Skip to main content

Apple could redesign MacBook with configurable screens in each key

MacBook keyboards have had a rough time in recent years, with the less-than-stellar butterfly keyboard only replaced by Apple’s Magic Keyboard in the MacBook Pro 16 in late 2019. A new patent, granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, reveals that the company is still working on ways to further improve the keys used in its range of Macs.

The patent details a “reconfigurable” keyboard that interprets a tiny display into each key. This would allow you to change the letter or glyph displayed on the keys according to your keyboard preferences.

This may be useful if you need to switch the layout of your MacBook keyboard when writing in another language, for example, and may potentially allow Apple to sell a single Mac keyboard for use all over the world. It could also incorporate custom key labels such as media controls or programming shortcuts. As well as that, Apple claims that using a display under each key could improve the visibility of the key characters in certain lighting conditions or viewing angles.

Apple patent showing Mac keyboard with under-key display
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Interestingly, Apple also specifically mentions gaming as a use case for this patent. According to the patent application, “It may be desirable to reconfigure keyboards dynamically… to temporarily convert a standard keyboard into a gaming keyboard in which keys correspond to particular in-game actions.”

Apple has taken an increasing interest in gaming in recent years, and its latest M1 Macs such as the MacBook Air are known to radically improve Mac gaming performance over previous MacBooks.

The patent illustrations depict this customizable keyboard potentially being used in both MacBooks and desktop Macs like the iMac Pro, and that makes sense — technology like this is not defined by the portability of its parent Mac but by use case, and Mac users of all stripes would likely benefit from this invention. If Apple were to make it a reality, it would not surprise us to see it across its complete range of Macs.

That said, there is no guarantee Apple will ever bring out a keyboard with this configurable key tech. Apple files and is granted patents all the time, and this latest instance may just be a case of the company exploring new ideas that it will never follow through on. There have been a number of patents filed surrounding alternate keyboards that allow for more customization over the years, though, so we know it’s an area of intense interest for Apple. We would love to see it become a reality, so keep your eyes peeled.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Blake
In ancient times, people like Alex would have been shunned for their nerdy ways and strange opinions on cheese. Today, he…
MacBooks may get very strange (and exciting) in 2026
Foldable Macbook concept image created by LunaDisplay.

Apple's first all-screen foldable MacBook has been rumored for many years, and it's finally getting closer. Reports from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggest Apple plans to release its first foldable as early as 2026.

According to Kuo, Apple is considering both 20.25-inch and 18.8-inch panels that, when folded, would equate to a 14- to 15-inch MacBook and a 13- to 14-inch MacBook. Previous reports estimated a 2027 release for these all-screen MacBooks, but Kuo's latest information suggests we could see them as early the first half of 2026. And now that Apple has introduced its M4 chip, it's little surprise that these future devices are expected to run on M5 series processors.

Read more
Why you should buy a Mac mini instead of a MacBook Air
Apple Mac Mini side view showing edges.

Apple’s MacBook Air is an incredibly popular device, and it’s our pick for the best MacBook you can buy. But there’s a strong case to be made for passing over it and buying a Mac mini instead. Apple’s desktop computer is cheaper, supports more displays and ports, and is better for your posture. Those reasons could be enough to sway the balance in its favor.

If you’re on the fence, give this guide a read to see if it helps you make up your mind. Here, we’ll show you four of the most compelling reasons to buy a Mac mini instead of a MacBook Air.
It’s much cheaper

Read more
The first Copilot+ PC has been tested — and it destroys the MacBook
The Surface Laptop shown in front of a Copilot+ sign.

We've heard a lot about Microsoft's new Copilot+ PCs over the past few days, but we can finally put some hard data to the company's bold claims. Signal65, a benchmarking and analysis company, put the new Surface Laptop through its paces, and it absolutely wrecks the MacBook Air M3.

The laptop, equipped with a Snapdragon X Elite processor, put up impressive results across the board, but battery life stands out most. According to the report, the Surface Laptop lasted over 21 hours in a local video playback test. For reference, that's close to twice as long as the Surface Pro 9, and more than 15% longer than the MacBook Air M3.

Read more