The real reason Apple updated the keyboard on the 2018 MacBook Pro lineup might have just come into view. France’s MacGeneration has discovered an internal document that says the new thin layer of silicone under each key wasn’t put there to make the keyboard “quieter,” as Apple has publicly stated. Instead, it’s to solve reliability problems present on previous generations.
Since this was first published, MacRumors discovered key differences between the document Apple published in Canada and Europe versus the one for the United States.
In the Canadian and European versions, it reads:
Keyboard and Keycaps
The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. The procedure for the space bar replacement has also changed from the previous model. Repair documentation and service videos will be available when keycap parts begin shipping.
In the U.S., the guide doesn’t mention the membrane. Instead, it contains a link to a separate internal document titled “Butterfly Mechanism Keycap Replacement MacBook Pro (2018)” that states:
Caution: The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. Be careful not to tear the membrane. A torn membrane will result in a top case replacement.
As originally written:
The internal document, published for repairers who will be working on the 2018 MacBook Pro, says the silicone membrane must prevent “debris” from entering the butterfly mechanism. As MacGeneration rightly explains, this is precisely what posed a problem for some users of previous generations.
The 2018 MacBook Pro Service Readiness Guide reads:
Keyboard and Keycaps
The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. The procedure for the space bar replacement has also changed from the previous model. Repair documentation and service videos will be available when keycap parts begins shipping.
When Apple announced the current generation MacBook Pro a week ago, it said the model included a third-generation “butterfly switch” keyboard that was “quieter” than those found on previous models. Once third-parties such as iFixit got a chance to look at the new keyboard more closely, however, it was discovered that each key was wrapped with a thin layer of silicone.
Most early users didn’t see a significant change with the keyboard, at least regarding the sound it makes when being used. Add this to the discovery of today’s internal document, and it’s becoming increasingly clear why the keyboard was changed — and it’s not what Apple has been saying publically.
Apple is currently faced with a class action lawsuit over the butterfly switch keyboards found on late model MacBook and MacBook Pro devices. Users claim dust and other debris can get into the keys too easily, thereby requiring a costly fix or replacement.
To date, Apple has never admitted there is a universal problem with these keyboards. However, last month it announced a keyboard service program that seems to address the issue.
As the support document announcing the program states:
Apple has determined that a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:
- Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
- Letters or characters do not appear
- Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner
The affected models include:
- 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)
The discovery of the internal document is terrible news for Apple, which has been trying to sell a story that “this new third-generation keyboard wasn’t designed to solve those [dust] issues.” Increasingly, that just doesn’t seem accurate. Perhaps the time has come for Apple to rethink that statement.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts below.