Is Apple going to change the Butterfly keyboard travel on new MBPs?

FuryRoad

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2018
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I have tried and tried to like the keyboard on the MBPs at the store. I had not touched a new MBP in a while, and was "shocked" (sorry for being melodramatic.) I figure I can get used to it and all that, but I was thinking it's not the Butterfly part that bothers me. It's the travel. If those keys just went down a little further for better tactility. I'd love it.

I have read the threads about love/hate the keyboard. I am hoping to not get that here. I only want to know if anyone knows if Apple is going to modify it. I am trying to decide if I want to get back into the Apple-ecosystem.

Or do I misunderstand what "Butterfly" is and "Butterfly" is the travel? I thought it meant some special key mechanism, not just that you don't push the buttons down further.
 
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aevan

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I have tried and tried to like the keyboard on the MBPs at the store. I had not touched a new MBP in a while, and was "shocked" (sorry for being melodramatic.) I figure I can get used to it and all that, but I was thinking it's not the Butterfly part that bothers me. It's the travel. If those keys just went down a little further for better tactility. I'd love it.

I have read the threads about love/hate the keyboard. I am hoping to not get that here. I only want to know if anyone knows if Apple is going to modify it. I am trying to decide if I want to get back into the Apple-ecosystem.

Or do I misunderstand what "Butterfly" is and "Butterfly" is the travel? I thought it meant some special key mechanism, not just that you don't push the buttons down further.
No one knows what Apple is going to do, really, we can only speculate. They will probably modify the design a bit to improve reliability, but whether they will change the physical travel of keys, we don't know. Most likely? No, they won't.
 
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Sterkenburg

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Oct 27, 2016
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Most likely, they will only make minor tweaks to improve the reliability, which is the real Achilles' heel of the new keyboards. But the low profile, low travel style is probably here to stay, at least until the next major redesign, and given that those usually happen every 4-something years, I'd speculate things won't change anytime soon.
 

groove-agent

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Jan 13, 2006
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I would love to buy a 2017 MBP, but until I know for sure they're going to fix the keyboard problem, I won't even consider it. The whole top case needs to be replaced if the keyboard goes bad. After your AppleCare goes out, you're on the hook for it. I suspect Apple *would* fix the issue or face a (another) class action lawsuit, I wish they would disclose if they have some sort of plan to address the issue.
 

leman

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Oct 14, 2008
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Of course nobody would know. Given how secretive Apple is, not really sure what you’d expect.
 

Sterkenburg

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Oct 27, 2016
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I wish they would disclose if they have some sort of plan to address the issue.
I can only speak from my experience here, but I just got back my 2016 MBP from a keyboard repair and can confirm that what Apple is currently doing is to replace the top cases of defective units with 2017 ones, which many users speculate to have been (silently) slightly tweaked. On the receipt, they stated something like "the replacement parts could differ from the original ones but are functionally equivalent".

So, again, my educated guess is that yes, Apple knows about it and will be trying to further improve reliability, but I wouldn't expect an open acknowledgement of the issue. They'll try to come up with a silent fix, and publicly admit it only if it escalates to Radeongate levels in the next couple years when all 2016-17 owners are out of warranty.
 
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leman

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I suspect Apple *would* fix the issue or face a (another) class action lawsuit, I wish they would disclose if they have some sort of plan to address the issue.
Going public with these things is a double edged sword. I use to be super annoyed by Apple's lack of transparency in these matters, but given the recent events, I have to admit that their tactics makes sense. Look what happened when they said "hey guys, we throttle some of your iPhones if we have good reason to believe that they could crash otherwise". So yes, I am very sure that they would prefer to fix it silently, if possible. Or at least, avoid any loud comments until they have a foolproof plan to address the issue.
 

groove-agent

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The 2017 keyboards are better but still have some issues. I don't think they're out of the woods yet.

I feared Apple might try to ride it out until a design change, much like some of the graphic issues of past. Given the rumour that this year's MBP is going to be the same design, this is bad news indeed.



I can only speak from my experience here, but I just got back my 2016 MBP from a keyboard repair and can confirm that what Apple is currently doing is to replace the top cases of defective units with 2017 ones, which many users speculate to have been (silently) slightly tweaked. On the receipt, they stated something like "the replacement parts could differ from the original ones but are functionally equivalent".

So, again, my educated guess is that yes, Apple knows about it and will be trying to further improve reliability, but I wouldn't expect an open acknowledgement of the issue. They'll try to come up with a silent fix, and publicly admit it only if it escalates to Radeongate levels in the next couple years when all 2016-17 owners are out of warranty.
 
