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Apple’s sticky key problem isn’t going away on the 2018 MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro Touch Bar
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although Apple introduced an updated third-generation butterfly switch keyboard with the latest MacBook Pro refresh on Thursday, July 12, it did not address a major pain from last year’s MacBook models. While the new keyboard will be even quieter when you type compared to the 2017 MacBook Pro, the 2018 model could still suffer the same fate of unresponsive and sticky keys if dust gets lodged underneath the keyboard, an issue that’s been widely reported when Apple switched to the new butterfly key switches.

“Sadly, while the new 2018 MacBook Pro does have an updated third-generation keyboard, Apple tells CNET it doesn’t include any new engineering or tweaks to address the sticky key issue,” the publication reported, eliminating any hope that Apple was able to deliver a permanent fix to the widely reported keyboard issue. The flaw had led to several class-action lawsuits.

Prior to launching the new MacBook Pro, Apple announced a repair program for affected keyboards, which the company said only affected a small number of laptops. Apple advised its Genius Bar staff and third-party authorized repair centers to either repair or replace the keyboard regardless of the warranty status. A prior report suggested that because of the way the keyboard is integrated into the laptop’s enclosure, an out-of-warranty replacement can run as high as $700. Fortunately, users out of their standard one-year warranty and who did not purchase the extended AppleCare protection plan can take advantage of Apple’s keyboard repair program without having to pay any additional cost.

Without a permanent keyboard fix in place, another bit of unfortunate news is that Apple discontinued its 2015 MacBook Pro model. That laptop was the last MacBook Pro to utilize Apple’s old scissor key switch for the keyboard, which delivers a more traditional typing experience. The change to the butterfly key switch design allowed Apple to create a more compact laptop — the 2015 model measured 0.71 inches high, while the redesigned MacBook Pro was just 0.59 inches thick — but the downside is that key travel was much more shallow.

For now, it appears that Apple is solely focusing on how the keys sound when typing on the third-generation keyboard. The company has been promoting the quieter keys on the new 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard. The strategy makes sense given that Apple has been promoting dark mode as one of the key new features of MacOS Mojave, which will launch this fall as a free update. A quieter keyboard and an OS that is friendlier on the eyes when working in the dark will likely appease night owls.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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