Tuesday, October 16, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The 2018 MacBook Keyboards Have the Same Old Problems

Casey Johnston (tweet):

In July, Apple slightly redesigned the very low profile butterfly keyboard on its MacBooks and MacBook Pros, not because “a small percentage” of the previous version was rendered useless by a speck of dust, the company said, but to make it quieter; it even invited the tech press to try it out. iFixit teardowns of the hardware revealed that, in fact, Apple had added a silicone membrane under the keys that looks quite a bit like it’s meant to keep dust and debris from lodging under the key and locking it up. Was that the idea? No, Apple unequivocally said.

But this was not the story I got from several Apple employees I have since spoken to at Apple stores I visited. Every time I described the 2017 MacBook Pro I sold because I couldn’t stand its non-functional keyboard and asked an Apple store employee if the new one would screw me over the same way, each assured me that Apple had changed the keyboards so that that would never happen again.


But checking around online, it appears the new keyboards have the same old issues. They may be delayed, but they happen nonetheless. The MacRumors forum has a long thread about the the “gen 3 butterfly keyboard” where users have been sharing their experiences since Apple updated the design. […] The thread goes one for 600 posts, most either posting complaints, expressing how mystified they are that the problems continue, or speculating what Apple will do now that this design has failed as well.

Previously: Mac Sales Down in Q3 2018 Amid a Lack of Updates, MacBook Pro 2018, Unreliable MacBook Pro Keyboards.

Update (2018-10-18): Nick Heer:

The nature of online reviews and Mac enthusiast forum users, in general, tends to draw out negative experiences in a sort of shared commiseration experience. There aren’t loads of people who will chime in with their flawless keyboard experience. But, even if a smaller number of 2018 MacBook Pro owners are finding their computers susceptible to dust-induced keyboard failures compared to 2016 or 2017 model year users, these problems are still unique to the ultra low profile “butterfly” mechanism used in these models and are not present in previous generations of keyboards. This a serious regression of one of its single most critical components. These are not good keyboards.

Update (2018-10-25): John Kneeland:

I’ve gone through 2 MacBook Pros at work with the new keyboard in 6 months because they keep breaking...lesson learned...for my home computer I’ll hold onto my old 2013 MacBook as long as possible

Update (2019-01-08): TopherTheGreat1 (via Accidental Tech Podcast):

I am an owner of a mid 2018 MacBook Pro 13in with the Touch Bar. My space bar double spaces randomly when I’m typing and it drives me nuts! It’s doing it right now. I had a different device but sent it to support for the same issue and they replaced it. Now my replacement device is showing the beginnings of the same issue.

Francisco Tolmasky:

I have the newest MacBook Pro (latest refresh with “improved” keyboard). My e key has started repeating. This just feels cruel now. Can Apple just swallow their pride on this and fix it? What a stupid way to ruin an otherwise fine product and just zap the joy out of using it.

Marco Arment:

After a week of unexpected Overcast work on vacation, I have as much of a love-hate relationship with my 2018 13" MBP as ever.

I’m so glad I have it. I’m so glad it’s as fast and capable as it is.

Still HATE the keyboard. Still make tons of errors due to the spacing and layout.

It’s not the butterfly switches, though they’re still unpleasant, ungraceful, unreliable, and a huge unforced error.

It’s the damn layout. There’s not enough space between the keys. There’s not enough curvature on the keycaps. There’s no inverted-T arrow keys. It’s a bad design.

Dave Nanian:

Even the Surface Go’s “smaller” keyboard is better than the MBP’s. And, whether or not the keys are more “stable” or whatever, the scissor keys seem like an answer to a question no one ever asked.

Jordan Pittman:

For me I actually rather like the keyboard for the way it feels but I def. understand the spacing bit. I have two issues now:

1. Sometimes I the return key presses twice. Not sure if its a switch thing or what

2. My left cmd key stops even when pressed sometimes. :/

Chris Mallinson:

Yup. I’ve had to replace a couple of keyboards because of stuck keys but I can deal with fixable issues. I love my machines but the keyboards are absolutely terrible at their only job and it’s especially bad for coders.

Derek Martin:

I’ve been having a HUGE problem I haven’t heard anyone else mention. Due to lack of key travel, I am CONSTANTLY triggering seemingly random keyboard shortcuts. I launched iTunes playing rasta music while giving a presentation. I accidentally create bookmarks & switch tabs. Crazy!


Exactly this. I thought it was something I’d eventually adjust to, but 4 months in I still hate it.

And I have an R key that sometimes doesn’t work, or works a bit too late (??) so the letters end up in the wrong order as I type. Which is awesome behaviour from a £2k laptop.


Data point: Just got new MBA and the travel feels better but the space key is already sticking and sending two keystrokes. Makes coding hard!


I’ve never had a laptop before the MacBook Pro 2018. Have Apple laptop keyboards always looked so weird so fast after being exposed to finger grease for two seconds?

Max Odnoletkov:

I hate using even slightly dirty keyboard. Used to wipe MacBook Pro 2013 only once a day. Now with 2018 need to do it multiple times a day. Even with pristine hands it gets visually dirty just from the finger grease very quickly.

Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

I have to agree that the most recent iteration is worse and my biggest complaint is the layout of the arrow keys. I have been typing on this keyboard for over two years now and I still make mistakes when trying to press the arrows without looking at them. Turns out that the empty space above the left and right arrows was really important.

John Gruber still says the keyboard reliability issues are fixed.

