2019 MacBook Pro keyboard changes don't look like they're going to do much

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware
A teardown of the newly-released 2019 MacBook Pro finds that Apple has made some changes to switch covers and to the dome switches themselves, but it isn't clear what, if anything, the material shift will do to alleviate keyboard complaints.

2019 MacBook Pro keyboard


Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy shows that switch covers for the keyboard have moved to polyamide -- nylon -- from the polyacetylene with aromatic urethane side groups used in 2018 Pros, iFixit said on Friday. The metal dome switches for the keyboards also appear to have changed, whether through new surface treatments or a new alloy. It could be ferritic stainless steel with a thin polymer coating.

If those domes crack or deform, keyboards can malfunction, iFixit noted. Apple's changes are likely to deal with long-standing complaints about MacBook keys double-typing or becoming unresponsive. A free repair program was recently extended to more MacBooks.

The company promised enhanced butterfly keyboards when launching the new Pros earlier this week, but has been relatively vague on what's actually been done.

Apple doesn't appear to have made any changes to address the thermal situation inside the MacBook Pro, and repairability is still minimal, iFixit added. While the trackpad can be replaced with little effort, the processor, RAM, and SSD are soldered to the logic board.

The entire top case assembly -- including the battery, keyboard, speakers, and Touch Bar -- is glued together as it has been since the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro. Additionally, since the Touch ID sensor doubles as the power switch and is linked with Apple's T2 coprocessor, simply fixing that switch may force people to go to Apple or get a new logic board.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    bsimpsenbsimpsen Posts: 274member
    If you believe that the actual failure rate of MacBook Pro keyboards is far lower than it appears from reports in the press (which is Apple's claim), there may not be anything Apple can do to reduce the "apparent" failure rate, except wait it all out while making whatever small changes, if any, are suggested by actual field failure analysis.
    StrangeDaysMaurizioRayz2016radarthekat
  • Reply 2 of 47
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    Oh boy...the internet is going to explode with this report! 

    Instead of playing the wait and see approach, let's just jump to conclusions and bitch about the keyboard instead. 
    StrangeDaysemoellerDAalsethrogifan_newpulseimagesRayz2016
  • Reply 3 of 47
    Every laptop manufacturer on the planet has keyboard complaints. It's one of the parts that can fail. Nobody has designed a failure proof mechanical keyboard.
    StrangeDaysSoundJudgmentradarthekat
  • Reply 4 of 47
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,564member
    Despite tech media hand-waiving from the usual players, we just haven't seen any real data to imply Apple is, in fact, lying. Personally I doubt they're lying, as they're a publicly traded company and can get into hot water if they lie about the state of their company. AI has hinted at having some guesses of repair incidents based on a insider leakers at an unknown number of stores, but I don't recall seeing the actual numbers, in black & white. In the interest of transparency, we'd need to know the number of stores in the survey group, the number of general incidents, and the number of keyboard specific incidents.
    Rayz2016radarthekat
  • Reply 5 of 47
    It's pretty clear that Apple's recent "update" to the MacBook Pro is just a stop gate until the re-designed 16" model gets released.  If you go to their website it's buried under "Mac" and not even on the front page.  I have been waiting for a few years to upgrade and now I'll wait another 6 months (or more) I guess.  I wish there was the "fire" burning under the team like there used to be back before 2011-2012 period.  It just feels like everyone is coasting, more concerned with the design of their Pacific Heights mansions or traveling for awards shows or speeches than kicking ass and staying on top of things.  I'm just disappointed to say the least.
  • Reply 6 of 47
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,567administrator
    Despite tech media hand-waiving from the usual players, we just haven't seen any real data to imply Apple is, in fact, lying. Personally I doubt they're lying, as they're a publicly traded company and can get into hot water if they lie about the state of their company. AI has hinted at having some guesses of repair incidents based on a insider leakers at an unknown number of stores, but I don't recall seeing the actual numbers, in black & white. In the interest of transparency, we'd need to know the number of stores in the survey group, the number of general incidents, and the number of keyboard specific incidents.
    I've addressed several times why we aren't doing this to the extent that you want.

    There are some numbers that you're looking for in the first keyboard failure rate piece we did. https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/30/2016-macbook-pro-butterfly-keyboards-failing-twice-as-frequently-as-older-models
    edited May 24 muthuk_vanalingam1STnTENDERBITSSoundJudgment
  • Reply 7 of 47
    ndnycndnyc Posts: 8member
    Hey Roger, unless you’re a keyboard designer with decades of experience, you have absolutely no basis for making a judgment as to whether these changes are going to “do much.” It makes you and AI look like idiots and trolls. When you’re dealing with “dust” particles causing keyboard failures, will changing the materials from one polymer to another make a difference? I don’t know and neither do you. I’m as frustrated with these keyboards as anyone, but announcing in the headline that the changes don’t look like they’re going to do much is really disingenuous.
    StrangeDayscanukstormSoundJudgmentRayz2016
  • Reply 8 of 47
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,138member
    Every laptop manufacturer on the planet has keyboard complaints. It's one of the parts that can fail. Nobody has designed a failure proof mechanical keyboard.
    I’ve not had a keyboard failure on my MacBook Pro 3,1, my MacBook Pro 5,5, nor either of my two wired aluminum keyboards from around 2009-2010. I use them regularly (well, the 3,1 machine committed suicide by nvidia, but the keyboard was fine at the time).

