The MacBook keyboard fiasco is way worse than Apple thinks

“Apple keep insisting that only a ‘small number of customers have problems’ with the MacBook keyboards. That’s bollocks,” David Heinemeier Hansson writes for Signal v. Noise.This is a huge issue, it’s getting worse not better, and Apple is missing the forest for the trees.”

“Here’s some anecdata for Apple. I sampled the people at Basecamp. Out of the 47 people using MacBooks at the company, a staggering 30% are dealing with keyboard issues right now!! And that’s just the people dealing with current keyboard issues,” Hansson writes. “If you include all the people who used to have issues, but went through a repair or replacement process, the number would be even higher. Worth noting here is that the 3rd generation membrane keyboard did nothing to fix the issues. Six out of thirteen – nearly half!! – of the 2018+ MacBooks we have at the company have a failed keyboard.”

“This is a disaster. A complete unmitigated disaster,” Hansson writes. “But as always, in a time of crisis, the event itself is less indicative of the health of a company than the response. Is Apple going to accept that they’re currently alienating and undermining decades of goodwill by shipping broken computers in mass quantities?”

Read more in the full article here.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook
MacDailyNews Take: Apple is the most successful broken company in the history of the world.

We’ve been warning that Apple’s management is not performing as well as the numbers indicate for years now. (But, don’t listen to us, we only basically described the iPhone five years before Steve Jobs held it up onstage.)

The butterfly keyboard is but one manifestation of Apple’s issues. The AirPower fiasco (printed on AirPods boxes no less) is another. Five+ years and counting with a dead-end goofball design on sale as the company’s flagship Mac, yet another. Need we go on? There have been many easily avoidable screwups over the years and, until the root cause is fixed — this stems from the very top with misplaced priorities and conflict aversion, to name just two biggies — these snafus will likely continue, further eroding Apple’s brand in the process.

Incessant virtue-signaling can hide systemic mismanagement for a time, but not forever.

Tim Cook is not the best person to be CEO of Apple – April 2, 2019
Apple’s AirPower: a fiasco beyond imagination – April 1, 2019
Apple apologizes for ongoing reliability problems with its MacBook ‘butterfly’ keyboards – March 27, 2019
Tim Cook’s Apple vs. Steve Jobs’ Apple – February 28, 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook plummets in Glassdoor’s tech CEO rankings – June 20, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook condemns ‘inhumane’ U.S. detention of children – June 19, 2018
Apple CEO Cook meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss diversity – May 1, 2018
Apple CEO Cook says DACA shouldn’t have been revoked and that he’s ‘personally offended’ by the situation – April 5, 2018
Tim Cook: ‘Maybe we should have been clearer’ over throttling iPhones with aging batteries – January 18, 2018
Apple product delays have more than doubled under CEO Tim Cook – January 5, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook paid close to $102 million for fiscal 2017 – December 28, 2017
At Tim Cook’s Apple, Steve Jobs is long gone, and so is the ‘it just works’ ethos – December 19, 2017
Tim Cook’s sloppy, unfocused Apple rushes to fix a major Mac security bug – November 29, 2017
Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple – November 20, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook: The ‘operations genius’ who never has enough products to sell at launch – October 23, 2017
U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy blast Apple CEO Tim Cook for removing VPN apps from App Store in China – October 20, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook talks climate change, immigration, and more with Michael Bloomberg – September 20, 2017
Apple’s Tim Cook barnstorms the U.S. for ‘moral responsibility’ – August 29, 2017
Apple’s Tim Cook reaped $145 million last year, most of S&P 500 CEOs – June 30, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook plummets 45 spots in employee ratings – June 22, 2017
Apple CEO Cook slams President Trump’s decision to withdraw from climate deal; says it’s ‘wrong for our planet’ – June 1, 2017
The culture at Apple changed when Tim Cook took over as CEO – April 10, 2017
Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company – April 6, 2017
Apple CEO Cook speaks out publicly against President Trump’s executive order, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ – February 9, 2017
Tim Cook: Apple does not support President Trump’s executive order, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ – January 30, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook dines with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Trump – January 27, 2017
Tim Cook explains to Apple employees why he met with President-elect Trump – December 20, 2016
President-elect Trump meets privately with Apple CEO Cook, tells tech leaders: ‘I’m here to help you folks do well’ – December 14, 2016
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016
Apple CEO Cook emails employees, calls for unity after Donald Trump presidential win – November 10, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Silicon Valley throw big money at Clinton and pretty much bupkis at Trump – August 23, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends secret meeting with tech CEOs , top Republicans in plot to stop Trump – March 8, 2016
What Steve Jobs gave Apple that Tim Cook cannot – November 18, 2015
Tim Cook has let his personal politics affect Apple; Board may have to rein him in – June 25, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook falls from 1st to 18th in Glassdoor’s tech CEO rankings – March 15, 2013

