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iFixit: Apple may have sneakily fixed the MacBook Pro keyboard after all

The new protective membrane added to the 3rd-gen keyboard mechanism. (Source: iFixit)
The new protective membrane added to the 3rd-gen keyboard mechanism. (Source: iFixit)
Apple may have killed two birds with the one stone with its new third-generation butterfly MacBook keyboard mechanism. A teardown by iFixit reveals a new silicon membrane underneath each key not previously seen that may serve a double function.

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The Apple MacBook keyboard saga has taken a strange twist. After publicly telling the media that the third-generation butterfly mechanism was only redesigned to make it quieter, an iFixit teardown suggests otherwise. According to iFixit, Apple has placed a new membrane beneath each key that does indeed help to make the keys quieter to type on. However, the site is of the view that the membrane's foremost function is to prevent dust and dirt ingress between the butterfly mechanism, with noise reduction a side benefit of the change.

iFixit draws this conclusion based on an Apple patent that perfectly describes the change that Apple has made to the mechanism. According to the patent, a gasket is placed over the mechanism to "block passage of contaminants into the apertures." This is exactly the type of issue that that has largely been to blame for the keyboard failures that customers have reported and why Apple has established a Keyboard Service Program to replace faulty keyboards. There is no reference in the patent to the membrane also acting to reduce noise.

Theories abound as to why Apple may have taken an approach to resolving the issue that lacks in transparency. On the surface of things, making a change to the mechanism design that reduces the noise it makes when typing does address a concern that customers have raised about Apple's butterfly mechanism. However, it does appear that this is not the primary reason the membrane/gasket is in place in the new design. Apple is currently subject to lawsuits pertaining to the keyboard design and may not want to officially acknowledge the fix as a result.

Assuming that the third-generation butterfly mechanism has in fact delivered a fix for its keyboard woes, Apple has certainly made a mess of its messaging on the issue. Furthermore, it continues to sell the 13-inch non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro and the 12-inch MacBook that are fitted with the second-generation butterfly design that does not include a membrane/gasket. It is also unclear whether Apple's Keyboard Service Repair Program is replacing faulty second-generation butterfly mechanisms with the new third-generation design.

What Apple should do, is offer to repair and replace every first- and second-generation MacBook/Pro keyboard with a third-generation mechanism, no questions asked. It should also admit the issue warranted a redesign and settle any class actions that are outstanding. However, it appears that its bean counters have worked out that it is better to obfuscate on the matter because it is cheaper to take this approach, and that any potential damage to its reputation is manageable.

Whatever, the case, Apple's current approach means that we are unlikely to have heard the last about the matter.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 07 > iFixit: Apple may have sneakily fixed the MacBook Pro keyboard after all
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2018-07-14 (Update: 2018-07-14)
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 been particularly interested in all things Apple, but also 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.