    I can’t recall ever having a keyboard failure on anything that’s younger than 30 years old. My only problematic keyboard is attached to a second-hand Atari ST.
    pulseimagesstevenozjgojcajtipoo
  • Reply 9 of 47
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,567administrator
    ndnyc said:
    Hey Roger, unless you’re a keyboard designer with decades of experience, you have absolutely no basis for making a judgment as to whether these changes are going to “do much.” It makes you and AI look like idiots and trolls. When you’re dealing with “dust” particles causing keyboard failures, will changing the materials from one polymer to another make a difference? I don’t know and neither do you. I’m as frustrated with these keyboards as anyone, but announcing in the headline that the changes don’t look like they’re going to do much is really disingenuous.
    We do have people we talk to, and I have a degree in physical chemistry with a minor in material science, following a eight-year tour as a reactor chemist in the US Navy. 

    So, we're comfortable in saying so. It's also pretty telling that the 2019 model is already listed on the four-year REA for the keyboard.
    edited May 24 kirkgraymuthuk_vanalingam1STnTENDERBITSchemenginpulseimagesSoundJudgmentdedgeckoednlradarthekatfastasleep
  • Reply 10 of 47
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 438member
    I pulled the plug replacing my early 2013 MBP to the late 2018 high end machine.   I did so after following keyboard issues and Apple's fall processor updates (and took advantage of AppleInsider's sponsors for great discounts)  I have been using this machine every day for 8-12 hours with zero issues with the keyboard.  Although it took some initial adjustment I now love the keyboard travel and, for me, I find it the best I have ever used.  

    As keyboards are (still) mechanical they will always have the potential for mechanical failure.  But I am happy that Apple has extended the keyboard warranty (although I don't believe I will ever need it) and expect to keep this MBP for 5-7 years before next replacement.
    correctionsdedgeckofastasleep
  • Reply 11 of 47
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,564member
    ndnyc said:
    Hey Roger, unless you’re a keyboard designer with decades of experience, you have absolutely no basis for making a judgment as to whether these changes are going to “do much.” It makes you and AI look like idiots and trolls. When you’re dealing with “dust” particles causing keyboard failures, will changing the materials from one polymer to another make a difference? I don’t know and neither do you. I’m as frustrated with these keyboards as anyone, but announcing in the headline that the changes don’t look like they’re going to do much is really disingenuous.
    We do have people we talk to, and I have a degree in physical chemistry with a minor in material science, following a eight-year tour as a reactor chemist in the US Navy. 

    So, we're comfortable in saying so. It's also pretty telling that the 2019 model is already listed on the four-year REA for the keyboard.
    No offense since being a nuclear reactor chemist in the navy is impressive...but that isn't exactly transferrable to being a CE hardware engineer. I agree that it is strange to lead with a conclusion (eg "won't do much") rather than let data & observation science lead one to the conclusion (eg "this is what has been observed in the field at X locations over Y time period").
    pulseimagesdedgeckoRayz2016
  • Reply 12 of 47
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,567administrator
    ndnyc said:
    Hey Roger, unless you’re a keyboard designer with decades of experience, you have absolutely no basis for making a judgment as to whether these changes are going to “do much.” It makes you and AI look like idiots and trolls. When you’re dealing with “dust” particles causing keyboard failures, will changing the materials from one polymer to another make a difference? I don’t know and neither do you. I’m as frustrated with these keyboards as anyone, but announcing in the headline that the changes don’t look like they’re going to do much is really disingenuous.
    We do have people we talk to, and I have a degree in physical chemistry with a minor in material science, following a eight-year tour as a reactor chemist in the US Navy. 

    So, we're comfortable in saying so. It's also pretty telling that the 2019 model is already listed on the four-year REA for the keyboard.
    No offense since being a nuclear reactor chemist in the navy is impressive...but that isn't exactly transferrable to being a CE hardware engineer. I agree that it is strange to lead with a conclusion (eg "won't do much") rather than let data & observation science lead one to the conclusion (eg "this is what has been observed in the field at X locations over Y time period").
    It is not directly, no, and no offense taken. But given the knowledge gleaned from the minor, what Apple has done here is shift to a material that has more of a static charge, and less of a stiction than the previous. Based on not just my interpretation, but the other people we've spoken to, this will help Apple with the clean outs in-shop, necessitating fewer replacements as a whole. These calls are why were were later than our competition on this story.

    This will save them time and money, but doesn't look like it will help the end-user. What it doesn't look like it's going to do at all is cut back on Genius Bar visits.

    Our opinion on the keyboard hasn't changed. It is a low percent of users that are seeing failures. It is also, at the same time, higher than it should be.

    If we're wrong when we get the data in about six months, we'll say so.
    edited May 24 chemengindedgeckoradarthekat
  • Reply 13 of 47
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,612member
    It's pretty clear that Apple's recent "update" to the MacBook Pro is just a stop gate ...
    In other words, you're substituting your "guess" as fact.  You have zero idea.  

