MacBook Pro keyboard failures: Apple blames dust to excuse poor engineering design

Reddit user “u/cil3x,” who says they’ve worked as Apple Authorized Service Provider Technician for the last 3 years, has posted about the ongoing saga of Apple’s MacBook Pro keyboard failures.

“Today we will be tearing down a MacBook Pro keyboard to try and figure out some possible causes for all the failures that [afflict] these keyboards,” u/cil3x writes. “I’ve worked as an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) Technician for the last 3 years. Before that, I use to work as a 3rd party Technician at an Apple-focused repair shop. Because of this experience, I stand in an interesting position where I use to see all the shit Apple pulls in order to make 3rd party and DIY repair difficult, and now I sit in a position where I can see exactly how Apple deals with these issues and get a more-representative ideas of how the machine fails, how many fail, and exactly what the most common failures are.”

“Why is this teardown so important?” u/cil3x writes. “It proves that Apple themselves have no idea how to deal with the issue and that dust was either just an excuse to satisfy their customer bases demand for an answer, or their engineers are genuinely nowhere near as smart as everyone thinks they are. I’m not sure which of these two is worse. Considering they’ve had 4 years to deal with it, i’m leaning more towards the latter. The way Apple is handling this problem is actually far from good. People think that its nice of them to have a repair program for the issue, but this is actually just a shitty half-assed bandaid fix for the problem.”

“Once your warranty or keyboard program coverage ends, it’s $500 USD per failure to replace the entire top case. There is no “cheaper” aftermarket solution, the keyboards themselves are a nightmare to replace and the aftermarket parts are even more likely to fail. Replacing the part will not permanently fix the issue either since Apple only replaces it with identical parts, meaning they’re bound to fail again. On top of that, all machines will be classified as vintage 5 years after their original release date. Once that happens, spare parts from apple go bye bye for good and you’ll be left only with the cheaper aftermarket parts that are usually more prone to failure, or be stuck buying used parts which are also failure-prone.”

“Ownership beyond 3-4 years fo these models is pretty much a gamble at best, and ownership for 2018 models without AppleCare is even more of a gamble since there’s no repair program support for them and there is 0 guarantee that these models will be added to that keyboard replacement program at all,” u/cil3x writes. “As for what the actual cause is, honestly I don’t know. My suspicion is that the metal dome experiences metal fatigue and slowly begin to lose connection, or that that little U-shaped cutout in the centre of the dome weakens and starts to easily bounce when pressed, making contact 2+ times… Macbook owners, please beware. Always have AppleCare, even if paying extra to cover a flaw that should be properly dealt with is morally questionable and a shitty thing to do. Right now is not a good time to be a Macbook owner or buyer, and please consider whether or not you wish to financially support a company that pulls stunts like these.”

Tons more —  including exploration and refutation of the “dust” and “heat” theories before settling on the “shit design” theory — in the full article – very highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Nope, still not going away, Apple. And, whistling past the graveyard isn’t a viable strategy, nor is it delighting customers (you know, the actual mission that Steve Jobs left you to accomplish). This ongoing self-delusion at Apple that “maybe, it’ll all just go away” is however working wonders on trashing the reputation of portable Macs. So, if that’s management’s goal: Excellent job so far! (This isn’t the way to move iPad units, guys!)

File yet another one under “Tim Cook’s Apple.” We warned that stuff like this would continue to happen unless the underlying root causes were properly addressed over four years ago.

I consider these 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. — John Gurber, March 27 , 2019

Apple is the most successful broken company in the history of the world... 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.MacDailyNews, April 2, 2019

Apple will now fix broken MacBook keyboards within a day as problems persist – April 25, 2019
Heat, not dust, the enemy of Apple’s butterfly keyboard design? – April 9, 2019
Tim Cook is not the best person to be CEO of Apple – April 2, 2019
The MacBook keyboard fiasco is way worse than Apple thinks – April 2, 2019
Apple apologizes for ongoing reliability problems with its MacBook ‘butterfly’ keyboards – March 27, 2019
WSJ: Apple has fixed their butterfly keyboard, but it’s only for pros – for now – July 23, 2018
Teardown of MacBook Pro’s new butterfly keyboard reveals improved protection against dust and debris – July 19, 2018
Conflicting information distributed inside Apple about reason for silicone MacBook Pro keyboard membrane – July 19, 2018
Keyboard shootout: 2018 vs. 2017 MacBook Pro butterfly keyboards compared – July 17, 2018
So, about Apple’s new MacBook Pro butterfly keyboard – July 17, 2018
How Apple is fixing faulty keyboards in their new MacBook Pro models – July 16, 2018
Two things seem obvious about Apple’s MacBook Pro keyboard – July 13, 2018
Apple’s revised MacBook Pro butterfly keyboard: Quieter may not be enough – July 13, 2018
Apple says new MacBook Pro keyboard won’t fix sticky key issue – July 12, 2018
Apple’s new 2018 MacBook Pro models now available with revised butterfly keyboards, much faster performance possible – July 12, 2018
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


