Failure rate of MacBook Pro ‘butterfly’ keyboards is double that of older models

apple releases macos sierra 10 12 4 with night shift pac man touch bar macbook pro

MacBook Pro keyboards with butterfly key-switches can fail if there’s dirt or debris lodged under the keys, according to widespread reports on forums and Apple’s support site — and we now have statistics on how often that happens.

Apple switched to the new butterfly key-switch with the slim keyboard on the MacBook, and the MacBook Pro followed suit in 2016. It wasn’t a good move. According to data collected by Apple Insider from Apple Genius Bar repairs and Apple-authorized third-party repair shops, the failure rate on MacBook Pros with butterfly-switch keyboards is double that of older MacBook Pro models with standard keyboards.

The 2014 MacBook Pro model saw 2,120 service events that were reported on, according to Apple Insider, with 118 keyboard-related problems. Similarly, in 2015, there were 1,904 service events implicating 114 keyboard-related issues. When Apple switched to the butterfly keyboard in 2016, there were 1,402 warranty events with 165 issues related to the keyboard, excluding any problems with the Touch Bar. This means 5.6 percent of warranty issues in 2014 and 6.0 percent in 2015 were caused by keyboard problems, a number that jumped to 11.8 percent in 2016. The 2017 numbers aren’t complete yet, but the first half of the year saw 1,161 service events with 94 keyboard-related issues.

On its own, a twofold increase in keyboard-related issues may be cause enough for concern, but the increase in the recidivism rate shows that the design may play a large part in why the new keyboards are failing. Of the 118 keyboard repairs on the 2014 model, eight were brought back for secondary service within 90 days. On the 2015 model, six returned for secondary repair. A third repair was not necessary for both model years.

After the redesign in 2016, 51 secondary repair jobs were required, of which ten needed a third repair in the 90-day period. The 2017 model saw 17 secondary repairs and three requiring a third repair.

And because of how the keyboard mechanism is designed on the 2016 and 2017 models, repairs are costly. If the keys are damaged in any way, the whole assembly needs to be replaced, including the keyboard, battery, upper casing, and the Thunderbolt 3 ports, Apple Insider noted. If you’re out of warranty, a simple keyboard repair job could cost more than $700. Apple-authorized repairs for the 2014 and 2015 models cost $400.

“We don’t know for sure how many GPU failures in the 2011 through 2013 MacBook Pro line caused Apple to act, nor do we know what triggered the display coating repair extension program,” Apple Insider said. “But, the near-doubled failure rate of the keyboard in the first year on the 2016 MacBook Pro is a ticking time bomb for users, and it doesn’t matter why.”

Given that the new butterfly switch keyboards are more prone to failure and costly to repair, it may be wise to consider alternatives to the MacBook and MacBook Pro if you’re shopping for a laptop.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

iPad battery explosion prompts Apple Store evacuation in Amsterdam

An iPad battery exploded in an Apple Store over the weekend, causing breathing issues for staff members, and requiring the fire brigade and an ambulance to attend. The incident took place in Amsterdam.
Movies & TV

You can ditch cable but still get your 'SportsCenter' fix with ESPN+

ESPN's streaming service, ESPN+, is finally here. Despite appearances, ESPN+ isn't a replacement for your ESPN cable channels, and differs from other streaming apps in a few key ways.
Deals

Save hundreds with the best MacBook deals for August 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Product Review

The gorgeous Oppo Find X plays hard to get, but is it worth the chase?

Is the Oppo Find X the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen? We think it’s right up there, but because it’s an import-only phone, you’ll have to put in some effort to get one. Is it worth going the extra mile?
Product Review

Dell's XPS 15 is the PC every laptop wishes it could be

Not everyone needs the power that a laptop like the Dell XPS 15 provides. But if you need a computer that can handle the heavy workload you use every day, the XPS 15 might be the best you can buy.
Product Review

Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe (late 2017) review

As our Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe (late 2017) review shows, adding an 8th-gen Intel Core processor to an excellent thin and light chassis makes for a great combination.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for something without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses with one of these handy services.
Computing

Both the Razer Blade and XPS 15 are capable laptops, but which is better?

We pit the latest Dell XPS 15 against the latest Razer Blade 15 to see which machine meets the needs of most people. Both are a fast, attractive, and well-built, but they still appeal to different users.
Computing

Use one of these password managers to stay safe online

The internet can be a scary place, especially if you don't have a proper passcode manager. This guide will show you the best password managers you can get right now, including both premium and free options. Find the right password software…
Computing

Logitech’s distinctive new ergonomic mouse looks as good as it feels

Logitech's first true ergonomic mouse sports an interesting tilted design that encourages less muscle strain. We spent some time with the MX Vertical to see how comfortable it is and determine whether or not we'd prefer it to a standard…
Mobile

Airport’s low-tech solution to digital chaos involves the humble whiteboard

A U.K. airport has suffered a major computer error, caused by data connection problems, which has stopped flight boards from showing crucial passenger information. The solution is wonderfully low-tech.
Computing

Here’s how to watch Nvidia’s GeForce event at Gamescom

Today is August 20, and that means Nvidia may showcase its GeForce RTX 20 Series of add-in graphics cards for gamers. We’re sticking with that name rather than the previous GTX 11 Series brand due to today’s date.
Computing

HTC breaks down VR barriers by bringing Oculus Rift titles to Viveport

HTC's Viveport store and subscription service will be opened to Oculus Rift users in September this year, letting them buy titles directly and take advantage of the monthly game-delivery service.