Prominent Apple blogger John Gruber once called the keyboards in Apple’s more recent laptops “the worst products in Apple’s history.” Now, he believes departing Apple chief designer Jony Ive is to blame.
“I don’t know the inside story, but it certainly seems like a good bet that MacBook keyboard fiasco we’re still in the midst of is the direct result of Jony Ive’s obsession with device thinness and minimalism,” Gruber said in a Daring Fireball blog post last week, upon the news of Ive’s departure from the company.
Indeed, many modern Mac laptops – starting with the MacBook in 2015 – come with a so-called butterfly keyboard, which have reliability issues that Apple has acknowledged. Many Mac users, including myself and several other tech journalists, have complained that certain keys can become unresponsive, or they can register twice from a single press.
Apple’s “butterfly” mechanism allows for laptops to be ultra-thin, but the design is supposedly more sensitive to everyday debris, like dust, than more traditional keyboard designs.
That may be true, but cleaning the keyboard – even underneath the key cap – doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes, entire keyboards need to be replaced, which is an extremely costly repair if a Mac is out of warranty. Thankfully, Apple set up a free keyboard repair program. At the same time, keyboard repairs mean an uncertain amount of time without your laptop.
Whether or not Ive is truly to blame for the butterfly keyboard fiasco is still uncertain. Gruber doesn’t go as far as to confirm it was Ive’s obsession with making devices thin that led to the fiasco, but he has a strong belief that it did.
To Gruber’s point, Apple’s Mac laptops are thin and light, especially the MacBook and MacBook Air, and even the MacBook Pros when you compare them to the competition.
And it’s true: Mac laptops look and feel better than the competition. But from my experience, and possibly for those who were affected by faulty butterfly keyboards on their Mac laptops, it doesn’t matter how thin or premium-feeling a laptop might be if you can’t type properly.