Apple Hasn’t Fixed Its MacBook Keyboard Problems

Posted on March 27, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Hardware, Mac and macOS with 34 Comments

Apple has apologized for ongoing issues with the butterfly keyboards in modern MacBooks. But it still claims that most Mac users like the widely-criticized and unreliable 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,” an Apple statement provided to The Wall Street Journal notes. “The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.”

Apple first introduced the butterfly keyboard in its early 2015 MacBook, bragging at the time that its unique design was more stable and less wobbly than traditional scissor-style keyboard mechanisms. But it has proven endemically unreliable, and Apple faces multiple class-action lawsuits as a result of all the problems, which include sticking and non-working keys.

To address these issues, Apple has updated the design twice. The second-generation butterfly keyboard debuted in the MacBook Pro in 2016, but users immediately reported having the same problems. Bowing to the complaints, Apple finally opened up a new keyboard service program for MacBook and MacBook Pro users in mid-2018. And then it delivered the third-generation butterfly keyboard in a MacBook Pro revision a month later. That design includes silicone covers over the butterfly key switches that are designed to stop dust from intervening with the key mechanism. And while Apple never publicly admitted to the change, internal documentation proves that this membrane was added to address the issues. Apple added the third-generation butterfly keyboard to its late 2018 MacBook Air as well.

But now we know the fix doesn’t work: Users are still reporting the same sticking and non-working keys with MacBooks based on the latest keyboard design.


“I consider these keyboards the worst products in Apple history,” Apple insider John Gruber proclaimed. “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.”

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Apple Hasn’t Fixed Its MacBook Keyboard Problems”

  1. Chris Payne

    What was the point of this article, other than to bash Apple? There's no news here, and nothing's changed in this keyboard situation in quite some time. It's like this came out of no where.

    • AnOldAmigaUser

      In reply to unkinected:

      Because no one has bashed other companies for faulty products?

      The fact that Apple apologized for anything is, in and of itself, newsworthy. The fact that they are still having trouble with this design indicates that perhaps it should be scrapped. Prior to the introduction of the butterfly hinges, I do not believe that I ever heard a complaint about the keyboards of MacBooks; quite the opposite in fact.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to unkinected:

      Apple put it in the news with their ‘tepid’ apology on Mar 27, listed in this article’s second paragraph.

      The apology perhaps was caused by a WSJ article by Johanna Stern on Mar 27 about the bad keyboard. The article is titled “Appl Still Hasn’t Fixd Its MacBook Kyboad Problm”. She typed it on her defective keyboard, having lost the use of Es, Rs, and double Ts.

      MacWorld had it on their web front page on Mar 28, titled “Apple's 'apology' for the MacBook keyboard only proves that we need a new MacBook keyboard”

      Apple made it news. Paul is just reporting it.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to unkinected:

      Of course the point of this article is to bash Apple. It's one of Paul's favorite things to do. Everyone who has done a google search for the MacBook knows there are issues with the keyboard. There is nothing new here other then the quote from Apple printed in another publication. It must just be a slow news day with nothing else to talk about.

    • BrianEricFord

      In reply to unkinected:

      “The keyboards suck and that doesn’t appear to have changed despite attempts to address the problem” seems like news, to me.


      In reply to unkinected:

      I have purchased two of the first generation butterfly keyboards in two 12" MacBooks for my college bound daughters. Both of them eat and (far worse) put on make up while using their MacBooks. Neither of them have had any issues with the keyboards. I keep asking them so they can take advantage of the Apple Quality program to replace the keyboards. I don't think this problem is as widespread and the anti-apple you-tubers would like you to believe.

    • warren

      In reply to unkinected:

      Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy has been covering this issue recently, too. His most-watched videos this year are related to his problems with the 2018 MBA keyboard -- exactly the same problem that Joanna Stern just wrote about in her WSJ article. John Siracusa, famed reviewer of Mac OS X from Ars Technica's early days, had the same problem with his 2018 MBA, too.

      Look.... what are the chances that three of tech's most prominent reviewers would experience the precise same problem with their brand-new laptops, all within weeks of eachother?

    • yoshi

      In reply to unkinected:

      Maybe to make people aware that it's still an issue? I know if I was in the market for a MacBook, I'd be appreciative of posts like this to heed warning.

  2. LazyDragon91

    I am pretty sure Apple doesn't care about the Mac anymore. They would rather people buy iPads. If they could discontinue the Mac without causing riots in the streets they probably would.

