MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air Butterfly Keyboard Issues

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Apr 9, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    #1
    [​IMG]


    Apple in 2015 and 2016 introduced updated keyboards for its MacBook and MacBook Pro, debuting new butterfly keys with home switches beneath each key that minimize thickness while also providing a satisfying press under the fingers.

    Unfortunately, Apple's butterfly keyboards are highly controversial and have been called out as one of the company's worst design decisions due to their penchant for failure due to small particulates like crumbs or heat issues. All butterfly keyboards in MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air models introduced since 2016 (and 2015 in the case of the MacBook) have butterfly keys that could be vulnerable to failure.

    [​IMG]

    What's the problem?

    Butterfly keys use a butterfly mechanism that's different from the scissor mechanism used for traditional keyboards. It's called a butterfly mechanism because the components underneath the key resembles a butterfly's wings, with a hinge in the center rather than overlapping like a pair of scissors.

    Apple swapped to a butterfly mechanism to make a thinner keyboard, which is possible because each key moves less when pressed so less space is needed. The keyboard provides a satisfying amount of travel and stability when each key is pressed, but unfortunately, the thin butterfly mechanism can get jammed up with crumbs, dust, and other particulates, resulting in keys that don't press properly, keys that skip keystrokes, or keys that repeat letters.

    [​IMG]

    Keyboard failure is a huge issue in Apple's notebooks because replacing the keyboard requires the entire top assembly of the computer to be replaced. This is not a cheap repair.

    Which Macs are affected?

    All MacBook models have the potential to experience keyboard issues because the 2015 MacBook was the first machine to get a butterfly keyboard. All 2016, 2017, and 2018 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models are vulnerable to failure despite some generational changes Apple has made to the keyboard with different models, which we'll explain more below.

    Apple's 2018 MacBook Air uses the same butterfly keyboard that's in the MacBook Pro, which has also been the subject of some failure complaints on Reddit and the MacRumors forums, but full data is not yet available as these machines have only been available since October 2018 and most complaints have focused on the MacBook Pro.

    [​IMG]

    Note: Not all MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air owners have experienced issues with the butterfly keyboard. It is a problem that seems to be related to dust, crumb, and small particulate exposure, with some complaints of heat issues, that affects a portion of MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air owners.

    According to Apple, only a "small percentage" of Mac users have experienced problems with the butterfly keyboard, but anecdotal claims and the high visibility of the issue have resulted in a public perception that most butterfly keyboards fail. This isn't true as some people have keyboards that are fine, but any modern Mac notebook's keyboard has the potential to experience issues.

    What has Apple done?

    Apple in June 2018 launched a keyboard repair program for MacBook and MacBook Pro models equipped with butterfly keys, offering free keyboard repairs for the following machines:

    [*]MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
    [*]MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
    [*]MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
    [*]MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
    [*]MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
    [*]MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
    [*]MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
    [*]MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
    [*]MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

    That's all MacBook and MacBook Pro models from 2015 to 2017, though the 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with third-generation butterfly keyboards are not included in the repair program.

    Customers with eligible 2015 to 2017 machines that are experiencing keyboard issues can visit an Apple retail store or Apple Authorized Service Provider to receive repairs free of charge. The repair program is a huge deal, as prior to its initiation, some customers had to pay upwards of $500 in fees to get their MacBook and MacBook Pro models repaired.

    What about 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models?

    Apple in 2018 debuted MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models that use an updated third-generation butterfly keyboard. The third-generation butterfly keyboard has a thin silicone barrier behind each key, which was put in place as an ingress-proofing measure to prevent dust from getting in the keys.

    [​IMG]
    The silicone barrier on the third-generation MacBook Pro keyboard, via iFixit​

    There was hope following the launch of the third-generation butterfly keyboard that it would cut down on failures, but as a recent report from The Wall Street Journal pointed out, the 2018 MacBook Pro is still prone to keyboard issues. Apple in a statement apologized, but did not outline specific repair options or future keyboard plans.
    It's possible 2018 machines with updated butterfly keyboards will fail less often, but 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners have still been reporting issues, which is something to be aware of before making a purchase.