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aevan

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Feb 5, 2015
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I can only speak from my experience here, but I just got back my 2016 MBP from a keyboard repair and can confirm that what Apple is currently doing is to replace the top cases of defective units with 2017 ones, which many users speculate to have been (silently) slightly tweaked. On the receipt, they stated something like "the replacement parts could differ from the original ones but are functionally equivalent".
Yes. Just got my 2016 MBP from service (space bar issue) and they replaced the whole top part with the 2017 model. Upside is - I got a brand new battery.

The new keyboard feels solid and slightly different, but how well it will fare after some time, who knows.

I really, really love the feel of these keyboards. I hope Apple is doing something about reliability.
 

RedKite

macrumors regular
Dec 19, 2017
172
533
The tech will improve of course. I actually very much like the butterfly keyboards and wish they'd sell separate USB and BT keyboards with the tech. However I don't like how prone to faults they are. I'm currently on my 3rd Macbook Pro due to keyboard faults.
 

sublunar

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Jun 23, 2007
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There's a recent story from various sources suggesting that this year's MacBook Pros won't see a major change. I take this to mean the existing case style doesn't change but the internals get a refresh and not that Apple are going to be stupid and just keep selling 2017 models this year and hope people don't notice.

I guess there might be some tweaks done to improve things on a per-machine basis but it's looking a lot like a design flaw or Apple's design hitting manufacturing tolerance issues with mass production that's only cropped up through 'normal' usage - a drawback with limited testing possible due to secrecy:

1. People caning their machine and generating heat which distorts the case just enough to unregister the keys.
2. People eating at their desk or in a dusty environment (eg outdoors) and crumbs/dust get under the keys.
3. People unboxing their brand new Mac and finding some keys don't work from the outset.

These points refer to the keyboard controversy. There's also been a note about the battery life in certain conditions. Internally, the battery on the 2016 MacBook Pros failed a "key test" in the late development phase and rather than using terraced multiple slabs of battery to squeeze out a higher capacity (like the MacBook) Apple instead had to go for a more simplistic shape. There's been no mention of a large internal change from iFixit or similar guys so I guess the assumption here is that altering that would be a major engineering undertaking.

The downside of this is complaints from users who say battery life comparatively sucks when hammering 2016 and later MacBook pros compared to the more modest 2015 model which actually have a larger battery. Apple have tried to bridge the gap with the more power efficient Skylake and then Kaby Lake CPUs which have helped to a certain extent but it appears that the battery is still too small. Again, the controversy over that appears to have largely died down but another driver for Apple to adopt the latest CPUs for the MacBook Pros is the incremental power savings that will increase the battery life.

Apple constantly go for 10 hours battery life on their own tests (wireless web or iTunes movie playback) which consist mainly of light web browsing and similar duties. Obviously, everyone's mileage will vary and it's obvious here that heavy duty video rendering will reduce battery life accordingly.

Even if Apple had cracked the 'key battery test' they might be waiting for a major upgrade to reintroduce the terraced battery which might then in turn release more space for the keyboard. This bit is pure speculation.

The 2017 fix may or may not involve shims placed under some or more keys to lend more stability. I wouldn't call this a major upgrade - more something an Apple Store can do to fix individual MacBook Pros on demand.

A nominal 2018 model would in theory be the third generation of the current iteration and I don't think we'd see a complete redesign until a 2019 model at the earliest. Note that the 2017 model arrived pretty quickly in early 2017, so the mythical shims would have been in use. Fixing the other issues may have to wait until 2019 when the 4th generation should be due but Apple could justify a change by doing something radical such as the move to a 14" and 16" model which has been written about in here before.
 

ignatius345

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Aug 20, 2015
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Look what happened when they said "hey guys, we throttle some of your iPhones if we have good reason to believe that they could crash otherwise".
They only did this after a third party caught them by running benchmarks on the same phone before and after battery replacement, as I recall. They didn't invoke mass anger by disclosing it, but by NOT disclosing before being caught.

By being quiet about throttling phones with aging batteries, they happily let people think their phones were getting slow because they were old or incapable of running newer versions of iOS -- leading those people to perhaps remedy the situation by buying new phones.

Disclosing information after you get caught hiding it is not the same thing as telling it of your own accord.
 

sublunar

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Jun 23, 2007
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Interesting to note that Apple's iPhone designs see larger models coming out to give more battery capacity. Now, there's a marketing reason for the larger phone sizes (preferences for larger sizes from significant sections and demographics of the world). Part of the extra battery size is due to a reduction in size in the logic board which could also be a function of the overall design direction of the SoC.

With the Intel/AMD hybrid CPU announced (and surely shipping soon) this surely means Apple could have a smaller motherboard for the 15" MacBook Pro which in turn could allow for more room for the battery or keyboard to potentially offer an incremental improvement on those well known issues. It could mean 2018 models being better still but would probably need an iFixit type tear down for a considered analysis.

