Apple Put a Little Membrane Inside the Butterfly Switches

Too little too late?

Those geniuses of tearing everything open over at iFixit have broken into the latest MacBook Pros.

Apple has now added a small plastic membrane to the inside of each Butterfly keyswitch.

On the plus side, this should make it much more difficult for tiny bits of dust and other grime to get inside the keyswitch.

As you probably know if you’re reading this, even one small speck of dust can totally freeze up a butterfly key, requiring the user to either blast it out with a can of air at best, or at worst go in for a full replacement of the keyboard.

However, it took a while before the expansiveness of the butterfly switch problems became truly apparent, and we have no idea what the long term durability of this membrane material is, or whether it will totally solve the problem.

Only time will tell on that one.

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“Close-up of a person's hands on the keyboard of a MacBook” by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

On the minus side…the membrane reduces key noise and user feedback.

“But Alex, a lot of people hated how loud those keys were, isn’t making them quieter a good thing?”

I get this argument. I am a loud typist at times, and I’m sure that people near me in the cafes I frequent were sometimes frustrated at the torrent of clicking coming out of my 2016 MacBook.

However, the clicking of the butterfly switch was essential to the experience, in my opinion.

The butterfly switch has almost no travel, meaning that it’s hard to know whether you’ve successfully depressed a key. The clicking and the little pop you felt on your fingers with each press helped mitigate this problem.

Now, the feel of the keys is a bit squishier and softer, and there’s much less sound when the key is actuated, resulting in a generally muddier experience.

Reducing the feedback just throws the issues of the switch into sharper relief.

I like the concept of a switch that feels the same whether you use the edge of the key or the center. I like the aesthetics of the thin designs that Apple chases with reckless abandon.

But the Butterfly Switch has always felt like a pile of small design problems created to solve issues that no one was really having with earlier keyboards.

Hopefully these new membranes will have a long durability and won’t crack or slip over time. They’ll go a long way towards solving one of the biggest design issues of the current MacBook keyboard.

But it’s strange to live in a world where, for three years now, even the cheapest Chromebooks have a keyboard feel that users are more likely to enjoy without an adjustment period than some of the most prestigious and expensive laptops on the market.

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I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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