Has Apple Realized New MacBook Pro Keyboards Suck?

Apple may be finally trying to fix up to the keyboard problems plaguing the MacBook Pro.

This week, MacRumors reported that secret documents distributed to Apple authorized service providers confirmed that the keyboard on its latest 2018 MacBook Pro models includes a membrane designed to prevent debris from getting underneath the keyboard.

The report of the internal statement follows months of accounts of typing problems with the MacBook Pro keyboards. In addition to anecdotal reports from Mac users, tech journalist Casey Johnson wrote that Apple technicians said her brand-new MacBook was bricked by dust entering the space underneath the keys.

With the newest MacBook Pro, the keyboard problem appears to have worsened. Appleinsider found that, based on a sample of service data, new 2016 MacBook Pros requiring warranty service were twice as likely to have keyboards problems as models from 2014 and 2015.

MacBooks have become slimmer and lighter with each iteration. New models forgo large components of old machines, like the USB port, to allow for a sleeker profile. But while the USB port can be outfitted with an adapter, keyboards don’t have an obvious fix. Years ago, Apple redesigned their keyboards to have the keys sit on butterfly switches, intersecting pieces of plastic that sit low in the keyboard housing. They’re sleek but fragile: as Johnson noted, they are supported by four tiny threads of brittle plastic, each no larger or sturdier than an insect leg.

A broken key means a useless computer. In Ars Technica, Samuel Axon noted that fixing a single key on a broken MacBook Pro keyboard requires replacing the entire keyboard apparatus, as well as part of the metal enclosure and other components.

MacRumors reports that Apple hasn’t publicly acknowledged the dust-preventing system in its new keyboards, and has only said that 2018 MacBook Pro models feature an “improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing.”