Obviously the improvements for the 13" models may be less but it's a start.
 

New_Mac_Smell

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Oct 17, 2016
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Just to note but if you can, sit down at one of the benches in an Apple store and try the keyboard. The angle that their displayed at within the stores makes them rather uncomfortable to use, and I can understand why trying them in-store leads to a negative experience. But when their at a more natural angle it feels pretty good, easy, and quick to type on. I find going back to the old style keyboard like typing on a sponge, new ones feel more like a traditional mechanical keyboard - accurate, firm, and snappier.

Not everyone thinks that of course but don't write it off before trying it in a real-world use case.

Otherwise I don't think there's any plans to change the design of the computer till at least 2020, and adding in more travel would require a top-case redesign. So I wouldn't hold your breath for any changes in the functionality of the keyboard until then.
 

jeyf

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Jan 20, 2009
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i dont know how this will play out but I own a 2016 MBP and ever so sorry i am evolved in this.
 
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sublunar

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Jun 23, 2007
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2020 would be a 5th generation unless Apple put out 2 generations in a year. That's perfectly within tolerance if you imagine the Retina models started with 2012, we had both early and late 2013 models, followed by 2014 and then a 2015 model which was a bit gimped (only a GPU bump due to the Broadwell CPU farce) - the MacBook Pro 15" 2014/2015 stuck with Haswell for 2 generations until the 2016 model produced a jump to Skylake which in itself was late in the day because the correct Kaby Lake CPUs were out not long after the 2016 model came out which in part explains why the 2017 revision came so quick.

The Kaby Lake Refresh CPUs that are coming up soon should be out early enough for a early to mid refresh for 2018 - this is the mezzanine generation that will include the Intel+AMD GPU package that Apple should be using in the 15" model to save space.

Apple may also have further tweaks to apply to the design but either way I'm thinking 1H 2018 is their launch target for the 2018 MacBook Pros as they expedite these tweaks to production models a year after the 2017 model launched.

So-called Coffee Lake are apparently only offering extra cores over the Kaby Lake refresh that might be out later this year - could it be that Apple could be saving them for an early 2019 total redesign of the range using the extra cores as a selling point?
 

TComm

macrumors member
Dec 28, 2017
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New York, NY
Let's face it, the Butterfly keyboard was big mistake. Apple seems to be lost. Only making bad decisions after bad decisions.
 

hajime

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Jul 23, 2007
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No one knows what Apple is going to do, really, we can only speculate. They will probably modify the design a bit to improve reliability, but whether they will change the physical travel of keys, we don't know. Most likely? No, they won't.
As long as they continue to build "thin" computers to satisfy the majority customers who care only the appearance, the answer will probably be "No".
 

coolX

macrumors member
Apr 19, 2016
86
124
The tech will improve of course. I actually very much like the butterfly keyboards and wish they'd sell separate USB and BT keyboards with the tech. However I don't like how prone to faults they are. I'm currently on my 3rd Macbook Pro due to keyboard faults.
Were they all 2016/17 models? You have to admit that not even HP at its worst was so bad as to require a consumer to purchase 3 laptops in the span of less than 1.5 years.
 
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jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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Just to note but if you can, sit down at one of the benches in an Apple store and try the keyboard. The angle that their displayed at within the stores makes them rather uncomfortable to use, and I can understand why trying them in-store leads to a negative experience. But when their at a more natural angle it feels pretty good, easy, and quick to type on. I find going back to the old style keyboard like typing on a sponge, new ones feel more like a traditional mechanical keyboard - accurate, firm, and snappier.
One of the major benefits of a traditional mechanical keyboard is you do not bottom the keys because of the long travel. When Apple can do that they might match a mechanical keyboard.
 

Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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The question:
"Is Apple going to change the Butterfly keyboard travel on new MBPs?"

The answer:
There's no way to know that.

I'd like to see them throw in the towel on the butterfly keyboards, and go back to the proven design used on the 2012-15 keyboards.
Perhaps they could use new key caps to "hide the reality" that they did go back.
I wouldn't mind if the computer were a couple of millimeters "thicker"...
 

Falhófnir

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Aug 19, 2017
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It would be nice even if they went 150% travel (.75mm). From such a low base, that would probably make a world of difference with feedback, and might even help with reliability if the keys have more rebound force over a greater distance.
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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The question:
"Is Apple going to change the Butterfly keyboard travel on new MBPs?"

The answer:
There's no way to know that.

I'd like to see them throw in the towel on the butterfly keyboards, and go back to the proven design used on the 2012-15 keyboards.
Perhaps they could use new key caps to "hide the reality" that they did go back.
I wouldn't mind if the computer were a couple of millimeters "thicker"...
Agree. Thinness should never compromise usability or comfort.
 
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