back to article Apple's latest keyboard travels back in time to when they weren't crap

The MacBook keyboard nightmare is over – Apple's latest attempt reverts back to something remarkably similar to the key design it was using up until 2016. The one that worked. The geeks at iFixit have got their paws on a new MacBook Pro and are in the process of taking apart its keyboard. It's all but identical to the old …

  1. raving angry loony

    Bad keyboards...

    I'm surprised Apple didn't use the excuse that "You're typing wrong". Seems to be their go-to excuse when their design is a failure.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Bad keyboards...

      I believe the excuse was that ‘in space there is no dust so why can’t you all go into space. Also in space nobody can hear you hammering away on that awful keyboard’.*

      * In actual fact on a MacBook Pro that comes out as : ‘n apc tr no dt o why can't u a o nto apc. so n apc nobod can a ou amm rin awa on tat awfu kboar’

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bad keyboards...

        ‘n apc tr no dt o why can't u a o nto apc. so n apc nobod can a ou amm rin awa on tat awfu kboar’

        o'r tpn t wron

      2. Simon Harris Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Bad keyboards...

        In space, the computer to use is a GRiD GridCase 1535EXP.

        IMDB Aliens trivia

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Bad keyboards...

        "The geeks mused wistfully that maybe this is evidence of a new Apple more responsive to demands from customers for more easily repairable or upgradeable hardware..."

        No, it was just cheaper to make it that way. This is Apple after all.

    2. sad_loser

      Re: Bad keyboards...

      I have found the solution to my 2016 MBP keyboard problem on the System76 website.

      Linux done properly with decent quality components and a proper operating system that integrates with the hardware.

      I am enjoying life outside the walled garden

      I looked at google and MS and was truly shocked at their rights over my data.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bad keyboards...

        > I have found the solution to my 2016 MBP keyboard problem on the System76 website.

        I've just had a look on their website and I think I've found the answer to my 1990's laptop problem. They're all a bit XXL in the size stakes.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Bad keyboards...

      As an update, I just took my (almost new) MBP in to Apple to have the keyboard “replaced”. Rather hostile reception from the Genius Bar staffer who steadfastly maintained that there is nothing at all wrong with the keyboard and that I had got it wrong .. however they would take a look at the keyboard to see if it needs replacing. Then comes the egg-on-face bit as he admits that there is a 7 day delay due to the demand “and our engineers are working flat out”.

  2. ChrisElvidge

    "In 2018 Apple added a rubber prophylactic layer to keep out the gremlins, although publicly it insisted the move was to reduce noise."

    Was this a Jony addition?

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Was this a Jony addition?

      If it added > 0.0001mm, then no.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Hang on a second! Could it be that Jony Ive just invented the perfect condom?

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Coat

        RE: macjules

        "Like a baby's arm, holding an apple logo"

  3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

    I read that the design team for the 16" MBP explicitly had no restrictions on device thickness. So in addition to getting rid of the crap butterfly keyboard, they were also able to correct the thermal issues that constrained performance of the i9 in the previous model.

    Perhaps the departure of "Mr. Screw Functionality, Make It Thinner" will also mean larger batteries for future iPhones...

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

      Not to mention ports...

    2. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

      > will also mean larger batteries for future iPhones...

      well, I won't hold my breath for it

    3. Paradroid

      Re: Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

      That actually happened already in September for the 11 Pro (both sizes). Massive 4 hour increase in usage time over the equivalent model from the previous year. The phone is slightly thicker, and 3D Touch was removed to create more space for the battery.

      1. I sound like Peter Griffin!!

        Re: Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

        Even before that, the new Mac Pro can be upgraded by the user (once again)

        Maybe this IS a reflection of his grip being loosened..

        After all - the golden thread of his design philosophy is clear and Apple can make a big load of bank on that for a while yet; the key is to keep people happy which (for now) seems to slowly be manifesting as the focus..

    4. trevorde
      Megaphone

      Re: Post Jony Ive, maybe Apple products can work again

      0.2mm thicker!! ! OMG! Such a design faux pas. This blunder would *never* have happened under Jony Ive. He must be spitting chips.

      /sarcasm

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    Apple has keyboards that work again

    We truly are in the 3rd Millennium.

    Waiting for the iBoard, to hover my way to work.

    Any day now . . .

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the "new" key design going to be standard across the range?

    MBA & MBP 13" as well?

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "Apple's latest keyboard travels back in time to when they weren't crap"

    Is it the Apple A1048?

