Apple Exploring New Glass Panel MacBook Keyboards That Could End Sticky Key Problems

Apple is exploring a new keyboard design that could eventually replace its butterfly switch MacBook keyboards and finally solve the problem of "sticky" or inconsistently functioning keys.


Issues that Apple has acknowledged can occur with some current MacBook keyboards are widely believed to be caused by dust or other particulates getting lodged in the butterfly mechanism underneath the keycaps, which are shallower than those on previous-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards with traditional scissor switch mechanisms.

In its 2018 ‌MacBook Pro‌ models, Apple quietly introduced a thin silicone membrane underneath keyboard keys, which is an attempt to solve the issue of dust and crumbs from getting stuck. But a new patent suggests the company is researching a totally new approach to the way keyboards are designed that could eradicate the problem for good.

Published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and first spotted by AppleInsider, the patent application called "Computer with keyboard" describes a keyboard that replaces movable keys with a glass sheet that includes raised sections to designate the tactile location of individual keys.

When a raised key section is pressed, the keyboard detects the input pressure for that key and processes as a typical key press. The concept differs from the featureless plain of a virtual onscreen keyboard because the raised sections allow the user to feel where their fingers should rest in relation to the individual keys.

Raised glass key concepts from Apple's patent application

The patent describes how an additional level of tactile feedback could be provided by a raised side wall around individual raised keys that could deform with each press, while an underlying layer could serve to "push" the key back into place.

Meanwhile, key symbols could lie on a separate later underneath the glass panel, which would make it easier to change the layout for different regions, languages, or even applications. The patent also proposes using side sections around the keyboard that could double up as a trackpad.

As expected, the glass keyboard could have the effect of making the keyboard thinner and allowing more room for other components to be housed in the notebook chassis.

Apple has filed patents for keyboards in the past, included one that uses a touchscreen panel similar the Touch Bar, but that extends to the entire keyboard layout, but this is the first patent to emphasize the use of individually raised glass elements that mimic traditional tactile feedback.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
21 months ago
What about the fact that the new keyboards are terrible to type on for longer periods of time? Apple went from the best keyboard design in the industry to the worst in a single year.
Score: 133 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
Dumb. Why don't they just go back to the previous keyboard design on the 2015 MBP's? It was perfect! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Well, now it's broke.
Score: 111 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
I’m all for innovation but in this situation I’d say to just go back to the old design....all this mess to avoid admitting a mistake and to shave a few millimetres of thickness off the laptop
Score: 88 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
I'd gladly take a modest increase in thickness in exchange for getting the previous generation keyboard back.

Edit: And based on those above that beat me to the submit button, I'm clearly not alone.
Score: 74 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
If it ain't broke, keep reinventing the wheel until it is.
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
...or...use the keyboard mechanism from 2015 MBP, maybe ?
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

iOS 14 Picture in Picture No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website in Safari [Without Premium]

Friday September 18, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. When Picture in Picture was working with YouTube The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched...

Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Friday September 18, 2020 1:19 pm PDT by
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch. Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE Hands-On! When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like...

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

iOS 14.2 Beta Adds New Shazam Music Recognition Feature for Control Center

Thursday September 17, 2020 3:36 pm PDT by
Apple today released the first beta of iOS 14.2 to developers for testing purposes, and the new update introduces a Music Recognition control for the Control Center. The new feature lets you discover music playing around you and it recognizes the music playing with in apps, even when you're wearing AirPods. Songs pop up as notifications, and you can tap to listen in Apple Music....

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Rumor Report Card: Assessing the Accuracy of Leaks After Apple's Event

Friday September 18, 2020 12:57 pm PDT by
Apple hosted its virtual "Time Flies" event this week, where it introduced four new products, including the Apple Watch Series 6, lower-cost Apple Watch SE, a 10.9-inch iPad Air with an all-screen design, and an updated 10.2-inch iPad with a faster A12 Bionic chip. As expected, there were no new iPhones, which are believed to be coming in October instead. Apple also announced that it will be ...

Epic Games Announces 'Fortnite: Save the World' Will No Longer Be Playable on macOS

Friday September 18, 2020 4:50 am PDT by
Epic Games has announced that "Fortnite: Save the World" will no longer be playable on macOS, after Apple terminated Epic Games' developer account. Fortnite has been in violation of the ‌App Store‌ rules since August 13, when it introduced a direct payment option that skirted Apple's in-app purchase system by allowing payments directly to ‌Epic Games‌. Shortly after Epic blatantly...

Deals: Cellular Carriers Introduce First Offers on Apple Watch Series 6 and SE

Friday September 18, 2020 7:43 am PDT by
With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE today, cellular carriers have now introduced special offers for these new wearable devices. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Starting with AT&T, if you buy one Apple Watch Series 3, Series...