    Manufacturers always evolve their products.  The rationale that people like you make is that unless something is perfect (which nothing ever is) then it's an obvious mistake and every improvement made is proof the company was hiding the truth and that you were right.

    If Apple doesn't do anything, you'll criticize Apple for having a flawed product.  If Apple does something, you'll criticize Apple for improving said product.

    Apple can't win.
    edited May 24
  • Reply 14 of 47
    macxpress said:
    Oh boy...the internet is going to explode with this report! 

    Instead of playing the wait and see approach, let's just jump to conclusions and bitch about the keyboard instead. 
    The prognosticators are going to have a field day, amirite? :D

    On topic:
    Here's to hoping the changes help mitigate the keyboard issues for future buyers.  The headline imo, though provocative, does seem to mirror Apple's confidence in the "fix" since this keyboard has been preemptively added to the repair program.  This seems like the 3rd mitigation to be thrown against the wall with the hopes that it will stick.  If it doesn't... oh well, it 's already in the program.  
  • Reply 15 of 47
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,979member
    It's pretty clear that Apple's recent "update" to the MacBook Pro is just a stop gate until the re-designed 16" model gets released.  If you go to their website it's buried under "Mac" and not even on the front page.  I have been waiting for a few years to upgrade and now I'll wait another 6 months (or more) I guess.  I wish there was the "fire" burning under the team like there used to be back before 2011-2012 period.  It just feels like everyone is coasting, more concerned with the design of their Pacific Heights mansions or traveling for awards shows or speeches than kicking ass and staying on top of things.  I'm just disappointed to say the least.
    But the 16” model won’t be for everybody and I’m guessing will be very expensive.
  • Reply 16 of 47
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,979member
    macxpress said:
    Oh boy...the internet is going to explode with this report! 

    Instead of playing the wait and see approach, let's just jump to conclusions and bitch about the keyboard instead. 
    The prognosticators are going to have a field day, amirite? :D

    On topic:
    Here's to hoping the changes help mitigate the keyboard issues for future buyers.  The headline imo, though provocative, does seem to mirror Apple's confidence in the "fix" since this keyboard has been preemptively added to the repair program.  This seems like the 3rd mitigation to be thrown against the wall with the hopes that it will stick.  If it doesn't... oh well, it 's already in the program.  
    Seems only fair to reserve judgement until some actual reviews come out. A tear down from iFixit isn’t a review. This is one of the things I hate about iFixit. They rush to get products to tear down and then throw it up on their site for clicks. iFixit is just guessing and then sites like The Verge are ruining with iFixit’s guesses rather than waiting until they have a unit they can test. 
    FizzyPandatht
  • Reply 17 of 47
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,957member
    Without proper testing in lab or having enough time in usage in people's hand, stop hypnotizing something you guessing may not have fixed.





  • Reply 18 of 47
    smiffy31smiffy31 Posts: 177member
    And you need to remember. Apple has every single replacement keyboard in house and sent to the keyboard team for analysis. Something no one else has. So they probably know what caused the failures.
    edited May 24
  • Reply 19 of 47
    Like many here, this feels like a pretty bad headline and opening paragraph from AppleInsider, especially after they had an article about how we shouldn't jump to conclusions and look at the actual data. While these changes don't change the "Feel" or style of the keyboard, these small changes may be all that is needed to fix the reliability issues, time and data will give us the true answer.
  • Reply 20 of 47
    macxpress said:
    Oh boy...the internet is going to explode with this report! 

    Instead of playing the wait and see approach, let's just jump to conclusions and bitch about the keyboard instead. 
    The prognosticators are going to have a field day, amirite? :D

    On topic:
    Here's to hoping the changes help mitigate the keyboard issues for future buyers.  The headline imo, though provocative, does seem to mirror Apple's confidence in the "fix" since this keyboard has been preemptively added to the repair program.  This seems like the 3rd mitigation to be thrown against the wall with the hopes that it will stick.  If it doesn't... oh well, it 's already in the program.  
    Seems only fair to reserve judgement until some actual reviews come out. A tear down from iFixit isn’t a review. This is one of the things I hate about iFixit. They rush to get products to tear down and then throw it up on their site for clicks. iFixit is just guessing and then sites like The Verge are ruining with iFixit’s guesses rather than waiting until they have a unit they can test. 
    What iFixit guesses are you referencing?  Surely your not attributing AI's opinion that the keyboard changes won't do much to iFixit. ← intended :)   iFixit had nothing to do with that opinion.  As for reserving judgment for reviews, how exactly would that help assess the efficacy of the keyboard changes?  That doesn't make sense.  You say sites like the Verge should wait until they have a unit to test.  Then what?  What test are they supposed to run that is going to assess the keyboard changes?

    As for expressing an opinion now.  The original was flawed.  So was the replacement.  As was the replacement's replacement...and the replacement's replacement's replacement.  Why would one have confidence this latest fix is going to be the One.  I mean, if it was code named Neo during development I'd have some optimism.  This fix seems more like a fingers crossed, hope this works kinda deal.  


    edited May 24
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