    No? As you were.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: "Apple's latest keyboard travels back in time to when they weren't crap"

      I still use mine daily, best one I think they've ever done (and it's still not a mechanical keyboard)

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: "Apple's latest keyboard travels back in time to when they weren't crap"

      Extended Keyboard II or GTFO!

      1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: "Apple's latest keyboard travels back in time to when they weren't crap"

        Agreed. the Apple Extended Keyboard II is a great (if loud) keyboard. Back when Apple made products so good, they still work well 30 years later.

        For those who want to use them on modern computers, the Wombat from BMOW's store is a two-way ADB-USB converter.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Apple Extended Keyboard II

          Another hear!hear! here.

          You can also buy their recreation freshly made using the same kit:

          Matias's TactilePro

          & a Quiet version

          Very happy user, unreserved recommendation.

  7. bpfh Silver badge

    I have to admit...

    I really really like the butterfly switch, I've never typed faster... though I did get a cold sweat when crud got stuck under a key and it blocked....

    Oh well, if my next computer has classic switches, I will go and buy a Unicomp Spacesaver M / MacOS X. I would not want my colleagues to miss the sound of me mashing the keys when I get worked up on an Engineering ticket >:D

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c9DaaZOc7g

  8. ovation1357
    Thumb Down

    Is it still a chiclet keyboard? Yes? Ok, then no thanks!

    We still have Apple to thank for the fact that it's now nigh-on impossible to buy a laptop with a proper keyboard after all the others decided to copy this trendy but highly impractical rubbish.

    It's good news that they're back to using 'proper' key switches but how about, new for 2021, they can make give the keys more shape and travel, with less wasted space between them. Oh and while they're at it I'll have the Function keys back, along with Del and page up/down please.

    I'm still clinging very firmly to my Lenovo T520 with a proper keyboard until such a time as this era of terrible keyboard lunacy is over.

    It unlikely I'll ever buy a Mac but if Apple can please start a trend towards 'retro' keyboards now, then in a couple of years I'll be less annoyed about the fact that just about every laptop on the market looks like a Macbook clone or a bastard child thereof.

  9. Graybyrd
    Facepalm

    Celebrate what, exactly?

    So now that Apple appears to be taking a tiny step back from selling hugely over-priced laptops with crap keyboards, we're supposed to celebrate? Is that an element of the Apple Reality-Distortion syndrome?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Celebrate what, exactly?

      "Is that an element of the Apple Reality-Distortion syndrome?"

      Most definitely. Those day, we are celebrating the fact a 2400 bucks laptop has every key working.

      World = banana.

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "new Apple more responsive to demands from customers"

    It's a new Apple more responsive to class-action lawsuits, more likely.

  11. herman Silver badge
    Happy

    Finally can replace my 2012 Macbook Pro

    My 2012 Macbook Pro still goes just as well as the day I bought it, but I would like some more speed and storage - finally!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Finally can replace my 2012 Macbook Pro

      With a 2012 MacBook Pro you can add more internal storage whenever you want and you can speed it up by making it an SSD.

      Now did you want to do change a 2019 MacBook Pro's storage? Because SSDs have never been known to die, right? Sorry, you're out of luck.

  12. Alex Read

    wait, so no 'we asked Apple for comment...'

  13. Tessier-Ashpool

    Clodhopping Windoze users

    It’s true that the recent MBP keyboards are horribly susceptible to dust ingress, which is basically an unforgivable design error. But in all other respects I like my MBP keyboard. I type on it quite effortlessly. And gracefully!

    I attended an IT workshop a while back, and I lent my laptop briefly to a Windows user (I was running Win 10 on a VM at the time). Christ Almighty, I had to wince when I saw him thumping away at my keyboard like someone digging up a road with a pneumatic drill. It’s a miracle it survived the onslaught.

    1. quxinot Silver badge

      Re: Clodhopping Windoze users

      >It’s true that the recent MBP keyboards are horribly susceptible to dust ingress, which is basically an unforgivable design error. But in all other respects I like my MBP keyboard. I type on it quite effortlessly. And gracefully!<

      It's true that my car doesn't start most of the time and keeps leaking oil, which any knobface should have caught in preproduction. But in all other aspects, I love driving it, so effortlessly. And gracefully!

      Function > *

  14. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Holmes

    idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

    Still an idiot magnet as long as it lacks ports, the RAM and storage are soldered.