  3. kjb434

    Lenovo and HP are doing great keyboards.

    MS surface products even have great "thin" keyboards that give a satisfactory key travel.

    I just don't know why Apple decides their users should get utter sh!t for a keyboard. And when big names in the world of Apple fandom rail against the keyboard, you think they would consider even a design change.

    PS: Defenders of these inferior keyboards are the shills that should be avoided.

    • wright_is

      In reply to kjb434:

      Just wait, they will re-patent the Atari 400 keyboard and show it off as the innovative next generation keyboard for Macs going forward - actually, the Atari 400 keyboard at least wouldn't suffer from grains of sand stuck under the keys.

      My daughter has a 2016 MBP and the keyboard is one of the worst I've ever used, the Atari 400, ZX Spectrum and ZX81 being (ever so slightly) worse.

    • captobie

      In reply to kjb434:

      I personally like typing on the butterfly keyboards. But I won't defend their reliability, I fell victim to the dust bug on the 12" MacBook before anyone was even talking about it - and long before Apple started fixing them at no cost. I have a Surface Pro 4 and a 2018 MacBook Pro along with a ThinkPad X280 for my work computer. Only one of those machines gives me anxiety. Hint - it's the most expensive of the three.

  4. VMax

    Please link the article this is in response to ( somewhere in your post! It would also go some way towards pre-empting the "wah wah this is out of nowhere you just want to bash Apple" comments in future.

  5. red.radar

    I have admit I bought my wife an older tried and true MacBook Air rather than the new MacBook Pro.

    Reliable keyboard, usb-A ports and MagSafe. It was the pinnacle of Mac design and functionality.

    When you push boundaries you are going to make mistakes. The most egregious issue here is that apple just didn’t scrap the design after the second attempt to fix it. They have hung their brand on being “thin”

  6. rmlounsbury

    There was a point in the past couple years where I was ready to buy a MacBook as my next primary machine and run W10 as a VM or with bootcamp as needed. But given the issues with reliability on the current gen models I've pulled back on that idea.

    I'll probably end up getting a Surface Laptop or the Huawei MateBook (which, of course, is just a Mac in physical appearance running Windows w/o the hardware deficiencies). Apple almost had me.

  7. blackcomb

    The 2015 MacBook is the last decent version. Everything after is crap.

  8. jm2016

    This is absolutely true. The laptop keyboard is a solved problem.

    This is not a math problem, I don't care how they spin the percentages. There is no excuse and no justification for a supposed premium lap top, with the premium price tag that Macs have, for any customer to be concerned with the keyboard.

    The fact that you have to think about it means stay away from Mac laptops.

  9. dontbe evil

    the famous apple quality ... you pay for it right?

  10. the_real_entheos

    I don't know what your problem is. Mine works fine.

    (somebody has to represent the jerkstores that always chime into a forum or comment section with that "helpful" advice).

    Apple one ups them by saying that "Johnny's keyboard works fine; what is your problem and what are you doing wrong?"

  11. RonV42

    It just works....until it doesn't.

  12. jimchamplin

    Instead of apologizing, why don't they just go back to the previous keyboard?

    While they're at it, why don't they just go back to the older designs entirely? Do away with this unrepairable garbage. Apple's so-called "design" has suffered greatly over the previous 15 years or so. It started with the iBook honestly, when they decided that the hard drive - the most delicate part of the machine - needs to be literally buried inside the system just so that you're forced to take it to Apple for repair. Guess what. Did that on the 3rd gen iBook, the first "iceBook" model and they screwed it up. Even Apple techs couldn't do it right. And it got worse from there.

    It's no surprise that they have a piece of trash keyboard on a disposable machine at this point. Either they don't know what they're doing, in which case this is negligence, or they do know what they're doing and it's simply fraud. Either way it goes, rant over.

  13. ivarh

    I have used all 3 generations of the butterfly keyboards, I bought a 15" 2016 model and it had the 1st gen of the keyboard. The machine was a disaster not due to the keyboard and Apple ended replacing it with a 2017 model that had the 2nd generation of the butterfly keyboard. I have been using it for 2 years now without problems. It's a bit noisy but otherwise I like it. Work got me a MacBook Air 2018 and it has also been working fine for 4 months now.

    The fact that I don't have problems does not mean that no one else have problems but as someone working in tech support it's the people with problems that make noise. I have no problems believing Apple in that the huge majority does not have problems like me as they know how many of these machines that are in circulation and how many are complaining about keyboard faults.

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