  1. I blame Jony, his team have surely seen all this negative feedback over the past 3 or more years and yet they persist with these keyboards. As a designer I personally find their response appalling. It’s even worse when you see them delivery great improvements to other products. They may have quantitive data that says these keyboards aren’t that bad but in this case I think they should seriously put more weight behind the qualitative data, the general feeling people have towards it.

    My review of the keyboard is I love the stability of the keys, the size, the very precise backlighting and low profile. However I hate the feel, the keys sound rubbish, could do with a tiny bit more travel and I want a more positive push back when I release a key. I personally haven’t had any reliability issues despite using it heavily at home and work but I know others that have so there’s obviously some issue here. (Like many I do eat near my MacBook Pro 13″, I know I shouldn’t but I do.)
    Unlike others I don’t mind the TouchBar but a lack of physical ESC key makes for a jarring experience when you are in the flow of typing. The ESC key is a major key and needs to be part of the keyboard.
    I don’t use the TouchBar that often but then I didn’t use the function keys that often either so I would rather have the extra flexibility it brings than a bunch of static keys I don’t use very often.

    I can only hope the reason we haven’t see Apple really address this issue is because they have gone right back to the drawing board and will debut a whole new design with the next generation MacBook Pros that are rumoured to be coming.

    On a slight tangent, I really hate the shape of Apple’s current mouse, I hope they also completely revise the design of it when they bring out the new keyboards. (Just don’t make it a round pebble like the original iMac mouse.)

    1. The worst thing about this situation is anyone buying a MacBook doesn’t have a choice, they get the crappy keyboard. That’s why it’s so important Apple gets this right.

      (Obviously they could get a Window’s laptop but it happens to run Windows and the trackpads can suck and the keyboards can feel just as rubbish but in different ways.)

    2. I don’t eat near my MBPro, but unfortunately I have a cat which will walk over the keyboard.

      My personal guess is T. Cook simply has not used a MBPro on a regular basis in the last 3 years.

      Steve Jobs would NEVER have allowed this to happen.

      Jony Ive should have never allowed it to happen.

      This problems needs a permanent fix. As a plastic part designer for 50 years now, I personally have thought a silicone membrane should be under the keys to prevent liquid spills from also being another method of causing keyboard failure.

      Trust me on one thing. I could design a better keyboard. It may be 1-2 mm thicker, but it wouldn’t fail.

  2. The sorry reality is that no one would buy a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro if it ran windows. The only reason people now by Apple computers is because of OS X.

    I am on my third MacBook Air. It is about to be replaced for a fourth. I feel trapped on the platform – and feel that Apple is badly letting Mac users down.

  3. That’s just a terrible excuse. Earlier MacBook Pro keyboards never had that problem. I have a decade-old MacBook Pro I used practically on a daily basis over that time period and the keys are still working just fine. I don’t ever remember having a problem with any Mac keyboards I’ve owned. Honestly, I think Apple is lying about this being something as simple as dust.

    If I owned one of those newer MacBooks, I’d put Saran Wrap over the keyboard when I used it (I tried it and it doesn’t hamper typing speed). I couldn’t tolerate sticking keys and knowing it was bound to fail in a short time under normal use. The whole keyboard repair thing goes against Apple’s quest for greening.

  4. “Today we will be tearing down a MacBook Pro keyboard to try and figure out some possible causes for all the failures”

    “I’ve worked as an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) Technician for the last 3 years. — I use to work as a 3rd party Technician at an Apple-focused repair shop. — I stand in an interesting position where — I can see exactly how Apple deals with these issues — and exactly what the most common failures are.”

    “It proves that Apple themselves have no idea how to deal with the issue”

    “As for what the actual cause is, honestly I don’t know.”
    Translate, I have nothing to add, really, but I know that any story about Apple is bound to get a bunch of clicks, PLEASE CLICK!!!

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