Notebookcheck

Apple admits third-gen MacBook keyboard fails too

It was supposed to be the solution to Apple's butterfly mechanism woes, but the third-gen keyboard design is a failure too. (Source: iFixit)
It was supposed to be the solution to Apple's butterfly mechanism woes, but the third-gen keyboard design is a failure too. (Source: iFixit)
Third time’s not the charm for Apple it seems when it comes to its troublesome butterfly mechanism-based MacBook keyboards. The company has admitted that users are still experiencing issues with the redesign that was meant to end the problems customers reported with the first two generations.

Apple once made the best of just about everything when it came to consumer technology. Even if you didn’t like the company itself, you couldn’t fault Apple design, build quality and engineering expertise. Sadly, this is no longer the case, particularly when it comes to the troublesome butterfly mechanism that it first introduced in 2015. It was a design to solution to a problem that didn’t exist and Apple has paid dearly for it in terms of its reputation, particularly when it comes to its flagship MacBook line. 

Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal has written a satirical article on her new generation MacBook Air typed with the E and R keys failing to actuate (see below), causing the issue to hilariously rear its ugly head once again -- Apple issued this short statement in response: 

“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.” 

For a company with all of the resources that Apple has at its disposal, the mind boggles that it just can’t get this right. The butterfly mechanism is supposed to make the keys more stable to type on, but also lowers the key profile helping enable the design of even thinner devices. The third-generation design introduced a thin rubber membrane to help stop the dust and debris from causing malfunctions — even then though, Apple disingenuously claimed it was only introduced help make typing quieter. However, incredibly, the problem persists suggesting that there is a fundamental design issue with Apple’s custom-designed butterfly mechanism. 

Apple, as we all know, has been on a relentless pursuit of thinness under the direction of its design chief Jony Ive and this is not the first time this fixation has caused problems. The recently redesigned iPad Pro line has been exposed for bending all too easily, harking back to the original “Bendgate” issues experienced by iPhone 6 Plus owners. With the failure of the third-generation butterfly mechanism to completely address the reliability issues, we wonder if Apple will finally throw in the towel on the design. 

After all, it also redesigned the traditional scissor mechanism on the Magic Keyboard to be more stable as well and there have been no complaints with that design of which we are aware. It is more similar to the types of keyboard Apple fitted to MacBooks pre-2015, has better travel and is more comfortable to type on as a result.  

As for owners of post-2015 MacBooks, there is Apple has launched an official Keyboard Service Program to address issues including letters or characters that repeat unexpectedly, letters of characters that do not appear and keys that feel sticky or don’t respond. It hasn’t yet updated this to include models with the third-gen keyboard, but we will update when it does. 

Working For Notebookcheck

Are you a techie who knows how to write? Then join our Team! Especially English native speakers welcome!

Currently wanted: 
News and Editorial Editor - Details here

A screenshot from Stern's Twitter post of her keyboard article. (Source: Twitter)
A screenshot from Stern's Twitter post of her keyboard article. (Source: Twitter)
Read all 1 comments / answer
static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 03 > Apple admits third-gen MacBook keyboard fails too
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2019-03-28 (Update: 2019-03-28)
Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - News Editor
I have been tech-obsessed from the time my father introduced me to my first computer, an Apple ][. Since then, I have grown to enjoy exploring and experimenting with any computing platform that I can get my hands on – I am the definitive early adopter! I have always been interested in how we can use technology to shape and improve our lives, most recently using it to record, mix and master my debut record, Acuity – Nature | Nurture out now on Spotify.