Apple’s butterfly keyboard has faced criticism ever since its debut due to issues like sticking and non-responsive keys. Apple redesigned the third-generation butterfly keyboard in a hope to address such issues. However, it appears some users are still facing similar issues with their MacBook keyboards.
What forced Apple to admit keyboard issues?
On Tuesday in a column for The Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern highlighted these issues with MacBook keyboards. To effectively communicate the issue, Stern wrote the article without using the letters e or r. There are toggle switches to enable both letters. Stern even asked Apple not to prioritize “thinness over usability.”
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber supported the Journal’s story, saying the butterfly keyboards are the “worst products in Apple history.”
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“MacBooks should have the best keyboards in the industry; instead they’re the worst. They’re doing lasting harm to the reputation of the MacBook brand,” Gruber said.
Following Stern’s article, Apple apologized and also admitted to the issues with the MacBook keyboards.
“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,” an Apple spokesperson said.
Further, the company said affected users should contact customer support for help.
What Apple did and what it should do
Apple introduced a free repair program for those with first- and second-generation butterfly keyboards, which includes the 2015-2017 MacBooks and 2016-2017 MacBook Pro models, respectively. However, no such program has been launched for the 2018 MacBook Air models with third-generation butterfly keyboards, which are still under warranty.
Apple reportedly added a silicone membrane under the keycaps of the third-generation butterfly keyboards to prevent debris from entering. Although the new mechanism has reduced the issues, it certainly hasn’t eliminated them completely. Apple’s hasn’t publicly admitted to change but says the new keyboard offers a “quieter” typing experience. iFixit found that the latest keyboard defends better against debris but is not perfect. Smaller particles can still get through and block the keys.
Given that Apple hasn’t admitted to the issues with the MacBook keyboards — and even though it may extend the free repair program — it is giving the impression that such issues are not such a big deal. This is the wrong attitude from a company like Apple, which charges a premium for its products. Thus, it is Apple’s responsibility to at least provide glitch-free products.
Apple must make the necessary design changes to the keyboards to address the issues and ensure that there are no new issues with the product. If not, then as Gruber said, it will continue to dilute the MacBook brand.
In May 2018, a proposed class-action lawsuit claimed Apple has been aware of the issues with the butterfly keyboards since 2015, yet the company went ahead with the product.
Issues with MacBook keyboards
When it introduced the butterfly keyboard, Apple touted it as one of its best innovations. It was designed to complement the ultra-slim Mac laptops. However, the actual response to these keyboards has not been what Apple expected.
Soon after their debut, some users started complaining that they were uncomfortable to type on because the keys have less “travel,” or distance to press each key. Many also complained that the keyboards were too loud, and of course, there were and still are issues like missing or phantom double keystrokes, which is the primary reason many hate them.
Although it is not clear how many people are facing issues with the third-generation butterfly keyboard, the problem is widespread enough to force Apple to admit the issue.
New type of keyboard to address old issues
It seems Apple is working on a keyboard that will not be affected by dust or other foreign elements. A recent Apple patent details a glass panel with raised “key” sections that will act as a rigid keyboard. Apple was awarded a patent entitled “Computer with keyboard” a few months ago. The patent describes a keyboard without any moving parts.
Apple’s patent proposes the use of a glass sheet with raised sections to act as keys instead of movable keys. Further, to ensure the keys have the usual amount of springiness, the patent suggests raised sidewalls around the raised key region.