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]


  1. I can’t speak to design and build quality of the keyboard, but what I do know is that the Holy Grail of Thinness of devices of necessity leads to 1: reduced key vertical key travel (causing extreme over-sensitivity of key action and 2: ultra thin keys that are physically larger, therefore too close to each other lead to typing inaccuracy.

    This can be verified by many thousand computer teachers in schools everywhere. Yes, spelling skills are much lower than they used to be 10-30 years ago, and that is a huge problem, but the overall problem is exacerbated by the silly flat keyboards.

    1. Ultra-thin keyboards means Apple will NEVER put in a liquid barrier between the key switch and the key. Damn.

      Of course TC would never think of this because he likely doesn’t share a counter at a coffee shop where someone splashes coffee.

  2. They can’t build a MacPro for years. They finally announce they’re putting together a committee to look into workflow. Still no MacPro, I’ve lost count of the years.

    They can’t build a new MacBook Pro for years. They finally ship one. It has drastic thermal problems out the door. It’s got this stupid touch bar that NO ONE wants. The keyboard is shit. They update it. The keyboard is still shit. They update it again. They keyboard is still shit.

    Price for top of the line model ? About $8000

    They cant build a stupid wireless charging pad.

    It’s Mueller time at Apple. 1 mueller is 1 year of completely wasted time and money.

    3 muellers on charging pad.
    4 muellers on MacPro
    4 muellers on MacBook Pro

    1. Man! I’m with you! Just want to add touch screen on ThinkPad.
      Apple does not want/cannot make…. whatever Apple.
      Just think again Apple, next time you would need to pay people to come to your presentations.

      1. Generally speaking it’s been great. The only thing I dislike about it is Windows but that’s getting better. I even find myself looking forward to the next Windows update this month, with a bit of the excitement I used to have for Apple announcements. I also fear the Windows update.

        It’s noisy due to fans, but I put on headphones and that’s a non issue. It gets hot. Every so often after a Windows update, stuff breaks. Like almost always after a Windows update actually.

        I spilled a bottle of water into the keyboard of that machine. I sent it back to Razer expecting to hear about thousand dollar repairs, and they sent it back working good as new for 300 dollars.

        If I were buying one of equivalent capabilities now though I’d be looking at the Alienware Area 51m. In all black. All the reviews of that machine are really good.

        1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, Windows is getting better.. thats funny… and in the same breath you note that virtually every update breaks stuff… The Mac & MacOS has been far more reliable then Windows will ever be ever.. Just wait till you really get something nasty and you have to rebuild it a few times, then your joy really begins..

        2. Thanks for the reply. I’ve always been genuinely interested in your impression and experience with that laptop.

          I’m not at a point where I want to jump from Apple (despite me not agreeing with some of their decisions as of late), but if I were going to, the Razer always got my attention, aesthetically anyway.

