Initial failures of Apple's butterfly keyboard doomed it from the start

Apple’s “bold” butterfly keyboard won’t be missed, but it’s a bit unfair to burn the earth behind it – and there are good reasons to buy a 2019 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro model.


Call Butterfly Keyboard Introduces Larger Key Caps

Apple has had more than its fair share of products that are worshiped, and maybe just as many hated products. However, before you dismiss the butterfly keyboard as something no one has ever liked, remember where it came from.

The butterfly keyboard was introduced with the MacBook 2015, which was appreciated. When Apple abandoned it in 2019, no one congratulated them for abandoning a butterfly keyboard machine, they lamented that Apple is abandoning us by deleting it.

But, we are not here to rent the butterfly keyboard. We are certainly not here to congratulate the initial introduction of Tim Cook.

“We challenged ourselves to take everything we learned from designing iPhone and iPad,” he said, “and to do something incredibly ambitious and daring.”

And we are here, however, to examine how the reports of his failings were true, but exaggerated. No doubt, if this keyboard went wrong for you, it went wrong and the machine – MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro – immediately became unusable.

And no doubt, Appleiphonestop has proven that keyboard failures were more important for this first design.

Second, there is no doubt either that there has been a lot of news about these failures, or that Apple has introduced repair programs that have been launched right next to the products they repaired.

And in 2020, writer / director Taika Waititi really summed up a lot of discomfort when he lambasted Apple for all of its keyboards in recent years.

Failures and quality

However, in the five years that passed between the launch of the butterfly keyboard and its erasure from the Apple range in 2020, most of the heat was related to its reliability rather than to the sensation of which Waititi spoke.

More people said their keyboards were broken than they said they didn’t like their feel. There were many people who preferred the old MacBooks for their keyboards, but many liked to type on the new one.

Phil Schiller explains the difference between the old scissor system and the new butterfly in 2015
Phil Schiller explains the difference between the old scissor system and the new butterfly in 2015

“This butterfly mechanism is built in one package and is supported by a stainless steel dome switch,” said Phil Schiller at the launch. “And all of that adds up to a much more precise and precise wrench. In fact, it is four times more stable than this scissor mechanism.”

“However, it is 40% thinner, which allows us to make a thinner keyboard,” he continued. “And we have also enlarged the key cap, which makes it even easier to strike and get a great typing experience.”

The finesse is true, without doubt the greatest stability is also. Schiller then reported that Apple had increased key caps by 17%, “which makes it even easier to hit and get a nice typing experience”, and we have no doubts about him.

Looking back, however, we question one of his enthusiastic comments. Explaining how the old-fashioned scissor mechanism worked, he said “and there was a time when it was great, but now there is something new”.

Magic keyboard

When the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released in November 2019, Apple reverted to this once awesome scissor mechanism, but managed to find a way to spin it. Now calling it the magic keyboard, Apple could talk about the introduction of the famous Mac desktop keyboard to MacBooks.

Apple might give the impression that it was something new, rather than a flip-flop. Apple could go ahead without admitting that the butterfly mechanism had not worked. And without telling the lawyers that he had sold a broken keyboard for five years now.

Regardless of the name or presentation, however, as soon as this 16-inch MacBook Pro came out, two things happened. Everyone crosses their fingers so that the new keyboard arrives in the rest of the range. And suddenly, the noise of the old butterfly mechanism became more discussed.

But still, there is a discussion, there is an anecdote – and there are the facts.

Appleiphonestop investigated

It should not be forgotten that there was not just one butterfly keyboard, there were several revisions and generations. Apple has not let this go without a fight, and it has made significant changes – in every sense of that phrase – throughout its five years of life.

This means that it is not possible to make an overall statement on the reliability of the butterfly keyboard, but Appleiphonestop has not tried. Instead, we collected service data, actual numbers from the number of repairs, and we did this for each year the keyboard was available.

The data comes from both Apple Genius bars and third party repair shops authorized by Apple. These are the people who see and repair or replace the butterfly keyboards and do it all the time.

Butterfly keyboard promised a more stable typing experience
Butterfly keyboard promised a more stable typing experience

For comparison, we took the data for the MacBook Pro models that were on sale in 2014 and 2015, and then looked at the number of service events they had in their first year. Or, in the year following the purchase, the number of machines that encountered problems that were dealt with by our sources.

Comparing this to the first year of the butterfly keyboard, we saw about twice as many keyboard failures. It was still only a small proportion of the problems to be repaired, but the keyboards were brought down to be solved much more than before.

But that changed after 2016. It changed quite dramatically, with the data we collected on the 2018 and mid-2019 MacBook Pro returning to the same levels as the much-touted MacBook Pro models from 2012 to 2015.

It’s hard to say how this 2016 model is doing now. Over the years, fewer and fewer people are entering service for a variety of reasons. But, we don’t see any bad long-term trends on the 2018 or 2019 iterations of the Butterfly keyboard, so if you like the typing experience, don’t be afraid to get one.

Apple Butterfly Keyboard Chess and Future

So the pinnacle of the butterfly keyboard failure was in its infancy, in the first generation, and Apple has come a long way to fix the problem. Or rather, it helped a lot to solve the technical problems, because they could not do much besides putting a membrane to calm the noise, given the short movement of the keys.

For several reasons, the butterfly keyboard has been seen as problematic, and it has never shaken it, and it will never shake it. Apple has proven itself in iterating designs until they work, but this failed this time.

And interestingly, it’s a subject worth examining – but neither are we here just to examine the past. Because even if Apple no longer sells new models of MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro containing a butterfly keyboard, you can still get them.

You can even get them from Apple, for a little longer, via its renovated store. And they will remain in circulation with third-party sellers for some time.

In addition, their prices will now always be significantly lower than newer models. This is still true when Apple releases an update, but we may well see larger price cuts, particularly due to this perceived keyboard failure.

Which means that right now it might well be worth buying a 2019 model machine. If you don’t need bigger specifications or more storage options, last year’s models are contenders.

Just don’t buy a 2016.

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