Apple announces an update to the keyboard repair program today. All MacBooks with the so-called "butterfly mechanism" (that's pretty much all modern MacBooks) will now be fully qualified for the Apple Keyboard Service Program. The extension means that some newer models that were not previously covered could get repairs. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't extend how long the program lasts – it's still "4 years after the first retail sale of the device."
Apple also announces that it has created another iteration of its butterfly keyboard, to be shipped on the new MacBook Pros it announces today. Remarkably, the new keyboards will also be eligible for the repair program. Apple also promises that it will speed up keyboard repair times. You can't just bring in your MacBook to replace the keyboard if you don't trust it of course; It will have to show problems for Apple to fix it.
Apple has been put through wringer over the reliability of its butterfly keyboards in recent years, and rightly so. Although the company is stressing again in a conversation today that the vast majority of customers do not have a problem, too many of them have had problems with fixed keys that can cause double letters or no letters at all. It just recently began to apologize for the problem, but has also tried to characterize it as something less that doesn't affect the many customers.
How much evidence we see on social media, among authors and on our own laptops comes to the point where you can't call it anecdotal anymore, though. So simply extending the repair program will not be enough.
In a sign that Apple recognizes that reality, the company also says it has taken steps to significantly reduce repair time in its stores. However, a spokesperson would not specify which processes it changes to make these repairs happen faster. A keyboard replacement on a modern MacBook is a very intensive repair, which iFixit has often noted.
Last, but not least, Apple has tweaked the design of the butterfly keyboard again . Apple says it uses "new materials" in the switch mechanism that should reduce the incidence of duplicate and missing key presses. It will be shipped on the new MacBook Pro 1
The company had no announcements if it would use this "new material" on other MacBooks it sells ahead – that is, whether it would change its production on today's third generation devices.
On a conversation today, the company also refused to actually characterize what the new material is other than to say it "significantly reduces" the question of double or lost key presses. The new design still counts as the "third generation", driving the same keyboard sent on the new MacBook Air.
Some current MacBook Pro 13 inches with Touch Bar and 15-inch customers who take in the keyboards for repair will actually have the keyboards replaced with those who have these new materials, Apple says. It will only happen for MacBooks that have the third generation butterfly keyboard today: the 2018 models of the MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air.
These are all positive features from Apple, but if they will actually be enough to hide the worries the entire Mac community has had over those keyboards, it's still to be seen. My guess is not really – until we look closely at what these important changes are and whether they actually make such a big difference as Apple claims.
In today's conversation, the company claimed that the Mac is still growing in an industry that otherwise falls generally and that it invests more in Mac than ever before. It's probably all true, but it won't change the fact that many of the customers feel more radical solutions to the keyboard problem, required. Today's changes in repair policy are good, but probably not enough.
These concerns may not go away until Apple fundamentally changes keyboard design across the MacBook line. So far, we have not seen any indication that the company is ready to do so.