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

      Zzzz, if you're an IT professional you should know - or at least have a very good idea - how much RAM and storage you will need for the life of the device. Which isn't forever, by the way. If you don't, trade it in; MacBooks have a fantastic resale value.

      You can add as much external storage to a MBP as you like.

      Apple absolutely made the right decision in providing four identical USB-C Thunderbolt ports. With appropriate cables or adapters, they are flexible enough to connect any peripheral you care to think of. Still missing that 3.5" floppy disk slot, are you?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

        Let us count the ways...

        1. Not everyone is an IP professional.

        2. People's usage may change, the machine may have to be pressed into use for something else which, if it's unexpandable, it's not suitable for.

        3. You may sell it to someone who will find the machine unsuitable due to 1 or 2 and can't do anything about it.

        4. You can add as much external storage as you like to any other computer too.

        5. With the appropriate cables and adaptors, you too can make a £2,500 machine look like a 48K Spectrum with microdrives hanging off the side.

        6. Never heard of a 3.5" floppy via Thunderbolt, but I'm sure I could just plug it into the USB-A slot. Oh. Repeat for ad infinitum devices.

        7. It's still unexpandable and bordering on unrepairable.

        1. Tessier-Ashpool

          Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

          1. Unless you are an IT professional you are very unlikely to need huge amounts of RAM or internal storage. You DO NOT find hordes of users on the internet complaining that they are hampered by the capability of the device they bought. You DO find hordes of users moaning that they can't fiddle with the internals. Get a different device.

          2. People's use may indeed change. If you need radically more RAM or internal storage, trade it in for a more capable machine.

          3. A purchaser's problem is not your problem.

          4. And your point is? You were the one moaning about storage.

          5. With an inappropriate number of ports and slots, you can make a £2,500 machine look like something out of a 1980s scrapyard. This argument has been debunked time and time again. The MBP ports are absolutely fine for the vast majority of users. For every pro photographer who complains about the lack of sn SD slot, you will find a dozen users who really don't give a damn. Your use case is not everybody's use case.

          6. If you're crazy enough, here's the cable you are after: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Belkin-USB-C-Cable-USB-IF-Certified/dp/B00WJSPB5A

          7. So you keep on saying. But the point is they *can* be repaired and you get a lot of money back if you trade in. Much more so than you would with any other brand of laptop.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

            1-6. Somehow in back-to-front Apple world the lack of storage and memory options are features and any differences can be made up by a) choosing a different machine in the first place or b) trading in and buying a whole new computer.

            Apple's legendary design team can't fit a USB-A port or two in there but will be happy to sell you yet another dongle.

            It's absurd.

            7. On the subject of repair I defer to Louis Rossmann:

            Apple make the parts impossible to get hold of.

            They push customers into buying a new device or paying a huge amount to replace the whole board instead of to just fix the broken part.

            And their products have repeated design failures.

            There are so.many problems that someone who repairs them for a living can't recommend one newer than 2012.

            And that's where we are today, it took four years for Apple to go back to to their previous keyboard design and we are apparently supposed to be in awe of this new machine that is still still unrepairable and unexpandable. The only thing it has going for it is it holds its price relatively well because there's always someone more gullible than you are.

            1. I sound like Peter Griffin!!

              Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

              When (if) you bought your car, did you not observe that your options are performance/capacity limited depending on use case? If you live in Europe and you want to drive a diesel car, your diesel-driving days are numbered - nothing you can do about that (or seat belts for that matter)

              When (if) you bought your house, did you not observe that houses are capacity/feature/layout-constrained depending on budget, location, market value and other such factors? If you live in Europe and you want to heat your home with gas, your gas-central-heating days are numbered - nothing you can do about that

              The Apple 'offer' (which is ALL it is) represents a lot of things that people somehow REFUSE to concede influence other purchases they make, such as:

              - Unique offering to the market of Hardware/Software integration to Pro capability (despite MANY howls, NOBODY has achieved/offered similarwith commitment and longevity, and IMHO that's sufficient for them to associate an abstract additional value to the bare bones that constitute the technical offering, as well as the invisible but ever-present LIKE IT OR LUMP IT label)

              - Market-influencing technology integrations (often ahead of time, researched fairly well given complexity and inevitably copied by the less creative lot (READ: the rest of the market who cannot afford or won't invest in design innovation)

              - Consistently high resale value on typical 2-to-5-year ownership cycles (duration of course depending on product; e.g. when I buy an iPhone I KNOW I'm getting half the retail value back if I take care of the phone over 3-4 years and it helps that Apple continue to issue relevant updates all the way through those cycles, unlike some)

              - Highly commendable environmental credentials (NOTE I did not say perfect coz nobody is, but surely a laptop made from recycled aluminum carries better base credentials and inherent value than the £299 plastic injection molded offering from <just_about_every_other_mainstream_manufacturer> )

              - Better control over 'secure-by-design' ambition than anyone relying on a less tightly-controlled Hardware/Software integration in the mainstream Consumer space especially (How many years did it take Google to admit that checking code on apps submitted to Play Store was a good idea?)

