Apple: We're sorry if your MacBook's still suffering from butterfly keyboard problems

The MacBook butterfly keyboard, which first appeared in 2015, is dubbed the worst product in four decades.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Apple yesterday apologized for inflicting MacBook owners with its dust-prone, butterfly-switch keyboard. 

The company made the apology in response to a scathing report by the Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern about the MacBook's butterfly-switch keyboard, which can make using the E, R, and T keys a nightmare when writing.

Apple admitted that three years after introducing the new design – another of its efforts to make ever-thinner computers – it still hadn't resolved the keyboard's vulnerability to dust and debris.

"We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry," an Apple spokesperson said. "The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard." 

The keyboard debuted in the 2015 12-inch MacBook and has gone through three iterations, the latest of which includes a silicon membrane in the 2018 MacBook Pro, designed to prevent things like sand, salt and breadcrumbs from jamming up the key mechanism.  

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)

Computer repair firm iFixit, which discovered Apple's quiet fix, explains Apple's keyboard is not only prone to debris failure, but is also near impossible to fix when it does happen.  

"On any other keyboard, you can remove the keys and blast out the dust with some compressed air, but Apple's butterfly keyboard makes this simple job a nightmare: while most of the keys can be removed and blown out (as Apple recommends), sometimes it just doesn't fix the problem," iFixit said. 

"With the spacebar, it's pretty much impossible to remove the keycap without destroying the entire key. Worse yet, the keyboard is attached to the laptop's battery, trackpad, and speakers, so merely swapping out the keyboard on its own is impossible."

Responding to the Wall Street Journal piece, Apple-watcher John Gruber of Daring Fireball said he considers Apple's new keyboards "the worst products in Apple history".  

"MacBooks should have the best keyboards in the industry; instead they're the worst. They're doing lasting harm to the reputation of the MacBook brand," wrote Gruber. 

The company is facing a lawsuit over the keyboards from consumers, who claim that getting Apple to fix the keyboard if it's out of warranty can cost $700 due to its setup.   

Apple has also faced criticism over its use of super-thin yet possibly too short flex cables in the MacBook Pro that has left some users with a broken display through normal usage, such as opening the lid beyond 90 degrees. 

The cables help Apple produce a thinner laptop but when the cable breaks owners need to replace the entire screen at a cost of $600 to $700 rather than just the cable, which costs about $6 to replace. 

Apple has not publicly acknowledged the flex cable problem but its 2018 MacBook Pro did feature a slightly longer cable that could address the wear and tear that happens when it's stretched when opening the lid beyond 90 degrees. 

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