Apple engineers its own downfall with the failure-prone Macbook Pro ‘butterfly’ keyboard

“A titan of tech and industrial innovation has been laid low by a mere speck of dust. Last week, Apple quietly announced that they were extending the warranty on their flagship laptop’s keyboard by four years,” Kyle Wiens writes for iFixit. “As it turns out, the initial run of these keyboards, described by Jony Ive as thin, precise, and “sturdy,” has been magnificently prone to failure.”

“The first-gen butterfly keyboard showed up in 2015, but the real root of the problem dates back to 2012 in the very first Retina MacBook Pro. That radical redesign replaced their rugged, modular workhorse with a slimmed-down frame and first-of-its-kind retina display,” Wiens writes. “And a battery glued to the keyboard.”

“The basic flaw is that these ultra-thin keys are easily paralyzed by particulate matter. Dust can block the keycap from pressing the switch, or disable the return mechanism,” Wiens writes. “You can’t switch key caps. And it gets worse. The keyboard itself can’t simply be swapped out. You can’t even swap out the upper case containing the keyboard on its own. You also have to replace the glued-in battery, trackpad, and speakers at the same time. For Apple’s service team, the entire upper half of the laptop is a single component. That’s why Apple has been charging through the nose and taking forever on these repairs. And that’s why it’s such a big deal—for customers and for shareholders—that Apple is extending the warranty. It’s a damned expensive way to dust a laptop.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Aiyiyi.

Form over function will get you every time.

Hey, Jony: Enough with the thin.

Everything is thin enough. Sometimes too thin. (See above.) Thinner isn’t the answer to everything, nor is thinness intrinsic to good design. We’d gladly take a bit more robustness and battery life over more unnecessary thinness, thanks.MacDailyNews, June 25, 2018

By the way, who’d be in the market for a “MacBook Tough” that’s thicker and heavier, but built like a tank with 3-day battery life?

Eligible models for Apple’s Keyboard Service Program for MacBook and MacBook Pro:

• MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
• MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
• MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
• MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
• MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
• MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
• MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
• MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
• MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

SEE ALSO:
Apple admits its MacBooks and MacBook Pros are broken – June 25, 2018
Apple announces Keyboard Service Program for MacBook and MacBook Pro – June 23, 2018
Apple’s MacBook butterfly switch keyboards target of second class action lawsuit – May 23, 2018
Apple hit with class action suit over MacBook, MacBook Pro butterfly switch keyboard failures – May 12, 2018
Report: Butterfly MacBook Pro keyboards require more frequent, more expensive repairs – May 8, 2018
MacBook Pro users petition Apple to recall and replace defective butterfly keyboards – May 3, 2018
Apple’s MacBook Pro keyboards said to be failing twice as frequently as older design – May 1, 2018
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

45 Comments

    1. When failure rates start to climb … its a problem.

      Some of the customer-side surveys are suggesting that the failure rate could be as high as 5-10% … and while statistically, this value is problematic because its a self-selected sample, the product isn’t all that old yet and the nature of this failure mode probably does fairly well at describing the overall lifecycle failure rate.

      And given the motivation (thinness, not lower cost, etc) and the explosion in repair costs, Apple does very much have a big problem on their hands — and one that is entirely self-inflicted.

      FWIW, a fairly similar thing happened at Porsche a few years ago (you can Google “IMS failure”) and its been doing damage to their reputation … again, rightfully so … for over a decade.

      1. I thought batteries that doubled as cases did exist for iPhones.

        Did a simple search for “iPhone Battery Case” and it returned quite a few. How thick did you want the case to be?

  1. “A titan of tech and industrial innovation has been laid low by a mere speck of dust.”

    This says it ALL about Apple’s thinness OBSESSION. A speck of dust can bring your pro computer to its knees!!! Seriously?!?

    Cook needs to go pronto and the next CEO needs to put the gilded page book designer on a short leash …

    1. The amazing Roger Clyne once sang, “We could find a speck of dust and scribble down our life stories.”

      And promptly toast our laptops in the process. 😛

  2. I’m sitting here with an old 13″ Macbook Pro. It’s old, but does everything I need a laptop for. However, the trackpad doesn’t click. Either the battery expanded a little bit, or some dust gets in the bottom tray and that just enough to make not enough play for the click to work (previously I got it to work a few times by unscrewing the bottom — it is that old — blowing out the dust and not tightening it up all the way, but eventually the battery had to be replaced to get the trackpad working, and now needs that again). So I was thinking about replacing it — but of course, why bother when I would replacing a laptop with a trackpad that doesn’t click to a new machine with a keyboard that at any time won’t work because of dust. Meanwhile the clamshell G3 works great….