    We haven't heard as many reports about the new keyboards as we have with other older butterfly keyboards, but the problem hasn't been solved entirely and more data is needed to determine the effectiveness of the membrane in the third-generation keyboards.

    What do I do if my keyboard fails?

    Regardless of which MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro you have, you should contact Apple support or visit an Apple retail store for repair options. As mentioned above, if you have a 2015 to 2017 machine, there is a repair program available for free repairs. The repair program covers eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro models for four years after the date of purchase.

    2018 machines are, at the current time, still under the one-year warranty period and will also be eligible for repairs for now. Apple may in the future extend its repair program to encompass these Macs as well, but right now, the standard warranty or AppleCare+ provide the only coverage.

    Apple is prioritizing MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard repairs and requiring Apple retail staff to perform the repairs in store rather than sending machines off to a repair facility, which takes days. Apple is now aiming to offer next-day turnaround time MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard replacements.

    In some cases, if you get a large crumb underneath a key, a key will feel locked in place. There are occasions where you can wiggle the key to break up the crumb and get it working again, and Apple also recommends cleaning out the keyboard with compressed air.

    What will Apple do next?

    Public sentiment about the butterfly keyboard and the overall performance of Apple's notebooks is growing worse, which is not surprising as Apple has been releasing machines with keyboards that can potentially fail since 2015. Apple made an effort to improve the situation with the 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models and the membrane underneath the keys, but given the continued reports of failures even in these machines, Apple needs to find a more permanent solution.

    Apple may have major keyboard design changes in store in light of ongoing complaints, but it's not yet clear if and when Apple will transition away from the butterfly keyboard to a more stable design.

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    Article Link: MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air Butterfly Keyboard Issues
     
  2. niji Contributor

    niji

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    #2
    in the article it is said
    "Apple's 2018 MacBook Air also uses a butterfly keyboard and has the potential to fail. Most butterfly keyboard complaints focus on the MacBook Pro due to the high price and popularity of the machine."

    this statement is wrong.
    "due to the high price and popularity of the machine" would have nothing to do with complaints. nothing.
    both are expensive machines.

    this macrumors "summary" is clickbait.
    pls go more in depth and dont have weak arguments.

    there has been a problem. its clear. in both pro and air models.

    why dont you have any idea on more recent 3rd generation defects?
    because it would take time and real investigative knowhow to write that article.
    yet that is the info that new potential buyers need in order to make an informed decision.
     
  3. Glee217 macrumors member

    Glee217

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    #3
  4. OUsooner08 macrumors newbie

    OUsooner08

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    #4
    NO, ALL aren't affected. I have about 30 employees using a 2016 MBP, I have one, my wife has one, yet none of us have had a keyboard issue. I even use mine outside and haven't had an issue. I've yet to see numbers touted specifically but saying ALL are affected is misleading. As with all things Apple issues tend to get completely overblown, I'm not saying that the issue doesn't exist, I just see that any Apple issue gets blown up to a "sky is falling" argument.
     
  5. niji Contributor

    niji

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    #5
    i totally agree with your comments.

    this entire Macrumors web article is a piece that's searching for an audience.
    it reeks of clickbait.
    its possible that when Macrumors publishes articles in the forum that this one is published in, Macrumors might be using this link for use in many other general mac related sites, or something like that.

    my main concern is that it is "yesterday" focused. there is no detail about 3rd generation keyboard defect levels.
    Macrumors staff could have done a survey of 3rd party repair shops specifically asking about 3rd gen keyboard defect levels.
    that info would be what new potential users are looking for.

    Macrumors to me is the Forums of user based info. its user base is the best for mac related info.
    on the other hand, I never think that the quality of Macrumors own written articles is high. it never is. never.
     
  6. Kabeyun macrumors 68000

    Kabeyun

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    #6
    So what’s the difference in key travel between the scissor mechanism and the butterfly mechanism? A fraction of a millimeter? Is it really worth it, Apple?
     
