Apple admits that its MacBook keyboard is flawed, but downplays seriousness of issue

Apple acknowledged back in 2018 that the keyboard on its new MacBooks and MacBook Pros were defective.

It would appear that the controversy around Apple's redesigned Butterfly keyboard, something it has been using in MacBooks since 2015, is never going to die down. Today the company has apologised to users and said that a “small number” of its customers are still experiencing reliability issues.

Apple Retina MacBook Air keyboard.

Apple Retina MacBook Air keyboard.

The apology comes in light of a scathing article written by The Wall Street Journal, with the author omitting 'e' and 'r' from her copy to show how her MacBook Air's keyboard started malfunctioning after just four months. The new MacBook Air employs the third-gen Butterfly keyboard which is said to be an improvement over the disastrous previous gen keyboards. However, Apple's apology means that even the third-gen keyboard is vulnerable.

Apple told WSJ that "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." Apple has also not specified what it means by "small number", which on a relative scale, could be anything from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of users.

So what exactly got Apple into this keyboard mess? Back in 2018 after months, and possibly years, of pretending that nothing was wrong, Apple finally acknowledged that the keyboard on its new MacBooks and MacBook Pros were defective.

Apple had messed up big time with the keyboard. The smallest of dust particles rendered keys on the keyboard useless. Replacing keyboards meant changing the entire motherboard which was glued to it and that meant shelling about $700 for a few non-functional keys.

For the third-gen keyboards, the company added a thin silicone strip below each key to, allegedly, make them more "silent". A leaked support document later revealed that the membrane had, in fact, been put in place to prevent debris ingress. A teardown by iFixit revealed that the flexible silicone enclosure ensured, up to a point, that dust particles and crumb didn't interfere with the key mechanism. Another issue, as pointed out by The Wall Street Journal, is that the switch springs appear to be weak, meaning that frequently used keys (like 'e') tend to stop functioning properly.

At least Apple has admitted that the third-gen Butterfly keyboard isn't perfect but an apology doesn't look to be the solution for even the "small number of users" who have been affected.

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