  3. MDN is absolutely correct on this. If I want ultra thinnness I go to my iPad Pro but I want a laptop that can actually work with a longer battery life instead of the garbage I have to deal with on my MacBook Pro. 2-3 hours of working battery life doesn’t cut it for me Apple.

    And they said up to 10 hours of battery life lol.

  4. I would love for Apple to go “retro” with it’s Pro offerings in 2019 and beyond…the 2019 Modular Mac Pro, a 17-inch Mac Book Pro, and a 32-inch 5k Cinema Pro Display. I would buy all three in a heartbeat with also getting a total of three of those monitors. If you want to make thin hardware, save it for the consumer side. Give the Pro line the thicker and more powerful options that power hungry users want.

  5. I’ve typed over a million words on a 2012 13″ MBP and love the keyboard – slim but solid.

    As I mentioned in other threads, I picked up a maxed out refurbed 2015 15″ MBP last week. After a week of writing and over 20,000 words typed on my latest novel, I’m not in love with the keyboard. It’s not as solid as my 2012. I’d hoped it wouldn’t be that noticeable but it is.

    Guessing I’ll keep using my 2012 13″ for writing and save the 2015 for everything else.

    1. I have the same model (with SSD and maxed RAM) that I used for years during travel and work.

      I think it is the perfect laptop for all the ports and drives.

      Got the wife an Air which is the perfect use of thinness.

      My sister got a Pro with the 4 USB-C and Touch Bar. Hates it.

  6. I’m almost afraid to say anything.

    I’ve complained factually about the Mac Pro and the Mini etc and people say ‘you’re gay bashing Tim Cook’ although I’ve made ZERO references to his sexuality. Complaining now by some as a criticism of Tim Cook’s ‘social stands’.

    It’s like if you went to a Fast Food joint and said to the counter person ‘the tables are dirty’ and she snarls “You’re only saying that because I’m a fat/too skinny/too tall/too short woman/man/minority/not a minority person…, also you can’t say our tables are dirty as we’re a socially responsible restaurant… “.
    WTF ?

    ———

    Apple’s current products are not all bad but there are some really troubling stuff:

    Some years ago I started getting worried posting about Mac Pro (not updated since 2013!)
    I was called a ‘Niche’ AND Gay basher.
    then the Mini didn’t get updated. then the Air got the forgotten.
    The MB lost their ports. Now the MBP has problems. (Note Macs are Apple’s second largest hardware money maker way bigger than Watch or AirPods) . Don’t have time to talk about other stuff like SIRI fell to third place, HomeKit issues, Apple TV remote, the Education Market, products launched without components like iPad Pro with No pencil, HomePod with no stereo .. etc

    Do people see the trend now with LOST Of FOCUS on products?
    and my opinion has nothing to do with social issues. If you followed Apple for a while you realize today it’s really different than Job’s product laser focus.

    I’m writing this at length as this is a serious concern because as Cook wanders off to his obsessions, the SVPs have FOLLOWED his lead. Ive has spent more time on his ‘hobby’ building the campus (Campus designer is listed on his official Apple bio) — one and half year door handles, designer ceiling tiles, ‘specially’ milled tables, four storey glass doors etc, so has Eddy Cue etc. while their responsibilities have fallen down.

    (and no I’m not criticizing Ive because I don’t like short haired people… )

    —–
    MP, MBP, iPad Pro 12.9, iPhone user. Aapl investor.

      1. get back to product focus as prime objective and you won’t have or at least way fewer ‘keyboard ‘ ‘slow update’ ‘missing component’ etc. issues.

    1. The only difference is I would say is that LOST focus assumes something that was there and was misplaced accidentally, BUT there’s a hope it could be FOUND again. This is more like lack of focus or NO focus. These are areas that, regardless of the profits, Apple sees little value in pursuing. There is no hope that these products will EVER receive the same level of focus again.

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