          You’re always welcome back to hang with the zealots in MTTF, just so you know. 😉

          1. FWIW, I have a Dell ultrabook (forget the model#) that the employer bought for me .. roughly the same form factor & weight as the MBP, but $1K less.

            The keyboard has a substantially better feel. Yes, shocking. It also has more ports too, including a not-tiny HDMI which goes into our conference room projectors.

            The downside is that the Enterprise security lockdown stuff causes regular scans which sucks CPU and gets the fan blowing and kills battery life. But still – – for much of my use case, I’m plugged in and having a better keyboard allows work to get done without the dropped letters and loss-of-effective-touch-typing UI.

            Plus I like the Dell’s trackpad better too.

  3. MDN switches back and forth between unmitigated fanboi and an organization claiming things are going to hell and “I’ve told you so for years.” MDN, you have an extreme case of multiple personality disorder. For the last few years Apple has had quality issue of the frequency not seen since the Sculley days.

  4. Makes perfect sense – The Keyboard was the worst thing Apple’s done since Steve, and the worst part about it is their unethical denial of the problem. I blame Phil Schiller.

    What’s next, digital keyboards that don’t work? …

  5. Financial gains cover a multitude of sins… And that problem is no different – in fact worse – within Apple.

    Not staying on top of their own internal launch timelines, pressured Cook to pre-announce products, with AirPower being the worst in the effects of this.

    MacBook: I owned 4 – 4 MacBooks in the span of 3 years. ALL NEW, ALL FREE from Apple, because of the keys constantly rubbing off. And once, keys that won’t pop back up…

    Apple does a “top cover” replacement, which takes a few days to air the MB down to Texas and get it fixed, and ship it on back. Wow, is that a tremendous waste of money. But on a few occasions Apple screwed up, cut a display cable and thus resulted in them needing to transfer my HD data to a brand new one.

    I have the newest generation MBA (MacBook Air) now. And while the keyboard IS more quiet, it’s still kinda loud. And while I have not experienced any sticking keys whatsoever, again – I can’t pickin’ believe this – the keys are AGAIN rubbing off! What on earth Apple?!

    Oh, and the display on the MacBook, they had to replace that also due to the screen coating just wearing out and rubbing off. What?!

    I have no clue what Apple test engineering is doing, but it isn’t much. The tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted due to horrible quality components is astounding.

    Meanwhile, it’s pissing people off.

    Cook seems so disinterest in dealing with any of this it’s amazing.

    Speaking of Cook, he can do whatever he wants personally on the social front, whatever he wants, go for it. But it’s clearly splitting his time and causing him to be more unfocused as CEO than he already is, and it’s hurting Apple.

    Time for Tim to say his peace and move onto whatever he has passion for, and get someone in as CEO at Apple who deeply cares about the customer and the product quality – because it ain’t Tim anymore…

    1. Sorry, Bobby. It’s your fault for not just buying an iPad Pro with a separate keyboard. See? Problem solved!

      There’s no good reason in 2019 to ever need anything but an iPad. Get with the times!


        1. and You are Utterly Wrong !.
          I use the new pro 6-7 hours a day.. from photo retouching/enhancing and fx… to graphics generation to video editing …
          Plus all the other standard stuff..
          I dont think it is suitale for typing a lot.. unless u buy a keyboard.
          But To me, the main advantage of the ipad is the direct interactivity with the ui, using the pencil and/or touch ….and its mobility.

          And i do have a background of CGI , 3d animation , etc. (PC)
          Ist not a direct replacemnt but for majority of tasks it shines! Love it!

    2. Just curious. Has the key letters rubbing off happened to you on any other product?
      I’m looking at this from working on hundreds of laptops and external keyboards and I only recall two that letters wore off and that was do to many years of use.

      I did have one female user that the constant use of hand cream destroyed keys. That took a bit of time to figure out.

      I do recall reading about screen antiglare coming off where a user kept touching it. Ended up being highly acidic skin oil. Not the norm. Just trying to think outside the box on this.