John Kneeland:

And now the “o” key on my MacBook’s garbage keyboard is acting up. This keyboard would be unacceptable on a $300 crap laptop. Why do we all pretend it’s okay on a $3000 MacBook?


I’m on my 5th replacement MacBook Pro this year because of stuck keys. Each time it’s 2 weeks to fix. Apple’s had my laptop 1/6th of the year.

Michael Rockwell (tweet):

That is, until I started getting duplicate inputs when I pressed certain keys. Whenever I would type something with the letter “a” or “p” in it, the Air would register multiple key presses when I was only intending to type a single letter. For example, typing the word “apple” would give me something like “aappple”. Referring to this as “irritating” would be a gross understatement.

Since I spend most of my day typing, this is basically a nightmare. I’ve tried to mitigate the issue by attempting to smoosh whatever dust or debris is causing the problem by firmly pressing on the top of the key and giving it a little wiggle with my finger. That will usually give me another day or so until the problem arises again. But this is by no means a solution.


I got my MacBook back today with the keyboard replaced under warranty. They said I get 2 years warranty on the new part. Will be interesting taking my 2015 MacBook in to get fixed in 2021 under warranty…

胡昕峤 huxing:

Expected service time for keyboard failure is absolutely prohibitive: I’ve had a MBP with multiple defective keys for the better part of a year, but I simply cannot live without it for 2 weeks.

Apple Support’s suggestion? Buy a new one and return it within the 2-week window.

Craig Chamberlain:

I’ve had top case replacements twice, once due to keyboard and once due to touch bar display. Both times I had my machine back in 3 days.

Previously: MacBook Air 2018.

Update (2019-01-09): Marco Arment:

Multiple reports of the MacBook Air spacebar causing double-keypresses already (including @siracusa).

Anecdotally, the 2018 membrane does seem to be reducing failures due to dust ingress, but the butterfly keyboard has always had multiple failure types. Others seem to remain.

Smashing Magazine:

Interesting. After letters “e”, “o”, “a” and “i” slowly broke out from my Mac butterfly keyboard, tried switching to an external keyboard (Logitech Keys-To-Go) and can’t go back to the butterfly keyboard any more. So much more comfortable. Especially with a secondary display.

Update (2019-01-11): Steve Troughton-Smith:

Inconceivable that Apple still sells products with that catastrophe of a keyboard mechanism four years on. Nobody should ever consider a MacBook/Pro while this remains unresolved. Hard to justify wasting time debating software quality when the entire hardware line is a write-off

Where the heck is the Apple PR roundtable apologizing for screwing up the Mac notebook lineup’s keyboard so badly, and promising to do better next time? These may be the last ever Intel Mac notebooks, and this is the best they can do?

At what point do they start including cans of compressed air with new MacBooks, because they clearly think that’s an acceptable user experience?

Update (2019-01-16): Steven Peterson (via Marco Arment):

Today I picked up a new 15” MacBook Pro, fully loaded. It was very expensive. I was excited to have a faster machine for my development work.

I just returned it and got my money back because it kept making random popping noises. Then I saw this.


Weirdly, in over 2 years I have had absolutely *zero* problems with the MBP 2016 keyboard.

Nil. None. Nada. Zilch.


OTOH, ask me about problems when plugging and unplugging external monitors.

Go on, I dare ya. I double dare ya.

Honestly, it's a minor miracle this kernel-krashing POS hasn't taken a dive off a third-floor balcony. (I've smashed machines for less, you know.) Or possibly just the hope that I can hold out long enough for the entire industry to wise up and humph its ass to Windows PCs. At least then as an ISV I'll only have one garbage OS to worry about.

@has The Thunderbolt 3 on my iMac is incredibly unreliable at plugging in an external monitor. This is the only computer I remember having trouble with that in 30+ years.

Wait, so there is likely a problem, Apple changes production, but disavows it was on account of any actual problem. Problem still occurs on newer model, but still no acknowledgement from Apple?I

"Can't innovate anymore, my ass," is funnier by the year.

[…] T2, more than one port (sad that this was not a given), Touch ID without a Touch Bar. The bad: the unreliable keyboard, only two ports (only one when charging), no USB-A, the larger trackpad that’s more […]

[…] seems to think that the keyboard is […]

I have a 2016 MacBook Pro and I've been lucky to have no keyboard issues so far. I do use it 90% of the time closed with an external keyboard so that may have something to do with it. I still hate it though. The escape key and the arrow keys are abominations. I hate them with a passion that is undying. I hate the key travel. I'm a bit of a forceful typer I've found, and I feel like I'm going to bruise my fingers with this keyboard. Maybe I'd get used to the travel if I used it full time but I don't, and I hate it. Touch ID is cool when it works, but I'd say I like everything else about it less than previous Apple Keyboards.

I think this computer is what is contributing most of my frustrations with Apple recently. This is the most expensive computer I have ever owned, and I like it the least out of every Apple computer I've ever owned. I have more frustrations with it than any other. USB C/Thunderbolt 3 seems to be a format that works only when it feels like. Probably 10% of the time when I try to turn it on my external monitor won't come on. 5% of the time nothing comes on and I have to hard reboot. My admittedly cheap Anker USB hub I have to re-plugin probably 60% of the time I wake from sleep because nothing registers.

Apple is supposed to be the company that makes computers that "Just Work". And this computer feels like it was made by people who have heard what a computer is, they have seen pictures of them, but they have never actually used one, and have certainly not used this one.

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