It’s not exactly a secret that Apple’s updated MacBook and MacBook Pro have keyboard issues. The butterfly style switches — which Apple first introduced with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015, and then brought over to the MacBook Pro lineup with the 2016 redesign — are famously problematic, with the issue really coming into the spotlight after Casey Johnston wrote about them at The Outline. The new key switches have the unfortunate tendency to fail completely after just a single spec of dust or two manages to find its way under the keys, with a delicate design that makes removing them to clear out the offending dust a dangerous proposition that can destroy your keyboard if done incorrectly.
According to a report from AppleInsider, the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboards are more than twice as likely to fail than the older switches on Apple’s previous Retina MacBook Pro design, and there’s currently a pair of proposed class action lawsuits against Apple over the keyboard.
The question is, what is Apple going to do about it?
Throughout all this time, Apple has remained mostly silent on the issue, merely pointing users toward a how-to page on its site that recommends cleaning the keyboard out with compressed air. The company has actually revised the butterfly switches twice already — once when going from the original MacBook to the MacBook Pro, which added slightly more key travel; and then again last year, when iFixit found that Apple had added additional reinforcement to the key switches. But it still doesn’t seem to be enough, judging by the online discourse.
WWDC 2018 will mark a year since Apple last updated its MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup, and both models are due for an upgrade soon, given that Intel’s eighth-generation Core processors have been out for a few months and already made their way to plenty of competitor’s machines. Which means that it’s entirely possible that an Apple executive will stand up on a stage next week and proudly announce an updated version of the MacBook Pro with new internal specifications. And if they do, one would hope they’d address the keyboard.
On the one hand, it’s extremely unlike Apple to ever admit that its products are flawed in any way. So even if the company does address the keyboard issue, it likely would be in the form of some sort of allusion that they’ve “updated the keyboards to be even sturdier and more reliable than ever before” or something similar, instead of outright acknowledging that there’s a problem with the old model. And if the company does offer some extended warranty program for the old, problematic models, it would probably do so quietly offstage.
That said, Apple is also coming off a very public and messy PR debacle after the company was forced to admit that it secretly slowed down older iPhones to improve performance as batteries aged; Apple eventually offered discounted battery replacements for the affected phones and made its software more transparent about how iPhones manage this kind of slowdown. It’s possible that Apple may be willing to be more forthcoming and open about the MacBook Pro keyboards in the wake of this to get ahead of any future scandals, especially since it seems like the butterfly keyboard issues aren’t going anywhere.
It’s also possible that the MacBook Pro — and its keyboard issues — don’t come up at all. WWDC is still traditionally a software-focused event, and there haven’t been any excessive rumors about a MacBook Pro refresh coming ahead of the keynote. But sooner or later, Apple will probably have to address the problem. The question is: how?