Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro 'Butterfly' Keyboards Reportedly Failing At An Alarming Rate

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Many PC users are quite particular about their keyboards. It's how we communicate with the world and get things done, and a crappy keyboard can be a deal-breaker for many people. Apple has often been considered to produce some of the best keyboards in the business, but that changed with the arrival of the 2015 MacBook with its butterfly key mechanism.

People quickly complained about the shallow key travel which made it feel like they were typing on a barely-moving rigid surface. To make matters worse, the short key travel meant that tiny specs of dust or crumbs were enough to make keys stop functioning completely. Apple upset an even larger portion of its customer base when it brought that butterfly mechanism (albeit a “second generation”) to the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros.

Now, a report is claiming that the keyboard in 2016 MacBook Pro notebooks in particular are failing at an alarming rate. The report is interesting for a number reasons, including the fact that the site in question is rarely highly critical of Apple's actions. 

However, based on anecdotal reports, AppleInsider says, "Not including any Touch Bar failures, 2016 MacBook Pro (13- and 15-inch models) keyboards are failing twice as often in the first year of use as the 2014 or 2015 MacBook Pro models, and the 2017 is better, but not by a lot."

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Using data that it gathered from Apple Genius Bars and authorized repairs facilities around the United States, the publication was able to make a few assessments with regards to the keyboard in the newer MacBook Pros. 

"The 2014 MacBook Pro model year saw 2120 service events in the first year, with 118 related to keyboard issues necessitating an upper case replacement -- 5.6 percent of all MacBook Pros serviced in the first year," wrote AppleInsider. "The 2015 has 1904 service tickets, with 114 relating to the keyboard, making 6.0 percent."

However, things took a turn for the worse with the 2016 MacBook Pro, the first year that Apple's professional notebooks gained the butterfly key mechanism. Data was obtained with regards to 1402 warranty claims for the 2016 MacBook Pro, and 165 pertained to the keyboard (11.8 percent).

But here's where things get interesting; 8 of the repairs for 2014 MacBook Pros came back for a second warranty claim with 90 days, while 6 came back for the 2015 model. None came back for a third time for either model year. Moving to the 2016 MacBook Pro, nearly a third (51) of the machines were brought back in for a second keyboard repair within 90 days. 10 were brought back a third time.

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Further compounding matters is that a single key cannot be fixed or replaced; a single point of failure requires the complete replacement of the keyboard. That means that the entire upper deck of the machine must be replaced. While that is no doubt an expensive repair, it gets even more expensive when the MacBook Pro is equipped with the OLED Touch Bar (optional on the 13-inch model, standard on the 15-inch model).

Backlash against the butterfly key mechanism on the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros has been streaming in at a rapid clip in recent weeks, even from diehard figures in the Apple community. "This keyboard has to be one of the biggest design screwups in Apple history," wrote John Gruber earlier this week. "Everyone who buys a MacBook depends upon the keyboard and this keyboard is undependable."

"I know that we Apple-watchers sit around wondering if Apple will release new laptops with new keyboards that don’t have these issues, but Apple’s relative silence on this issue for existing customers is deafening," added Jason Snell. "If these problems are remotely as common as they seem to be, this is an altogether defective product that should be recalled."