  6. I haven’t had any issues after about two years with my gen 1 butterfly keyboard but I also use my computer secondary to my iPad Pro and iPhone.

    But I DO use my Mac a lot for gaming which is fairly keyboard intensive. I’m so nervous because I’m about to be out of warranty

  7. I’ve been considering replacing my five-year old 27″ iMac with a MacBook Pro, to gain more portability, but still have some power.

    I am not sure what to do now… The keyboard issue is disconcerting/deflating.

    I assume to get a truly fixed/new design keyboard into their laptops, Apple is years-out (unless they began working on a new design a few years ago).

    1. Now that Apple has finally admitted it has screwed up, it will take Tim another 5 years to fund an engineering team to properly design a replacement, you know, with real world testing and everything. Not just a Jony squish job. Then you might see it in stores 3 years after that. Assuming the brain trust at Cupertino doesn’t Airpower it.

    2. The replacement for your iMac is the Mac Mini. Treat yourself to a great 3rd party keyboard and a big 30” screen. When out and about, be present where you are.

  8. To quote your sources, “a staggering 30 percent of 47 people” are dealing with issues.
    Is this what you have become?
    I used to follow MDN regularly, but no more. As I have said repeatedly, you have become Rob Enderle, the chicken little of the tech industry. Rob has disappeared from the firmament because of his ridiculous and incessant rants about Apple, only to have you take up the cudgel for your self-righteous aggrandizement.
    Rob has disappeared from the tech scene and MDN is soon to follow.
    Your present yourselves as protectors of the Mac environment, but you have lost the faith. You produce nothing and you criticize those who do.
    Sadly, likely too late, you will come to realize that your criticism of Tim, and all recent things Mac, will haunt you.
    Enjoy your symbiotic partnership with Mr. Enderle, even though it portends your demise to join him in oblivion.

  9. I have been a proponent of Macs for years. I am younger than many here as I recently turned 30 and did not start using Macs until I was in high school and saved up for my own (my parents used PCs because they were “cheaper”).

    In high school I started with the white MacBook (one of the first Intel Core Duo versions). It ran OS X Tiger if I recall correctly (10.4). I absolutely loved it. From there I went on to purchase new Apple computers every 2-3 years and I also had an iPod and eventually an iPhone 3G after release.

    When I started university, I upgraded to one of the early unibody Macbooks (when the transition was from white to aluminum). There was a brief transition period where the new aluminum body Mac was simply branded “MacBook” until it eventually became the MacBook Pro.

    I studied abroad in Spain for a year at a US university and noted that nearly half of most classes of students from the US used Macs. We also loved that we could go to the Apple store in Madrid to have service and were treated the same when away from home. I also bought a desktop iMac upon returning to the U.S. that I used along with my MacBook. Since then I also added a Mac mini to the mix.

    My last Mac was a 2012 MacBook Pro (Retina) which is still quite functional today. I have had ZERO issues with it. The screen works fine, there have been no issues with the graphics or drivers, and the keyboard and mechanics are great. There are no overheating issues.

    In 2015 I wanted to upgrade and continue using Apple computers. I didn’t see any point in getting an outdated MacBook Air. I already knew the new MacBooks had keyboard issues, so I shied away from those. I played the wait game since the MacBook Pro (2012) was serving me just fine.

    I was even more unimpressed when I learned that the MacBook Pros had the same issue with the keyboards. And now we learn the new MacBook Air has the same issue (if not worse).

    In 2016 I gave up and I have been using the Microsoft Surface as a compromise. I’m not a huge fan of windows, but I like knowing I have functional hardware supported for a long period of time. Furthermore, even though the Windows experience isn’t great, Windows has come along way since the Visa fiasco. Windows Vista was so awful that it is nearly the main reason I spent all of my college years as a Mac user. While Windows 7 was better, I was still using Macs at the time and there was no compelling reason to switch back to PCs which were still of poor quality despite 7 being fairly solid.