  7. smirking macrumors 68000

    smirking

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    #7
    Seriously MacRumors? We really need another keyboard thread? Was there any specific news that came out that warranted this article? Is the site not getting enough clicks today?

    Personally, I find the butterfly keys to be a better typing experience. I generally hate scissor switches. I know that puts me in the minority, but I'm just putting it out there so I can get abused for not having a popular opinion.
     
  8. Kabeyun macrumors 68000

    Kabeyun

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    #8
    Sadly, that’s a fair expectation. Can’t argue at all with your favoring the feel of the butterfly; not my fingers.

    For me, I love my 2012 rMBP keyboard so much that I’m holding out against hope that Apple does a radial redesign for the next generation. Probably as futile as my holding out against hope for a new 4” iPhone, but a man’s gotta dream.
     
  9. nouveau_redneck, Apr 10, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019

    nouveau_redneck macrumors 6502

    nouveau_redneck

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    #9
    Apples thin fetish is their own worst enemy. They need to start focusing on functionality first, fetish desires second.
     
  10. jclo Editor

    jclo

    Staff Member

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    California
    #10
    Most of the complaints about the butterfly keyboard have focused on the MacBook Pro, the point of that statement was to highlight that the MacBook Air is also having issues. I've made it more clear, though.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 10, 2019 ---
    Apologies for the wording. I didn't mean that all are affected, just that all have the potential to experience issues because they're all using the same butterfly keyboards. That wasn't clear enough, and I've fixed it.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 10, 2019 ---
    This was published quietly as an article on the site that's meant to be a reference for future coverage of keyboard issues. This is an important ongoing problem that Apple hasn't done enough to address.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 10, 2019 ---
    I respectfully disagree that this is "yesterday" focused. It's not a piece that's meant to dive deep into issues with the third-generation butterfly keyboard -- we've done and will do other articles for that. It's an overarching guide that's a reference for people who may not be as familiar with the issue or what's been said by Apple and what hasn't been said. This is an ongoing problem that we expect to continue to cover in depth in the future, which is why we made the guide.

    I've made it clearer that third-generation butterfly keyboards in the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are also experiencing problems.
     
  11. smirking macrumors 68000

    smirking

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    #11
    Well, in that case, I eat my words. Good call to publish it quietly.

    It's an acquired taste and you have to tweak your typing mechanics for best results. I'm a mechanical keyboard snob. I viciously hated the butterfly keys at first. I also suffer from RSI. The butterfly keys grew on me once I realized the modified typing action that worked best on them also didn't hurt my hands. This is the first laptop keyboard I've been able to type on directly for extended periods of time in a decade.

    Had I not spent much of the past ten years readjusting my typing mechanics to all sorts of exotic keyboards in a search for relief from repetitive strain injuries, I might have recoiled at the idea of having to adjust to a computer's keyboard. I didn't find it all that difficult to get used to once I committed to doing so, but it's not realistic to expect the transition to sit well or be as easy for some people. Many people will never be able to adjust no matter how hard they try. It's definitely not for everyone.
     
  12. niji Contributor

    niji

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    tokyo
    #12
    it is very much yesterday focused.

    where is the recent data on Macbook Air 3rd gen? none. zippo.
    your article is not of any value to new purchasers of the Macbook Air 2018 model.

    and in fact does them harm by not providing info on currently available models.
    "...we'll write an article about it in the future..." that is the point. that is what you needed to write but didn't.

    the article is in fact, fluff. typical of articles written by Macrumors staff members in last few years.

    articles that need to be re-written in multiple places should never have been posted in the first place.
     
  13. jimthing macrumors 65816

    jimthing

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    London, UK (Europe, Earth, Space)
    #13
    The butterfly keyboard is a problem, and is certainly big enough that Apple should be doing something to fix it on at least new designs.

    It's not just about the dust/debris issue, either. I've had many fail (often temporarily, until the machine cools down a bit!) due to heat underneath making keys not work, or on hot summer days?!

    It's also about the typing experience. It's too 'ON or OFF' as the only options for pressing any key – it's like typing on flick switches that have zero leeway if you don't press them down ALL the way on each tap, you get no input. For some super quick typists I've seen during work, they've cursed using their laptop ones and only slightly less the separate Apple ones (with the lightning port), and have instead opted for other ones, often quiet chiclet ones, either from a third-party or even Apple's older separate keyboards!

