TF Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo, the most reliable Apple analyst out there, says the next MacBook Air and other upcoming Mac notebooks will ditch the problematic butterfly keyboard mechanism that’s been causing significant reliability issues and roll out a refreshed keyboard design based on the more traditional scissor-based typing mechanism instead.
For years, Mac notebook owners have been complaining about sticky keys on their MacBook Pro computers caused by specks of dust that get trapped inside the delicate, ultra-thin butterfly typing mechanism. The butterfly keyboard design made its debut on the one-port twelve-inch MacBook in 2015, gradually expanding over the ensuing years to the whole notebook lineup from the ultra portable MacBook Air to the regular MacBook and beyond.
In a note to investors seen by MacRumors, the revered analyst says that a MacBook Air refresh due in 2019 might adopt a more traditional scissor-based version because “many users think that the typing experience is not good due to the ultra-low key travel of the butterfly keyboard.”
The MacBook Pro line is also expected to adopt a keyboard based on the scissor mechanism starting in 2020. These scissor-based keyboards should be manufactured by Apple’s supplier Sunrex (Wistron currently produces butterfly keyboards for Mac notebooks). The Sunrex-made keyboards should enter mass production in 2020, the analyst noted.
We believe the partially refreshed MacBook Pro models will also adopt a new scissor keyboard in 2020. Shipments of MacBook models equipped with a new scissor keyboard will grow 500–700 percent year-over-year in 2020.
Though the butterfly keyboard is still thinner than the new scissor keyboard, we think most users can’t tell the difference. Furthermore, the new scissor keyboard could offer a better user experience and benefit Apple’s profits. Therefore, we predict that the butterfly keyboard may finally disappear in the long term.
The move should also help reduce costs given that the butterfly keyboard is between 250 percent and 350 percent costlier in production due to low production yields. And given recent advances, a scissor-based keyboard should be more reliable too:
There have been successful developments in the new scissor keyboard. The new keyboard could improve the typing experience by offering longer key travel and durability by adopting glass fiber to reinforce the keys’ structure.
The company has always insisted that only “a small number of users” are having issues with the butterfly mechanism in the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and other Mac notebooks.
Apple’s pursue of thinness pushed it to adopt the butterfly system but I don’t think Jony Ive’s exit has anything to do with them returning to the traditional keyboard mechanism. Yes, the issues are real and are probably affecting way more people than Apple is willing to admit. Reputational damage hasn’t been insignificant and I think Apple is wise to phase-out butterfly keyboards as soon as possible to put this whole mess behind it.
Apple’s made some changes to the butterfly mechanism in an attempt to alleviate the issues: recent models use a tweaked material for the springy metal domes in the switches along with a silicone membrane to reduce dust ingress. It also launched a keyboard service program for select Mac notebooks that was recently extended to include the latest models.
Have you had any issues so far with the butterfly keyboard?
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