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Apple quietly fixed the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard problem that drove people crazy

Published Jul 14th, 2018 1:02PM EDT
MacBook Pro 2018
Image: Apple

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If you own a MacBook or MacBook Pro with a butterfly keyboard, the chances are good that you may have experienced an annoying keyboard issue where some keys become unresponsive. That’s because a tiny particle of dust can block keys, and fixing the problem can be quite a chore.

Apple has a new program to address the matter, and the company is facing class-action suits because of it. But you know what else Apple has? A brand new MacBook Pro model that comes with what looks like a fixed keyboard.

Apple on Thursday unveiled its 2018 MacBook Pro models, which are already available for purchase online and in Apple stores. Only the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar received an upgrade this year, including Intel’s latest chips, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 4GB of SSD storage. The new MacBook Pros also have TrueTone displays and a new Apple T2 chip to handle payment security.

Buried in the press release was a reference to a new keyboard, “an improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing.” We suspected at the time that Apple fixed the major keyboard issue that’s been affecting all MacBook Pros since the 2016 redesign, but Apple would not confirm it officially.

A quiet keyboard is a neat perk, but if dust can still hinder regular operation, it’s still a sucky keyboard. Apple fan John Gruber explained why Apple wouldn’t be too eager to admit it fixed this particular type of problem:

Marketing-wise, I don’t think they would admit to a reliability problem in the existing butterfly keyboards (especially since they’re still selling second-generation keyboards in all non-TouchBar models), and legal-wise (given the fact that they’re facing multiple lawsuits regarding keyboard reliability) I don’t think they should admit to it. So whether they’ve attempted to address reliability problems along with the noise or not, I think they’d say the exact same thing today: only that they’ve made the keyboards quieter. I have no inside dope on this (yet?), but to me the reason for optimism is that they’re calling these keyboards “third-generation”, not just a quieter version of the second-generation butterfly-switch keyboards.

Other than waiting to see how the keyboards of the 2018 MacBook Pros fare in the real world, there’s one other way to find out whether Apple fixed the keyboard: iFixit’s “official” teardown. And because the new notebooks are already available in stores, iFixit has already dismantled one.

The company discovered that Apple has quietly fixed the keyboard problem by adding a flexible enclosure under the caps that covers the second-gen butterfly mechanism to prevent dust particles from getting in and blocking the keys. Apple even has a patent on this type of keyboard protection film that was discovered earlier this year:

This flexible enclosure is quite obviously an ingress-proofing measure to cover up the mechanism from the daily onslaught of microscopic dust. Not—to our eyes—a silencing measure. In fact, Apple has a patent for this exact tech designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”

The following video shows you exactly what this plastic film looks like:

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.