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Apple has been heavily criticised over problems with the keyboards on its MacBooks. The company is reportedly now developing a new keyboard technology that might permanently resolve these issues. In a recent patent application, Apple explains how this will enable it to produce thinner laptops.
Many people across the globe who bought MacBooks over the last four years have had serious issues with the so-called ‘butterfly’ keyboard, which often fails when dust manages to get under the keys. The proposed system utilises a different technology that will allow for smaller keys.
In what could be an ill omen though, Apple warns in the patent that smaller components are often weaker than larger ones, and adds: “This may cause the operational life of the keyboard assembly and/or electronic device to be reduced as well.”
The patent filing mentions a printed circuit board that is protected by a single membrane sheet on which switches can be placed. These keys have a significantly shorter travel when pressed, which allows for a thinner keyboard.
Although there is no mention of the word ‘dust’ anywhere in the patent, Apple engineers have most likely taken steps to keep out any dirt that could eventually disable the keyboard.
The company regularly registers patents, and not all of them make it to the production stage. Earlier patents revealed that Apple was considering to do away with laptop keyboards altogether in favour of touchscreens.
This would be a major decision, and it will undoubtedly not go down well with all laptop buyers. Apple’s keyboard woes mostly affect MacBooks made between 2015 and 2019.
The company insists that only a “small percentage” of keyboards in specific MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and standard MacBook devices will experience keyboard issues. These unlucky owners will find that keys stop working, or that characters or letters unexpectedly repeat. Keys sometimes also stop working altogether, or they might feel sticky at times.