Apple’s MacBook Pro keyboards said to be failing twice as frequently as older design

“Apple launched its new butterfly key-switch keyboard with the MacBook, with some usability complaints starting nearly immediately, but it wasn’t until its adoption in the MacBook Pro in 2016 that reliability concerns started popping up,” Mike Wuerthele reports for AppleInsider.

“Following anecdotal reports of a keyboard more prone to failure than in previous years, AppleInsider has collected service data for the first year of release of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 MacBook Pros, with an additional slightly shorter data set for the 2017 model year given that it hasn’t been available for a year yet,” Wuerthele reports. “Not including any Touch Bar failures, the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard is failing twice as often in the first year of use as the 2014 or 2015 MacBook Pro models, and the 2017 is better, but not by a lot.”

“The increase in number of keyboard events in a decreasing population of first-year service demands is notable. While first-year service calls have gone down with the introduction of the new models, at the same time the incidence of keyboard repairs has gone up, notably,” Wuerthele reports. “Apple has a second-generation MacBook Pro keyboard. It is in the 2017 MacBook Pro, and repaired 2016 models. The repair percentages on those are up from the 2014 and 2015 keyboards as well, but not nearly as much as the 2016.”

“The keyboard isn’t replaceable by itself. Break one key switch, and you need to replace the whole assembly, consisting of the keyboard, the battery, and the upper case metal surrounding the keyboard and Thunderbolt 3 ports,” Wuerthele reports. “We’ve seen out-of-warranty pricing with labor and parts exceeding $700 for the job, and it isn’t an easy repair, necessitating a complete disassembly of the machine.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, but it’s thinner! You can never be too thin, according to Apple’s industrial design team – even when it negatively impacts usability (bending iPhones, failure-prone keyboards, poor battery life, bulging camera assembly kludges, etc.)

MacBook Pro: The butterfly keyboard effect – April 26, 2018
Where Apple’s reinvention of the keyboard may go next: Full touchscreen – March 14, 2018
Apple’s design decisions and iPhone batteries – January 8, 2018
Hey Apple, it’s time to give up thinness for bigger, longer-lasting batteries – January 6, 2017
Apple in talks to acquire Australian startup Sonder for dynamic key-morphing Magic Keyboard – October 13, 2016
At this point, why make iPhone any thinner? – January 8, 2016
Open thread: What’d be wrong with slightly thicker iPhone with more battery life and a flush camera assembly? – December 21, 2015


    1. It goes deeper.

      Apple likely tested the new keyboard designs on simulated 3 or 6 year lifespans with robots that punched the keys and they saw a reliable set of statistics.

      The problem with robot testing is that peoples finger nail residues, hair, skin particles and cookie crumbs are what real fingers leave on keyboards.

      I know for a fact that Jony didn’t sit down for 3 months straight typing on a new keyboard to judge its lifespan.

      Keyboards are the most mechanically abused items on a modern laptop. The keyboard ought to be removable & replaceable without taking the laptop apart, just like some early Mac Books were “way back.”

  1. What is that quote about “lies, damned lies, and statistics”?

    While the 2016 MacBooks had a spike in keyboard failures (not unexpected for the first version of an all-new design), the failure rate of 2017 keyboards is actually slightly less than 2015 and 2014.

    The keyboard failures in 2017 MacBooks are a higher percentage of total failures only because other failure modes are so much lower than before.

    In other words, the new MacBooks are much more reliable than the previous generation, except for the keyboards, which are slightly more reliable. This stands to reason given that the keyboard has the most moving parts in the entire machine and is this harder to failure-proof.

    1. Bottom line the new keyboard is garbage. Eight months old my MacBook Pro and, the “f” key is already failing. You can speak your hogwash all you want but there are plenty of people having issues with the keyboards if you don’t have an issue good for you but that’s not the case with many.

  2. Well over 1/3 of MDN poll respondents, on a Mac fan site, have encountered issues.

    And $700 for an out-of-warranty repair of even a SINGLE KEY, because it’s designed such that you have to take apart several major but delicate components first? Ask yourself, would you put up with this BS from any other electronics maker? No; any other company, any other product, a repair service for a high-impact, high-use component, at this price would rightly be called a scam.

      1. Unfortunately not. I had a failed keyboard in warranty or it would have cost me just over $600 Canadian. So I added Apple Care+ on the spot so the Bad Keyboard cost me $400. On a $3,000 computer this is disgusting build quality.

        Watch they will report an increase in Services Revenue tonight and the spike in the number of customers that feel they have to get Apple Care+ added onto their purchases is the biggest reason.

  3. I keep a Matias aluminum keyboard in my bag and an Uppercase keyboard protector on the keyboard for when I have to use it. It’s really not a pleasant keyboard to use. Even a single mm more travel would make such a difference.

  4. Jony Ive’s design tools consist of a ruler, a compass, a box of luminescent crayons, and an iron with an ironing board.

    Someone needs to steal his ironing board. Things are getting too flat.

  5. Hey Apple, why isn’t the laptop thinner? Hey Apple, why don’t the thinner keyboards work the same as the older. thicker keyboards? Hey Apple, why can’t you alter the laws of physics, why, WHY?

    1. No one, or near enough, demanded a thinner Macbook or Macbook Pro after the Retina MBPs came out. Yet we got them anyway, and lost a slew of essential ports in the process, including the Magsafe. And got a too-thin keyboard that’s uncomfortable for many to use and statistically proven to break far too easily.

    1. It’s beyond absurd, it’s offensive. On top of the slap to the face of “pro” laptops limited to 16 GB RAM and eliminating a slew of useful ports and Magsafe, the beancounters are taking advantage of Apple users, thinking we’re made of money.

  6. A lot of complaints these days, I’ve read MDN for over 10 years I believe and never seen this much dissent. It’s not like the Iphone x is the savior either, we may see terrible numbers, I’ve used mine, and although it’s pretty cool, the lack of the home button and face ID is really not that great, it fails all the time and i have to punch in the numbers far more than if i had to just touch the home key, which did not rely on seeing my face. Room for improvement for sure, and the idea that its smaller than the 8? WTF? What a turn off, so i got my planned obsolescence Iphone x anyway, I do like it, but not perfect, Yeah no ports on a laptop. Fire the guy who greenlighted that.

  7. My early 2011 MacBook Pro is still going strong, and I’ve used the hell out of this thing. I love the keyboard on this thing, but the one with my mid 2017 iMac really sucks. I’m not crazy about the mouse either.

    1. Apple has never made a decent mouse, the current one is an abomination. But keyboards, they’ve made positively BRILLIANT keyboards. The Apple Extended Keyboard was a work of art, I loved that thing.

  8. Yep, something’s wrong in Cupertino, a city I otherwise love. Other than what Apple has been doing, or NOT doing, in recent years – Cook? I’ve spent a heap of lucres since 1986 on Apple everythings. Hard for me to think of something Apple I haven’t bought, and these recent messes Apple has made might be the worst I have seen. Heck, I can’t even draw a decent stick man and I think I could make a Mac Pro, Mac mini, good MacBooks, out of a bunch of good parts. MacBooks have been thin enough a while now! Whew…

  9. Gonna buy me another maxed out MBA before they ruin that model with a ‘new’ thinner model w/o the ports I need when traveling and the keyboard I enjoy using.

    After my next MBA, probably do something LINEX ish.

    Will APPL feel the effects when former ‘brand advocates’ leave? APPL was unique in that many fans such as myself were unpaid salesmen for decades…
    APPL seems to think it’s large enough not to have to care, perhaps they are correct, we’ll see.

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