Butterfly vs. Scissor: Apple’s Phil Schiller on reinventing the new MacBook Pro keyboard

The new Magic Keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers the best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook.
The new Magic Keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers the best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook.

Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller discussed the butterfly vs. scissor mechanism keyboards and whether the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s Magic Keyboard will appear in other Macs.

Roger Cheng for CNET:

The butterfly keyboard, unveiled with Apple’s 12-inch MacBook for 2015, drew criticism for its less-than-pleasing tactile sensation and for quality-control issues that left some people frustrated by doubled or dropped letters as they typed. Apple said it’s improved the keyboard, now in its third generation, and is offering a replacement program.

The new MacBook Pro, which replaces the 15-inch version, is Apple’s most direct response to the backlash. The company has taken the scissor mechanism of its standalone Magic Keyboard and used it to power the keyboard in its new laptop.

“People sometimes underestimate how much work goes into a keyboard, and that’s why most keyboards in the industry don’t change for 10 or 20 years,” Schiller said in an interview. “We decided that while we were advancing the butterfly keyboard, we would also — specifically for our pro customer — go back and really talk to many pro customers about what they most want in a keyboard and did a bunch of research. The team took the time to do the work to investigate, research, explore and reinvent.”

MacDailyNews Take: The most-recent butterfly keyboards are much improved and we haven’t heard horror stories about keyboard failures as we did with the early implementations. Whether the butterfly has been killed by the new scissor, though, Schiller isn’t saying (we bet they’ll just phase out the butterfly mechanism over time without talking about it as talking about it too much might just introduce legal complications, i.e. class action lawsuits):

Schiller on the butterfly mechanism: “It felt more firm and flat under your finger — some people really like that, but other people weren’t really happy with that. We got sort of a mixed reaction. We had some quality issues we had to work on. Over the years we’ve been refining that keyboard design, and we’re now on the third generation, and a lot of people are much happier with that as we’ve advanced and advanced it… We’re doing both in advancing the butterfly keyboard, and we’re creating this new Magic Keyboard for our Pro notebooks… Some of the most passionate feedback about the keyboard was coming from pro customers. We thought that was the right place to do the work on the new Magic Keyboard.”

The big question: Will this keyboard find its way to other MacBooks? Schiller said, “I can’t say today. We are continuing both keyboard designs.”

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. What’s most telling is that Apple never released a standalone keyboard using the butterfly mechanism, over 4 years after they introduced it in an Air. They forced the consumer and then pro laptop users to become guinea pigs as they chased their thinness fetish.

    Standalone keyboards that need repairing could at least be swapped for traditional ones. Built-in keyboards, the entire laptop could be in the shop for days.

    1. Nor a magic keyboard with a touch bar (not to mention backlit keys), I can’t imagine what their peripherals team(s) do all day, I think the shade of black for the Mac Pro keyboards and trackpads is pretty much set.

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