Apple may be getting rid of a pain point for laptop buyers by doing away with the problematic butterfly keyboard found on its MacBook models, starting with the MacBook Air. Nothing is set in stone, but if Apple does ditch the butterfly keyboard, it could ease the frustration for both buyers and Apple store employees, who have been tasked with performing accelerated next-day repairs.
The butterfly key mechanism found its way to MacBook models starting in 2015. Some customers reported premature failures, ultimately sparking a petition for a recall in 2018, followed by a class-action lawsuit. While Apple has maintained that only a small number of MacBooks have been affected, the lawsuit alleges that "thousands" of owners have had some type of failure with the butterfly keyboard.
Depending on how widespread the issue actually is, the obvious solution would be to move away from the butterfly key design. According to Apple analyst Min-Chi Kuo, that is exactly what will happen.
"There have been successful developments in the new scissor keyboard. The new keyboard could improve the typing experience by offering longer key travel and durability by adopting glass fiber to reinforce the keys' structure," Kuo wrote in a report obtained by MacRumors.
Kuo believes Apple will make the switch starting with a refreshed MacBook Air model later this year. After that, he says "partially refreshed MacBook Pro models" will also move to a scissor style keyboard, though not until 2020.
"Shipments of MacBook models equipped with a new scissor keyboard will grow 500–700 percent year-over-year in 2020. Though the butterfly keyboard is still thinner than the new scissor keyboard, we think most users can't tell the difference. Furthermore, the new scissor keyboard could offer a better user experience and benefit Apple's profits; therefore, we predict that the butterfly keyboard may finally disappear in the long term," Kuo added.
It is important to note that this is all speculation rather than an inside scoop. However, it would not surprise us in the least if Apple made the switch, as predicted, given the amount of negative attention surrounding the butterfly keyboard design.
This was supposed to have been rectified with an updated third-generation butterfly keyboard design, which added a thin membrane film behind each key to act as a barrier against dust. However, the failures continued. That being the case, it might be time to move on to something else.