    That tells anyone, who's around serious typists, that something is seriously wrong with these in one form or another.
     
  14. jclo Editor

    jclo

    Staff Member

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    California
    #14
    Can you provide more concrete detail on what you would find helpful in this guide in regard to the 2018 MacBook Air? There have been reports of failures, which I mention in the article, and the 2018 MacBook Air is clearly listed as one of the machines with a butterfly keyboard that has the potential to fail. There's an entire section in the guide specifically dedicated to the 2018 machines, which are not included in the repair program, it's mentioned as an affected machine throughout, and it's included in the title.

    Aside from listing it as a machine that's affected and providing instructions to visit a retail store before the warranty is up for a fix, I'm not clear on what else would be useful to MacBook Air buyers because there's no other fix than a repair from Apple. I'm happy to address whatever issues you have with the guide and provide more info, I'm just not sure what you feel specifically needs to be updated. Please also feel free to send me an email.
     
  15. jimthing macrumors 65816

    jimthing

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    London, UK (Europe, Earth, Space)
    #15
    I'd ignore this comment, as they're just being overly picky.

    The 2018's have most of the issues with heat killing keys, and the overall typing feel/mis-presses, just with some fewer the dust/debris ones due to the membrane. Big deal. It still sucks to use.
     
  16. niji Contributor

    niji

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    tokyo
    #16
    thanks so much.
    i will take it on good faith that you are seriously asking. :)

    therefore, pls do the following:

    1 delete the article until it is ready for use by new buyers.
    leaving it up shows lack of commitment to get it right, and lack of respect for future buyers of the 2018 Macbook Air.

    2 Macrumors has access to multiple Authorized repair facilities.
    Survey them.

    3 Data to get from them:

    3.1 limited to new (2018) Macbook Air are there exactly the same kinds of problems that were / are being found in the Macbook Pro 2nd generation keyboard models?

    3.2 same kind of frequency of problems?

    3.3 theorized causes of the problems: food crumbs, liquid, exactly what? (membrane was added to 3rd gen: was it sufficient or not)

    3.4 does blast of compressed air actually help or not

    3.5 if repair is needed, what's the typical cost to get it repaired at an Authorized facility

    all of the above info is critically needed by prospective new buyers of the Air.
    perpetuating past info about the 1st and 2nd gen keyboards is equivalent to fake news and click bait.

    do the above.
    provide data in yr newly written article.
    republish the article.

    i want to see this done because it will prove that the 3rd gen keyboard Macbook Air model is indeed dramatically less problematical than you had been perpetuating in the article as published originally.

    and, you will show to yr readers that our continued faith in Macrumors is warranted.
     
  17. jclo Editor

    jclo

    Staff Member

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    California
    #17
    What you're requesting is an article focused on the MacBook Air, which would be separate from this guide. This guide is meant to provide an overview of the butterfly keyboard issues in ALL machines that aggregates everything we know.

    We can look into sharing something specific to the MacBook Air that covers some of the questions that you've asked, but it wouldn't be a replacement for the current guide. You're always welcome to email us at tips@macrumors.com for article suggestions like these -- many people do and we do follow up.

    Edit: Just to add, there have been reports of failures in the third-gen butterfly keyboards, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. It is addressed separately in the guide and we're not trying to apply first and second-gen problems to third-gen models.

    https://www.macrumors.com/2019/03/27/apple-apologizes-about-third-gen-keyboard-issues/
    https://www.macrumors.com/2018/07/19/ifixit-2018-macbook-pro-keyboard-dust-exposure/
    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/report-2018-mba-keyboard-issues.2156006/
    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macbook-pro-2018-keyboard-issues-after-15-days.2163727/
    https://forums.macrumors.com/thread...ard-issues-with-the-macbook-air-2018.2155508/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/mac/comments/a7u4r5/macbook_air_2018_two_days_old_having_keyboard/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/macbookpro/comments/a5jzyu/2018_known_keyboard_issue_repeatingsticky_keys/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/macbookair/comments/ak9ptt/macbook_air_2018_keyboard_problem/
     