              I think I speak for a fair few Apple users who are willing to engage with the options (flaws and all) - most of us really don't need to hear constant winging and trolling from seemingly jealous entities who will inevitably align with that which they complained about.

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

                Something about central heating and diesel cars.

                Fish.

                Unique offering to the market of Hardware/Software integration to Pro capability

                Just because they slap Pro in the name, it doesn't make it Pro. That wastepaper basket was labelled Pro, but it wasn't up to the job. Most laptops are clocked slower than spec to keep them from overheating.

                NOBODY has achieved/offered similarwith commitment and longevity

                Apart from, say, UNIX or Linux.

                Market-influencing technology integrations

                What does this mean and does it include the Catalina mess?

                Highly commendable environmental credentials

                Unless you want to upgrade or repair. Even Apple's repairs consist of just throwing out the mother board and putting a new one in.

                Better control over 'secure-by-design' ambition

                goto fail; Root login by mashing return. Amongst others.

                most of us really don't need to hear constant winging and trolling from seemingly jealous entities who will inevitably align with that which they complained about.

                I have two Apple machines, after six years I was finally tempted by the latest Mac Mini until I realised what the T2 chip meant with regards to on-board storage (impossible to replace). They have the unmitigated gall to market that as a server machine, you know.

                Apple under Cook makes glued-up unrepairable expensive machines with specifically limited port options so that you have to buy additional dongles and a side business out of fleecing people for repairs. Until this changes I won't consider buying a new machine.

                1. I sound like Peter Griffin!!

                  Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

                  Not FISH - a contextual argument about gradual adoption of once-unpalatable concepts into the mainstream e.g. heating most homes in Europe without using Gas, or driving a car without a seatbelt, or I dunno, Smartphones without user-replaceable batteries or 3.5mm headphone jacks..?

                  Unique offering being the hardware/software COMBINATION developed alongside each other and exclusively for each other - even you cannot deny the amount of work that's gone into making macOS a lot more mainstream consumer-friendly than <insert_a_distro_name_here>. Surface has arrived (relatively) recently from Microsoft and is effectively a concession about the need to apply internal controls and standards on both the hardware and software.

                  Market-influencing technology integrations refers to being right at the top of the "how do we take the best of what's out there and wrap it up in a useful, attractive, performant mass-market product" chain.. What component did Apple include in the original iPhone that didn't exist on the market prior? Probably none. Had ANYONE managed to package the same 'existing' technologies in such a compelling way prior to Apple? No, and yet now EVERYONE folows the formula - give Apple THAT if nothing else. I'm not on top of the entire Catalina hoopla but the little I understand is that a lot of outcry is about 32-bit applications no longer being tolerated (after repeated warnings from as far back as what, Lion or earlier) - sorting application compatibility before upgrade has been common sense since upgrades existed..

                  I concede that Apple products are not 100% recyclable, user-repairable or upgradable, but no comparable product is - even a dead ASUS motherboard is a dead motherboard.. As a business in a market where their most lucrative expertise appears to be (I hate to go there again) 'Market-influencing technology integrations', they have to strike a balance between GIVING their advantage away and doing the best they can to limit environmental impact. I note you don't defend the injection-mould plastic casing on a £299 bargain-basement laptop - if you took the 2019 MacBook Pro and the £299 PCWorld/BestBuy loss-leader brand new and buried them in the ground, which degrades more kindly for the planet after X years? They're not perfect but my personal opinion is not many are even close..

                  I'm sure most security experts will tell you if someone has physical access to your machine, you've got greater things to worry about than whether mashing return will give them root access.