    Windows 8 ultimately solidified my conviction that Macs offer the superior experience. And now, even though Windows 10 is a bit inconsistent at times, it is at the very least stable enough for all of my daily computing needs.

    Isn’t it sad that the only thing I really need from Apple is a functional keyboard and a sign that the company is going to start supporting Mac users again?

    It’s sad because I’m sure I’m not the only customer (non pro user) they have lost in this manner. Many of my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances are now using windows laptops as our main computing devices despite remaining iPhone adherents.

    I think we can finally rest the chatter from the mid 2000s up to the netbook era (say 2010-2012ish), that many of the mainstream PC makers have finally learned that customers don’t want a crappy PC loaded with bloatware. Most PCs you buy new these days are of decent quality with minimal in-house software that is easy to remove. No more WildTangent and nags to activate your free 90 days of Norton/McAfee.

    By now the main argument in favor of Macs is that it offers an integrated experience with an OS that is Unix-based and more secure. Fair enough. Just give me a keyboard that works. I make enough money to pay the premium for Apple products.

    I definitely still use the iPhone and I have an iPad for content consumption. I love them and they work great. I haven’t had any need to upgrade my iPhone 7 plus as it works great — but I will eventually get the current model or one of the next generation full screen iPhones.

    I am completely dumbfounded by how Apple cannot competently produce a laptop with an acceptable keyboard. I don’t even care about the shallow key travel as long as they work for the lifetime of the device.

    I’d feel different about this whole situation if Apple were immediately apologetic and offered lifetime warranty service (say up to 3-5 years with a likely replacement at some point) to the laptop models affected. This would also nullify class-action concerns.

    The MacBook Air development should have been immediately stopped while they forensically investigated the current MacBook/MacBook Pro issue. They would have been better off updating the internals of the updated large-bezel MacBook Air at this point, as I would have gladly upgraded to that (even with a lackluster screen) as long as I knew the keyboard worked and it was at a reasonable price point. As said, I was willing to pay a premium to remain in the Apple ecosystem — but a functional keyboard is a deal breaker.

    Instead we see no such extension or gesture of goodwill and only recently a half-apology. I call it a half-apology because they still refuse to admit the problem is as bad as it is. As far as I know, some laptop owners will not get any extended warranty support, but others will despite the fact that this seems to be a keyboard issue affecting all laptop lines equally.

    I had faith that maybe the new MacBook Air would not be so bad, yet every forum I go to (pro mac ones) seems to suggest that I have more than a 25% chance of having my keyboard fail (likely somewhere between 30 and 50%).

    I’m not willing to take that risk on a product that will easily cost about $2,000+ when I’m done configuring it.

    If I don’t see any change within the next year or two I will give up on Apple as a computer maker and I will only purchase iPhones and iPads from them in the future.

    That means that macOS will have no place or consideration in my life. iOS and watchOS only for me.

    The sad part about this is that it seems Apples current management wouldn’t bat an eye at reading everything I have written above. After all, they’ll be making a nice profit by retaining me as an iOS user.

    Steve Jobs would be very angry with what the leadership at Apple has done to his company.

    By the way, I am a gay male, and I could care less about Cook prancing around advocating for LGBT+ communities, the environment, and anti-racism…. I think that all of these things are noble causes, and I don’t necessarily begrudge him for it……..

    but part of being a good leader is knowing how to prioritize primary business concerns.

    It’s also bad for the environment when you have to keep driving to the Apple store or shipping in your product for repairs while you purchase/consumer a secondary device for your “oops my MacBook is in for repairs again” downtime.

  10. I just got out my old 17′ Core 2 Duo. They keyboard is so sweet in that old thing. I cannot type on the 2016 MacBook Pro at all. The 17″, I never regretted the $2K I spent. Now the 2016 TB MacBook Pro is by greatest $2K folly.

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