  18. niji Contributor

    niji

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    #18

    thank you ever so much for the above info.
    /s
     
  19. JCG1140 macrumors newbie

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    Milwaukee, WI
    #19
    As someone who has been shopping for a new laptop for his son, I appreciate this article pointing out the potential deficiencies of a laptop that could set me back $1500. For that type of money, I expect the laptop to perform flawlessly for years. The idea that dust or debris could incapacitate the keyboard is truly stunning. I have a $600 Dell laptop that sits on my kitchen table and gets plenty of dust, debris, crumbs, etc. all over it. The keyboard has never failed in four years. This keyboard issue seems to be Apple arrogance at its worst: never admit you're wrong, stick with your design no matter how flawed. How many free repairs will Apple have to perform before they finally cry "Uncle" and change their design?
     
  20. Kabeyun macrumors 68000

    Kabeyun

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    #20
    Agree, basically. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks they’re deliberately trying to converge the feel of tapping on keys and on glass (which I really dislike), just like they’re converging macOS and iOS. Can’t change the master plan.
     
  21. Easttime macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2015
    #21
    Very interesting experience, and I’m glad the keyboard enables you. You’ve inspired me to keep trying to adapt my typing to my 2016 MBPTP keyboard. I don’t think it has a dust problem, but I simply make way too many mistakes trying to type on it. Often multiple errors typing one word. I have no problem speed-typing on the old wired Apple keyboard on my desktop, or a Bluetooth Logitech keyboard that I use from time to time. I’m travelling with the MBP right now and it’s driving me nuts. Typed this on my iPad with my forefinger easier than I could have on that MBP.
     
  22. smirking macrumors 68000

    smirking

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    Silicon Valley
    #22
    I split my time between an ultralight (35g switches) mechanical keyboard and the keyboard on my (now 2018) MBP. I didn't start getting used to the butterfly keys until around the time I adopted my ultralight mechanical keyboard. The ultralight even more so than the butterfly keyboard forces you really relax your hand typing posture and that is also what I needed to do to type effectively on the butterfly keys.

    The motion is pretty close to the kind of motion you'd do if you were touch typing on an iPad. In normal typing posture, your hands are positioned in a way to drive your fingers down into the keyboard. On a ultra flat keyboard, it's more like you just want to touch the keys with the pads of your fingers. In a classic typing posture, your hands are supposed to float and glide forward and back to make it easier for your fingers to reach the various keys. On a flat keyboard, you mostly keep your palms fixed. You reach more than you would on a traditional keyboard, but because you're not striking very hard, it shouldn't result in a lot of strain.

    At least it's not much strain for me. If you're trying to get used to the MBP keyboard because you too have RSI, I'd encourage you to try everything and not just what worked for someone else. Everyone's RSI is a little bit different and what's magical for me might be the worst thing ever for someone else.
     
  23. Easttime, Apr 19, 2019 at 11:57 PM
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019 at 11:12 PM

    Easttime macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
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    #23
    I don’t have RSI or any other physical issue, fortunately, I just can’t type on the danged thing. But your experience is very helpful. I found it interesting because your insights derived from coping with an impairment apply generally to those of us that don’t. Or maybe I am impaired because my typing method doesn’t fit the keyboard. Anyway, we digress.
     
  24. retta283 macrumors 6502a

    retta283

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    Kingman, AZ
    #24
    I would not purchase any of Apple's current laptops. I cannot accept a machine that could have a vital piece fail at any moment. Just not practical, and the stress is not worth it.

    Shame too. I was looking to buy a new Pro laptop, but refuse to buy an Apple... I am close to purchasing a Windows laptop again for the first time in many many years.
     
  25. Kabeyun macrumors 68000

    Kabeyun

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    #25
    See that, Apple person lurking in a random enthusiast forum? Lots of people like that. Just bloody swallow hard and go back to making your bloody keyboards the way you bloody used to.
     

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