When Apple redesigned the MacBook Pro, it debuted a new type of keyboard based on a butterfly switch design that was supposed to provide better tactile characteristics in a fraction of the travel depth of the previous scissor mechanism. Apple’s goal was to shave a fraction of a millimeter off its designs, and it succeeded — but more than a year after the design debuted, it’s clear the company made some compromises in the process. More than 3,500 MacBook Pro owners have now signed a Change.Org petition calling for Apple to recall the 2016 MBP and “replace the keyboards on all of them with new, redesigned keyboards that just work. Because, these keyboards don’t work.”
What’s interesting are the number of high-profile voices in the Mac community backing up that conclusion. Casey Johnston of The Outline and formerly of Ars Technica notes that the keyboards are so terrible, she wouldn’t even buy the MacBook Pro on sale. In fact, she sold her 2016 system and now relies on an older MacBook Pro and a PC she built with the proceeds from selling the original.
what am i supposed to do when the space bar stops working. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WITH THIS F⚠️CKING KEYBOARD pic.twitter.com/tFHsLYT49T
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) April 7, 2018
DaringFireball’s John Gruber writes, “This keyboard has to be one of the biggest design screwups in Apple history. Everyone who buys a MacBook depends upon the keyboard and this keyboard is undependable.” Designer Marco Arment writes:
Butterfly keyswitches are a design failure that should be abandoned. They’ve been controversial, fatally unreliable, and expensive to repair since their introduction on the first 12” MacBook in early 2015. Their flaws were evident immediately, yet Apple brought them to the entire MacBook Pro lineup in late 2016.
After three significant revisions, Apple’s butterfly keyswitches remain as controversial and unreliable as ever. At best, they’re a compromise acceptable only on the ultra-thin 12” MacBook, and only if nothing else fits. They have no place in Apple’s mainstream or pro computers.
In short, nobody — nobody — likes these keyboards. Musician Jonathan Mann even wrote a song about it, helpfully titled “I Am Pressing the Spacebar and Nothing is Happening.”
Apple has published an instruction guide to how to clean your laptop’s keyboard, which basically involves hunting up a can of compressed air and wishing you’d bought a different laptop. It’s one thing for a person like myself to poke fun at Apple — I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of Apple’s 2016 dongle-happy refresh. But the heat from all corners of the net suggests that the system really does have a design flaw.
For years, the standard defense of Apple products has been that they justify the pricing with superior design, but the company has been stacking up its metaphorical death by a thousand cuts for several years now. The iPhone 6 Plus failed early because Apple mis-designed the phone. When Apple ran into battery problems with the 6s, caused in part by years of aggressively pushing the envelope on single-threaded CPU performance, its response was to choke iPhone performance invisibly and tell no one. The Mac Pro trashcan, far from being an iconic triumph, is a failed iteration in a design language Apple is abandoning. The bloom, in other words, is more than off this particular rose.