People won't stop complaining about the MacBook Pro keyboard and it's for a good reason

16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard
16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

With the redesign of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has replaced the controversial butterfly mechanism keyboard with the new Magic Keyboard for MacBook Pro, which is definitely not the same exact system as the external Magic Keyboard for the Mac.

With this new redesign, you'd think it would be the answer to MacBook Pro lovers' prayers, the solver of our woes, the fix for our frustration. It's not. Instead, tech bloggers and journalists have taken to Twitter to complain about it — about how the Magic Keyboard is no good, about how Apple didn't listen to users when it should have, and even about how Apple listening to users is a bad idea.

If I were an employee of Apple right now, I'd be like, "WTF? (insert eye roll emoji)".

I'm not employed by Apple, though. I'm a "victim" of the butterfly keyboard issue, and I get why Apple fans are still complaining, even though Apple fixed the problem (both with my personal keyboard and by making a new keyboard). It comes down to trust. We've been burned by Apple and are still hurting. We don't trust that Apple truly is doing what's in our best interest.

The past few years have been hard on Apple fans and it's going to take a lot to earn back our trust. Even with that trust, and even with Apple doing everything to fix a rocky past, people are still going to complain. It's what we do.

The problem with the new keyboard design

16-inch MacBook Pro

16-inch MacBook Pro (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

I have to admit, I'm interested in buying the larger MacBook Pro this year, even though I've never wanted one, for a single reason — the new keyboard mechanism.

I recently dumped coffee on my open MacBook Pro, and though it seems to have weathered the storm, I may end up having to pay a high price to repair it or just replace it with a new one. With this in mind, I'm looking closely at this new "Magic Keyboard" for MacBook Pro.

Apple's Magic Keyboard

Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Pad (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)

The fear with the new keyboard design for some is that it may be worse than before. There are some people around the soch meeds water cooler that complain the Mac's Magic Keyboard is "loosey-goosey," that the keys wiggle too much or the travel is too high and wonder whether the MacBook Pro's Magic Keyboard will be the same. To be clear, the Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Pro is not a one-for-one design of the Magic Keyboard for the Mac. It's "inspired" by the design of the latter because most people actually do love it.

But, the point is this; butterfly or Magic Keyboard, people are going to complain about the design no matter what, simply because it's different.

Worse than just being annoyed at a new design, is that this is a new design. Apple didn't just put back the scissor mechanism of pre-2016 Macbooks and call it a day. They made some changes that, hopefully, make for a better user experience, while keeping a trimmer MacBook design.

Will Apple tell us 'You're typing wrong' and release a Typing on the MacBook Pro's Magic Keyboard support document?

But remember, we've been burned by Apple making the keyboard "better." Will the Magic Keyboard for MacBook Pro turn out to be the hot mess that the first-generation (and second-generation) butterfly mechanism was? Are we going to discover that that rubber dome can accidentally cause a key to stick in place? Will Apple tell us "You're typing wrong" and release a Typing on the MacBook Pro's Magic Keyboard support document?

We're on high alert here. We're concerned about another new keyboard design that may end up as bad as, or worse than before.

The problem with Apple's reaction

16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard

16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

No company has to apologize for its mistakes. Companies make mistakes all the time. Some of those mistakes even cause deaths. We're not owed an apology, we just want one from Apple because we're hurting.

Apple fans are a special type of person. We know that Apple is just another giant multi-national corporation like any other — like Microsoft, like Google, like Facebook (OK, not like Facebook ... no company is like Facebook) — but we prop Apple up on a pedestal and expect more from the company. We feel personally offended when Apple does something wrong. And Apple did something wrong.

Apple made a keyboard design that some people genuinely hated (and it has nothing to do with the keystroke issue) simply because of the design. Travel was too low for some. Keys were too mushy for others. Clicks were too clicky for a few. When you make a keyboard that no one cares about one way or another, you've made a good keyboard. When you make a keyboard that a portion of the population hates, you have to reconsider what you've done.

Apple doesn't have to apologize. We just want them to because we hold them to a higher standard.

Additionally, the first and second-generation butterfly mechanism keyboards were faulty. We don't know how widespread the issue was, and Apple claims it is a small number, but when I and at least five people I work with directly have the exact same type of issues with a butterfly keyboard (double keystroke or keys not working), I'm going to take that as a sampling of the greater population and estimate that it was a bigger issue than it should have been.

With this in mind, Apple, most likely, went back to the drawing board right away. It takes a long time to redesign a keyboard. But it took nearly four years to get to this point, here and now, today. Apple gave us what we wanted, the scissor mechanism, but didn't give us a clear and widespread apology (Apple did apologize, it was a little weak) or even acknowledge that it made a mistake.

Apple doesn't have to apologize, just like other companies don't. We just want them to because we hold them to a higher standard.

What Apple did right

Serenity Caldwell typing on a MacBook Pro

Serenity Caldwell typing on a MacBook Pro (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Here's what Apple did right despite what some may say. In the years that followed the first butterfly keyboard for the MacBook in 2015, Apple improved the keyboard's reliability over and over again and offered a remarkable repair program to help mitigate any issues that may come up with each new iteration.

As I said above, it takes a long time to design a new type of keyboard. It's possible that Apple went back to the drawing board before 2015 ended.

Tech pundits would have been slobbering all over that with 'Apple is Doomed' tattooed across their foreheads.

What should Apple have done in the meantime? No updates whatsoever to the MacBook line? Keep us firmly stuck in 2015 with outdated processors and wireless technology? Literally throw the entirely redesigned MacBook line in the garbage (because the scissor mechanism wouldn't have worked in the new MacBook line's design). Tech pundits would have been slobbering all over that with "Apple is Doomed" tattooed across their foreheads.

In reality, Apple went above and beyond to triage the problem, to fix what could be fixed, and to make good on our disappointments. Apple did fix the butterfly keyboard. Without the numbers in front of me (because there is no such thing), I haven't heard a single complaint about the third-generation butterfly keyboard's reliability and that's a stark difference from the previous two generations. For those of us that bought a Macbook that ended up with reliability issues, Apple offered a free repair program with a 24-hour turnaround time in most situations.

I'd say that's doing something right in the face of things going wrong.

Why none of that matters and people are still going to complain

16-inch MacBook Pro escape key

16-inch MacBook Pro escape key (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

As I said at the beginning. It's a trust issue.

We put our trust in Apple to provide us with the best possible user experience, even if, sometimes, we're resistant to change. Most of the time, Apple comes through, which is why we continue to trust the company, and that trust grows stronger.

It's much easier, however, to destroy the bonds of trust than it is to build them up, and we lost trust in Apple's leadership here. We want to believe that this time will be different. Or, maybe we're still so angry that we want to fight everything. Our trust has faltered, and it's going to take more than just a new keyboard design to get it back.

It's much easier to destroy the bonds of trust than it is to build them up, and we lost trust in Apple's leadership here.

It's going to take time, maybe even a couple of years, for us to be sure that the Magic Keyboard for MacBook Pro won't break. It's going to take us using the new keyboard for days and weeks and months straight before we can say for sure whether we like the design (or whether we just don't care about the design).

If Apple did right by us, though, this will be a story we tell the kids someday ... about the time we almost left Apple.

Let me know how you feel about the new Magic Keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Do you want it across all the MacBooks? Do you worry about its comfort or reliability?

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).