2018 MacBook Air Butterfly Keyboard Woes [Warning: Rant]

I bought my 2018 MacBook Air about 3 weeks before the newest one came out with the latest butterfly keyboard, so it was too late to return it.

I had to send it back in January 2020 for a keyboard replacement. I received it back one month ago: January 22nd, which I can tell by the tracking info.

Today the “Delete” key stopped working. I have to mash it down hard to get it to work. A few other keys are already “soft” but the delete key is the last straw. I’m going to have to have it replaced again.

I am so ticked off I can barely speak. I want to throw the whole thing across the room.

Apple did a great job of getting it back fast - I sent it on Monday and had it back Wednesday, but it’s still a giant PITA.

I will always believe that Tim Cook’s spreadsheet was one of the reasons they stuck with this design for so long: because it would be too expensive to redesign it. Not the only reason, but a reason.

The most frustrating thing is knowing that I’m going to get another keyboard that could fail in another month.

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Sorry to hear that. Again.

This whole long-running design failure, with multiple unsuccessful bandaid patches, has me reluctant to invest in any additional Apple hardware or software and even more reluctant to recommend it to others. I know it’s unfair to other products that seem to be well-designed but…

Four years in and this is still a problem? That’s not the Apple that I was looking for. I wanted the one that cared more about customer experience and a bit less about the spreadsheet bottom line. The engineer in me is really offended that they went to the dark side instead.


Simple fix. Just buy the new heavier more expensive 16" Macbook Pro. It’s waaaaaay better. You even get an Escape key. Did you hear that? An Escape key!

Sorry. Probably not the time for sarcasm.

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Honestly, if they’d let me put the money that I spent on this towards a 16", I’d pay the difference, even though I don’t want a bigger/heavier/more expensive MacBook, and I definitely don’t want the Touch Bar.

But I do want a @(#&(!@#!!(!#&^! keyboard that works.

The AppleCare support person was clearly new and made me boot into recovery to see if that would fix the problem. I had trouble not being snippy about it, even though I knew she was just doing her job and I’m sure this is something that they are required to do (although I don’t remember having to do it last time).

She also seemed to want to downplay the severity of the problem by saying it was “just one key” that wasn’t working.

All of which is to say that calling Apple didn’t make me feel much better about the whole thing. But she is sending me a repair box.

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I sympathise. I also had keyboard problems all the time I used my 2017.

The last time I got the keyboard replaced, I sold it while it was still working 100%, and while I could still get a good price for it. This gave me 60% of the cost I paid originally for the 2017 model back, after 2 years of use (which is great!), all of which went straight towards a new 16".

I bought the 6 core i9 15" about six months before the 16” came out. I didn’t have keyboard issues, but I figured that they were coming. With the keyboard and the throttling issues, I decided to trade it in for half of what I payed towards a 16”. I may have been able to get more for it if I had sold it myself, but it didn’t look like they were selling for all that much more than I got back for it. I don’t know why anyone would buy one.

It has left a bad taste in my mouth, but at least my computing life is happier now.

I have no choice and need to replace my 2016 MacBook Pro. I’m getting the latest 13” Pro.
Typically getting such a pricey new toy would leave me excited in anticipation but… not this time.
Same design, same keyboard, same old same old.
Come on apple! Get with it! Make me love my Mac again!!

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Is there a site where I can check my MBP serial number to see if it contains the suspect keyboard?



Really sorry to hear this. My road machine (which I use quite intensively) is a 2016 MBP, so the first-gen (and more likely to fail) butterfly keyboard.
My space bar started to get sticky under a year. Got it into an Apple Store, where they cleaned it without having to replace the top case, fortunately.
Since then, I have taken two drastic measures that have prevented more failures:

  • When the Mac is docked, I use an external keyboard. It bugs me off that I have to do this, but I don’t type onto that Mac unless I absolutely have to. I don’t want to have it shipped away and be without a Mac for days. I just can’t.
  • I have bought for a few euros on Amazon an extremely thin silicon cover to protect the keyboard. It covers it entirely, I can still close the Mac, it still allows for typing (even though there’s even less key travel than before) and completely dims the backlighting, but it works. And that’s what I want: for it to work.

Needless to say, I’m very irritated I have to do all this on a (then) specced-out MBP but, hey, I come from 25 years in the Windows world. I’m kind of used to stupid compromises and things that half-work.
(The saddest thing is, I really like the feel of that keyboard. I really wanted it to work.)

I use an external keyboard at my office, but at home I usually end up working with my MacBook on my lap while sitting on the couch, so there’s not much I can do there.

In any event, the box arrived today and I sent it back today. Unfortunately with the weekend coming, I don’t expect I’ll get it back before Tuesday.

At least I still have my 2015 MacBook and my 12.9" iPad Pro.

Many thanks @bowline. Will check these out.

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Under the category of “silver lining”… I received the box to send my MacBook Air to Apple on Thursday morning. I sent my MacBook Air to Apple on Thursday from a FedEx store around 5:30pm. Tracking info shows that it went to Memphis, TN, which is about 1,000 miles from me (but close to @ismh!)

At 7:20 p.m. on Friday night I received an email from Apple telling me the repair was done and was en route back to me.

At 8:30 p.m. I received an email from FedEx stating that my package is on its way and is due to arrive tomorrow/Saturday by 4:30 p.m.

I have to admit that I’m impressed. I figured it would be Monday before I got it back. Makes me glad that I made a special trip on Thursday to get it out the same day.

Obviously the better solution will be to replace the keyboard design in the MacBook Air and the rest of the MacBook line, but I at least have to give them credit for doing what they can to get it turned-around quickly when it’s sent for repair.

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All told, I was without my MBA for approximately 42 hours.

Obviously zero hours would be better, but, again, props to Apple for a speedy turn-around, including an overnight delivery on a Saturday.

Here’s the final timeline of events:

Day Time Event
Wednesday Evening called AppleCare
Thursday Morning received FedEx box
Thursday 5:30 p.m. dropped MacBook Air at FedEx
Friday 7:20 p.m. Apple had fixed and shipped it
Saturday 11:30 a.m. FedEx delivered repaired MBA
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That is not what one buys a Mac for though and pays a couple of thousand bucks for unfortunately. It really isn’t. I too spent too long in Windows World.

I agree. This was said in a fatalistic way. :slight_smile:

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I know it was :slightly_smiling_face: I have had very good service out of my 2014 Macbook pro without the ‘butterfly’ keyboard. It is still working ok, though I did have to have the screen replaced under some service guarantee, it had that weird peeling… I was ok about that, they did it free within a few days. I also had the battery replaced. It gets heavy wear from me and is running fine as of today. I am on the verge of going for a 16 inch. I will run them both for a while I think. I can afford to. I am so glad I missed the butterfly era. My neighbor had an air, newish… of course, the keys are already not functioning right.

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The 16 inch seems a wonderful machine – the keyboard, the battery. If I hadn’t paid so dearly for my 2016, I would go for it. Guess I’m going to wait 2-3 more years :slight_smile:


But that is really frustrating, I would be furious if I found myself there. That was a big ding in my respect for Apple really.

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