Are Apple’s Keyboards Really That Bad?

Change is hard, especially for MacBook keyboards.

Paul Alvarez
Feb 4 · 4 min read
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

After reading an article by Tom Denz, linked below, about Apple’s keyboards still not being good, even with the new keyboard redesign that Apple released on there 16-inch Macbook Pro, I wondered if this disdain towards Apple’s post-2015-keyboards would ever die?

I think many are still living in a world where we want the 2015 era keyboards to continue forever. Though, this complaint is starting to become familiar to other gripes people have made about changes to technology.

For example, many thought using a digital keyboard on a flat piece of glass on the phone would never work, but look at our phones today. A lot of people are even starting to use iPads as there main computers using the software keyboard alone — talk about extremely low key travel.

Technology moves forward; we should, of course, stand up to changes that have extreme effects on quality and stability. But, as we move past the issues that ensued during the butterfly-keyboard-years, we need to look forward and stop looking back.

This idea that key travel is something that all users of laptops admire and want, I feel, is inaccurate. There is a place for mechanical keyboards that you can use externally on a laptop or computer, but the most crucial thing about laptops, I would argue, is portability. I believe Apple when they say the reason for the slimming of the keyboard on their MacBooks is to make the whole package that much smaller and lighter to carry.

I also feel that besides the misgivings from the butterfly keyboard, there were also some new technologies that Apple engineered in those keyboards that made them better.

Some of those things include:

  1. Key stability — which removed the mushy feeling that came with the scissor mechanisms.
  2. Larger keycaps — making typing more comfortable and, for me, faster.
  3. Key accuracy — so that you don’t have to type directly in the middle of the key to get the letter you want any more, allowing you just to hit a corner of a key.

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro has a new scissor-like mechanism like the MacBook Pros in the early 2015s but has also been given the improvements that I described above that came from designing the butterfly keys. Though a bit larger than the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is still slightly smaller than the 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro.

The idea that a laptop needs to have a keyboard with a lot of key travel is subjective. It makes for a backward direction in the advancement of technology and allowing innovation to take us into places we never thought we would go. Some people don’t agree with Apple’s move towards thin and light, yet that is the direction technology has always been heading towards — hint, the iPad.

Of course, this is all coming from someone who loves the butterfly keyboard on my 2019 MacBook Pro and loved the original butterfly keyboard on the 2015 MacBook. I love technology and am also nostalgic about the technology of my past.

The problem I have with the argument that keyboards “need” more travel or they are “bad,” is that we are focusing on the wrong things as our technology evolves.

When a company releases something unreliable, it is a valid cause for concern, and the company should be scrutinized until it is fixed. A change to the look, feel, and preference to a product by a company can also be criticized if it doesn’t fit your taste, but without recognizing the reason for the change is unfair.

When it comes to the reliability of the butterfly keyboards from 2015 to 2019, I do not argue that they needed to be replaced and fixed. But now that that issue has been, so far, resolved, complaining about how it isn’t like your keyboard on a 5-year-old MacBook I feel is now becoming an old trope that is hard to read and listen too.

If you want a keyboard to have more travel, I say get a different laptop (like the ThinkPad that is recommended in the article) or get an external mechanical keyboard to use. Apple has left that train and is going in a whole new direction that most of us need to accept and live with.

It can sometimes be helpful to look into the past and judge new technologies based on older technologies. This is how we see the progression of innovation and advancements in the field.

But complaining about a change without explaining the context of why something is going in that direction is never helpful. It just continues the trend of us not looking forward but always fantasizing about the past.


Where techonology and society come together.

Paul Alvarez

Written by

Full-time IT Project Analyst, all the time husband, and cat Dad. I also write.


Where techonology and society come together.

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