                  The T2 issue i think you're referring to is the 3rd party component management capability - my perspective aligns with the business value of trusting that the replaceable hardware components one bought with their server are still in situ, vs possibly having one's components replaced with a dodgy device that does a hell of a lot more than the original was intended. T2 didn't make it impossible to replace certain components with 3rd party - it just required the involvement of Apple or certified resellers to (arguably) ensure what is being fitted is at known risk and with visibility to the manufacturer (who might get blamed when that 3rd-party SSD upgrade sends all your blueprints to <insert_h4ckor_here>)

                  I stand by my original arguments - it's all about context

          2. BigSLitleP Silver badge

            Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

            Sounds to me like someone has money to burn, which is probably why they bought a macbook.....

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: idiotMagnet as long as Memory and Storage not modular

      Still an idiot magnet as long as it lacks ports, the RAM and storage are soldered.

      It's not just Apple that's solder-crazy. Try upgrading RAM or storage in a Surface device, for just one example. Seems like anymore, a higher price means lower upgradeability / repairability.

  15. jeffty

    Full teardown is out...

    https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+16-Inch+2019+Teardown/128106

    Minor components are modular, but the processor, RAM, and flash memory are soldered to the logic board.

    Glue and/or rivets secure the keyboard, battery, speakers, and Touch Bar, making those components a tricky fix.

    The Touch ID sensor is the power switch and is locked to the logic board, greatly complicating repairs.

    1/10 for repairability. Anyone rivetting components into a laptop in this day and age can't hide behind the excuse of making it "easier to recycle".

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 people who still care about Mac

    1. Tim Cook

    2.

    3.

    4.

    5.

    1. Lorin Thwaits

      Re: 1 person who only cares about iOS

      Tim really only cares about the iPad, methinks. It's the rest of us that mostly care about the Mac. Will be a sad day if the great platform of OSX gets traded out for iOS. A very sad day.

  17. Swiss Anton

    Apple missed a trick here

    I'm surprised they didn't go for a collection of individual wireless keys, each with their own unreplaceable battery.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When can I get a laptop with a buckling spring keyboard?

    1. quxinot Silver badge

      >When can I get a laptop with a buckling spring keyboard?

      It's a "b", and there's an "l" in that word.

      I had to read it several times before I saw that.

      To be more serious, I'd think some of the mid 80's luggables might qualify, though I couldn't find any in my comprehensive 18-second search.

  19. P. Lee Silver badge

    Can I interest anyone at Apple in a ZX81...

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      ZX81 -> 380Z

      Roll up roll up, I see your ZX81 and raise you an even more robust 380Z

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: ZX81 -> 380Z

        Does it come with the original rubber bands holding the boards in place? :)

        Also, when the power key "lock" fails... much hilarity.

  20. DenTheMan

    The bottom line is...

    ...... Apple would rather you did not report the built in obscelescence that is or was an aid to repeat sales.

    Forcing the customer to replace the whole unit for a keyboard failure/fault is pure genius.

  21. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Less fat!

    "The problems began in 2015 and 2016 for the MacBook Pro. Apple chose to create a thinner keyboard with less key travel..."

    I don't understand Apple's fixation on making everything thinner. I mean, why???

    If they made (say) their latest phone twice as thick (that'd be about the thickness of 2 sheets of 80gm paper rather than 1), then they could cram in a battery at least twice the size and it would run twice as long. That would be WAY more useful to 99.999999% of people than the ability to bend it by just looking at it sternly.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Less fat!

      Sometimes I feel a bit sorry phone hardware designers... They put an enormous amount of effort into making devices that are generally mechnically superb, are as thin as possible and generally look good.

      ...only for the average user to stick them in the cheapest, nastiest, thickest phone case imaginable. Oh, and shatter the screen, that appears to be a requirement too.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm working on a design for the most unrepairable laptop...

    I'm hoping to sell it to Apple.

    1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

      Re: I'm working on a design for the most unrepairable laptop...

      Not being mean but Apple have whole design teams dedicated to making their laptops unrepairable. What makes you think you can join their illustrious team?

  23. mediabeing

    Good article. Bravo.

  24. N2 Silver badge
    Trollface

    All hail the new MacBook Pro

    Thats Pro for Prophylactic.

    I can see they have really stretched the design team to the limits to create this one...

    Until they have decent keyboards, like they used to and end user replacable components, we all know what they are including ports for USB 3, SD card and network ports they can in the politest possible way Foxtrott Oscar.

    I mean even a hard disc is the size of a thick fag paper these days, not exactly large why not offer an exchangeable bay for disc no2 as well?.

    Mean while S/H MBPs provide everything I need and far more useful.

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