Apple may have introduced a new replacement program for its MacBook Pro keyboards, as well as launching revised 2018 hardware that adopts a new set of silicon pads underneath the keys. But that doesn’t mean it’s replacing its defective keyboards with the latest models. Instead, the company will deploy a different solution for the keyboards it’s replacing, while reserving its third-generation keyboard for those who pony up for a new machine.
Apple has refused to acknowledge that the problem is caused by something as simple as a grain of dust that becomes trapped under keys (the company’s disclosure page doesn’t admit to any cause for the problem at all). According to MacRumors, when it asked if third-generation keyboards would be used to repair previous machines, Apple simply said no, they would not. That’s potentially meaningful, because a recent iFixit teardown discovered a thin silicon barrier, as shown below:
Apple appears to be trying to pull a bit of sleight-of-hand here. The company has publicly claimed that these new silicon barriers are a silencing measure, even though it holds a patent on the use of silicon barriers used to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”
The reason Apple won’t admit to having fixed a problem is simple: They’re facing multiple lawsuits regarding the design of their keyboards already, and admitting they actually redesigned the keyboard to fix a problem is equivalent to admitting a problem exists in the first place, which means they really did need to fix something, which opens up the terrible possibility that Apple might be held responsible for the fact that it shipped a defective product.
I once had occasion to disassemble an old G4 Mirrored Drive Door Apple tower. It was, in many respects, a marvel of internal engineering. While I boggled at the sheer cost of the system, with its custom and non-square motherboard, careful motherboard tray cuts for wire routing, and the simply enormous aluminum heatsink, it was indisputably a beautifully engineered piece of equipment. Say what you will about Apple — the company used to know how to build beautiful hardware that didn’t compromise on its design experiences. I’m not sure it does any longer. While every company makes periodic mistakes, we’ve seen Apple misfire repeatedly in recent years.
The iPhone 6’s “touch disease” wasn’t a mistake; it was a deliberate decision by Apple to ship a phone that bent much more easily than its predecessor. The battery failures of last year? Another deliberate design choice. This is Apple’s third attempt to fix its keyboards after debuting an incredibly defective first model and a moderately improved second option. The iPhone 8 has shattering issues. The iPhone X’s repair fees, if you don’t have AppleCare, are more than half the replacement cost of the phone. Then there’s the sapphire glass cancellation of a few years ago — another major Apple bet on an entire market that failed to materialize at the very last minute.
This is not a company that has mastered the art of building beautiful, impossibly delicate, incredibly strong equipment. These are the actions of a company that often overestimates its own manufacturing prowess. Any one of these issues is explained by bad luck. Any two of them could be the result of bets Apple took that simply didn’t pan out. Instead, we increasingly see Apple spending time and money cleaning up messes that are the result of previous bad decisions. The rate of failures seems to be increasing instead of dropping.
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