Apple called on to recall all new-generation MacBook Pros in petition
With complaints about the keyboard on Apple’s Late 2016 MacBook Pro models starting to reach a crescendo, a long-time Apple user, Matthew Taylor, has started a change.org petition calling for Apple to issue a full-scale recall of the devices. Taylor, an Apple user since 1981, has used Macs to publish the more than 50 books he has authored and has a tale of woe similar to many others that have issues with the ultra-low-profile MacBook Pro keyboards.
As Taylor writes:
Apple, it's time: recall every MacBook Pro released since Late 2016, and replace the keyboards on all of them with new, redesigned keyboards that just work.
Because, these keyboards don't work.
Every one of Apple's current-gen MacBook Pro models, 13" and 15", is sold with a keyboard that can become defective at any moment due to a design failure.
The problems are widespread, consistent, and infuriating.
When it launched, the Late 2016 MacBook Pro was an all-new design that was, according to Apple’s top executives, over four years in the making. Along with a brand new enclosure and thermal design, the MacBook Pro debuted with the (still controversial) OLED Touch Bar and the Apple-designed butterfly mechanism that underpins its keyboard. The first MacBook to debut with a butterfly mechanism-based keyboard was the 12-inch Retina MacBook in 2015. At the time, MacBook Pro users were concerned that the same keyboard design would make its way across to the MacBook Pro; Apple’s response was the to update the butterfly mechanism on the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with a second-gen butterfly mechanism that added slightly more travel.
While users can debate all day about the feel of the keyboard on the Late 2016 MacBook Pros and the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro refresh (as well as the utility of the OLED Touch Bar that replaced the function keys on the MacBook Pro), what has caused the biggest frustration is the apparent unreliability of the keyboard. Users report that keys can get stuck, or don’t respond to input due to an apparent failing with the butterfly mechanism design where even dust can cause keys to fail. Leading Apple community figures that usually sing the praises of Apple, like Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, have lambasted the keyboard design as a failure.
At the time of writing, over 2,870 people have signed Taylor’s petition for a recall of every MacBook Pro model released since 2016. Apple, for its part, has posted an elaborate support page on how to clean the MacBook Pro keyboard using a compressed air – cue the cries of “You’re not cleaning it right.” With claims that the latest MacBook Pros could be failing at twice the rate of the previous generation and devices having the top case replaced only for the problem to recur, it seems that Apple might have to give serious consideration to Taylor's petition. One option would be to replace the second-generation mechanism with a third-generation butterfly mechanism, or go back to the traditional scissor design -- although Apple claims its butterfly mechanism in the MacBook Pro is four-times more stable than a standard scissor mechanism.
The only questions are, can Apple re-engineer the MacBook Pro keyboard and still have it fit in the current chassis? Or would such a change necessitate a redesigned Macbook Pro enclosure as well? The first option wouldn't be anywhere near as expensive as recalling and replacing every Late 2016 MacBook Pro onwards that has already been sold. Apple could extend the warranty and assure customers if they have any issues with their keyboard failing, that it will be replaced by one with the revised design. However, if the fix necessitated a chassis redesign, at least one for the top case, that could be far more costly and problematic.
For what it's worth, this article was written on one of the current-gen MacBook Pros on loan from Apple (a Mid 2017 model), and it has so far worked without a hitch, including when writing this article. We can't say we are huge fans of the feel of the keyboard though, and we also question the utility of the Touch Bar -- even if it looks cool. However, a lingering question in our mind is whether Apple should have used the redesigned scissor mechanism found in its Magic Keyboard, instead of the butterfly option it pursued for the new MacBook Pros -- since the Magic Keyboard launched in 2015, it hasn't been subjected to any special user complaints about reliability (of which we are aware), and fewer people complain about its overall feel and responsiveness based on a cursory eye cast over its overall 3 star review rating from 250+ users on Apple.com.
Nonetheless, we will certainly update our readership on our experiences with our loaner MacBook Pro and its keyboard over the next three months that we have it in our hands. We will also keep readers apprised of any further developments in this story.