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Apple released a new refresh of the MacBook Pro recently and reveled that they did more than just bump the specs. They also made additional alterations to their troublesome butterfly keyboard mechanism to prevent the infiltration of foreign debris and the issues that brings with it.

If you’ve been keeping up with this, or if you have unfortunately owned an affected MacBook laptop, then you know that a little bit of dirt or grit will quickly bring this keyboard to its knees, either preventing a key from working or causing double presses. On top of that, it is also almost impossible to service these keyboards outside of taking or sending it back to Apple. While this issue hasn’t gained traction among the general public the way that Antennagate and other Apple controversies did, it has become a real problem for Apple in the tech press, among tech enthusiasts and more recently, even among some hardcore Apple fans.

You may remember that Apple made changes to the butterfly mechanism design last year with the release of the 2018 MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, the added silicone membrane hasn’t been completely successful at keeping deadly debris out. In fact, it seems to have introduced a double key press issue of its own. This finally prompted an sort of apology from Apple back in March, but still left a lot of users wondering if the company takes these problems seriously and will do whatever it takes to resolve them.

I can’t say whether Apple really does or finally will, but they are finally taking some more steps in that direction. First off, they announced an expansion of their Keyboard Service Program to include the 2018 MacBook Pro and Airs. This means that any owner of a Mac laptop with a butterfly keyboard can get a repair if they need one. This shouldn’t be necessary, but at least Apple is doing the right thing and making sure that the one year warranty doesn’t stand in the way of addressing an obviously flawed design.

Second is the keyboard itself, as mentioned above. It isn’t completely clear what specific issues Apple is attempting to address, but there are a couple of alterations that have been revealed by iFixit’s latest teardown. I’ll leave the details to them, but they believe that Apple’s statement of “changing materials” to improve the keyboard applies to both the formerly silicone (now likely TPU) cover and the metal dome switch that actually triggers the key response. If you are interested in the nuts and bolts, take a look at the iFixit article. They always do a beautiful job of breaking everything down in great detail and then summarizing each bit.

Time will tell if these latest changes are the magic bullet that will finally fix this keyboard design. I can’t say that I or a lot of other Apple users will have much confidence that they will until we see some definitive proof over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, Apple earned that skepticism by drawing this keyboard situation out with extended periods of inaction. I can say this with confidence: this is Apple’s last shot to get their butterfly keyboard mechanism to work. If these changes don’t get the job done, then they need to completely throw this design away and start over.


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