Skip to main content

Apple is working on MacBooks with retractable keys to make even thinner laptops

Apple’s love for keeping its devices thin and light is well-known across the industry. According to a recently published patent, it appears Apple is working on a retractable MacBook keyboard, potentially allowing the company’s laptops to be more svelte than ever before.

The patent explains that users prefer “buttons or keys that provide audible and tactile feedback when pressed.” The problem with that, according to Apple, is that keyboards, therefore, take up more space than is often necessary — such as when the laptop is not being used — to accommodate the desired key travel and feedback. Those extra millimeters could be shaved off with a bit of creative engineering.

Apple MacBook retractable keyboard patent
The patent explains the keyboard would raise when you lift the MacBook’s lid Image used with permission by copyright holder

So, how do you combine the depth and tactility that users want from a keyboard with a device that does not take up too much space? Simple: By making the keyboard fold upwards when you raise the MacBook’s lid. When in use, the keyboard’s position would be like that on any other laptop. When the lid is down, however, the keyboard would sink into the base of the device using a set of “Movable magnetic or mechanical linkage elements.”

Interestingly, this patent may pick up where the butterfly keyboard left off. Before it was replaced entirely by the newly updated Magic Keyboard, the butterfly keyboard was Apple’s attempt to bring an incredibly slimline keyboard to its laptops. Sadly for Tim Cook and Co., it was not a success, with the keyboard gaining a reputation for sticky keys and uncomfortable typing.

Apple MacBook retractable keyboard patent
When the MacBook is closed, the keyboard would sink into the device’s body Image used with permission by copyright holder

In an interview with CNET in November 2019, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said the company would continue to work on the butterfly keyboard, and this patent could reflect those efforts. After all, the patent explains that the stabilizers underneath each key could be “scissor mechanisms, butterfly mechanisms, and similar devices.” If you thought the butterfly keyboard was gone for good, it may be a little too early to breathe a sigh of relief.

Given Apple patents a lot of things that never see the light of day, this retractable keyboard may never actually make it into a product. It was filed in August 2019, so it might take a few more years of development before it is ready — if it is ever ready at all.

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…
I’m worried about the MacBook’s next big rival
The MacBook Air on a white table.

MacBooks have dominated the laptop landscape over the past few years.

As good as Windows laptops are, they just haven't been able to compete with MacBooks in terms of efficiency or performance-per-watt. It's what allows modern MacBooks to be thinner, quieter, and longer-lasting, without losing performance. They're so efficient that you don't even lose performance when on battery.

Read more
The case for buying the M2 MacBook Air over the M3 model
The screen of the MacBook Air M2.

Apple's MacBook Air M2 recently stood at the top of our list of best laptops, and for good reason. It's incredibly well-built, exuding an elegance that few laptops can match. It's also plenty fast for productivity users, and its GPU is optimized for creators. Its keyboard, touchpad, and display are all top-notch.

Enter the MacBook Air M3, which (hint) took over the MacBook Air's place on that list. The upgraded chipset offers even faster performance, particularly in GPU-intensive apps, and the M3 model supports an additional external display (with the display closed). It's $100 more, but is that uptick in price justified? Let's dig in.
Specs and configurations

Read more
Why you should buy a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air
The 14-inch MacBook Pro on a window sill.

There are plenty of reasons to buy a MacBook Air instead of a MacBook Pro. If you want a MacBook on a budget, you don't necessarily need the goodies that come with upgrading to the MacBook Pro.

That being said, I'm going to argue for spending a little more. In my experience, the MacBook Pro offers several distinct advantages that help justify a higher price, especially with the introduction of the more affordable MacBook Pro 14 with the base M3. If you can stretch your budget a bit, here's why I think you should buy a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air.
Setting the stage: pricing

Read more