Apple Confirms 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard Has 'Membrane' to 'Prevent Debris From Entering the Butterfly Mechanism'

In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers, obtained by MacRumors from multiple reliable sources, Apple has confirmed that the third-generation keyboard on 2018 MacBook Pro models is equipped with a "membrane" to "prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism."

ifixitbutterflykeyboardteardown

Image Credit: iFixit

The relevant excerpt from Canadian and European versions of Apple's internal 2018 MacBook Pro Service Readiness Guide:

Keyboard and Keycaps
The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. The procedure for the space bar replacement has also changed from the previous model. Repair documentation and service videos will be available when keycap parts begin shipping.

While the U.S. version of this Service Readiness Guide does not mention the membrane, it contains a link to a separate internal document titled "Butterfly Mechanism Keycap Replacement MacBook Pro (2018)" that does:

Caution: The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. Be careful not to tear the membrane. A torn membrane will result in a top case replacement.

In its teardown of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar last week, the repair experts at iFixit were first to discover the thin, silicone barrier underneath the keycaps, and theorized that it was to prevent dust indeed. Apple filed a patent for a contaminant-resistant MacBook keyboard back in 2016.

Publicly, Apple has only confirmed that 2018 MacBook Pro models feature an "improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing," but many suspected that the silicon membrane was actually to prevent "contaminant ingress," fancy speak for the crumbs from your sandwich that you ate at your desk for lunch.

Following years of anecdotal complaints from customers, and a few class action lawsuits, Apple initiated a worldwide service program last month, offering free repairs of 2015-and-later MacBook and 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro keyboards, which are equipped with low-profile butterfly switch mechanisms.

We've already reported about the service program in more detail, but the gist is that those particular MacBook and MacBook Pro models can experience issues with sticky, unresponsive, or inconsistently functioning keys when small particles like dust or crumbs get stuck underneath the shallower keycaps.

Apple confirmed to MacRumors that third-generation keyboards will not be offered as replacements under its service program for 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro second-generation keyboard repairs, likely due to a tweaked top case design.

We've reached out to Apple for comment.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro 14 & 16"
Related Forum: MacBook Pro

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Top Rated Comments

mvp2885 Avatar
76 months ago
Insane in the Membrane
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jb-net Avatar
76 months ago
Let's see:

* Apple designed a faulty keyboard in order to make the MBP 0.01 mm thinner
* Apple denied the problem even as data and hard facts proved them otherwise
* Only after some class action lawsuits went public Apple launched a keyboard replacement program
* Apple replaces faulty 2016 and 2017 keyboards with the same old faulty designed keyboards that will fail again - it's just a matter of time
* Apple released a new MBP with a fixed keyboard. This keyboard won't be available to 2016/2017 MBP owners.
* If you want a working keyboard just spend another 2,400-7,000 USD to buy a new 2018 MBP but please don't do anything more than surfing the web, sending emails or writhing a letter. Otherwise your powerful 6-core MBP will start throttling down to 800 MHz.

Doesn't make the best impression to me :mad:
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JesperA Avatar
76 months ago
Great, so they basically admitted that the last generation had problems with debris ingestion that was solved or atleast mitigated with the 2018 MBP - BUT - us with last years model are sorely stuck with the crappier design, even if we get a free service at any Apple store, we still only get another one of the crappier design that in time also most likely will fail.

I feel so great being stuck with a 2017 fully loaded MBP with several keys not working and the B key repeating 2-3 presses with every press.

Sure, things get updated and improved all the time but leaving us stranded on an isolated island when there is solution to the problem is kinda crappy
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
shadowmatt Avatar
76 months ago
The article should have started by saying Apple Lied.

Last week they said it had nothing to do with dirt and was to make the keyboard quieter.

This is a lie, one that was easily shown after people had a chance to tear apart the new laptop.

I hope this is used in the lawsuits against them. They should also be fined for every time they charged a customer for a keyboard fix, as they were committing fraud and other violations of consumer laws.

Think about that. Apple has knows for a while now about the issue and denied it, whilst designing and manufacturing a new keyboard to fix the issue. They charged hundreds $$$ for a fix as they glued lots of components to the part with the keyboard, a bad design mistake and one that punishes the customer.

But they knew that charge was fraudulent as they were legally required to fix manufacturing and design defects.

Refunding people isn't enough, they should be compensated. To be defrauded of hundreds of $$$, thousands if you count their advertising about their great new keyboard is a material loss. People may have needed that money for other things, they might have gone into debt to pay for the repair.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AndyMacAndMic Avatar
76 months ago
Your quite the victim aren't you? If you have issues just bring it in for repairs and they'll fix or replace your keyboard for free.

I've been using my 2017 MacBook Pro daily since pretty much the day it was released. I have no issues whatsoever. But then again, I don't crumb food all over it.
Please don't be so condescending to others because your keyboard still works.

Apple admitted the keyboards have a design flaw.
All the reviewers know the keyboards have a design flaw.
Lot's of people have a problem with those keyboards.
There are numerous threads on this site and on others sites about the faulty keyboards.

And you are still blaming people for crumbing food over it? Maybe the person you reacted to treats his/hers laptop with utter care. You simply can't know.

How ignorant can you be?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Andres Cantu Avatar
76 months ago
What will it take for Apple to admit their initial designs were flawed? Another throttle-gate?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)