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Apple may launch new MacBook Air with a new keyboard that doesn't stick, top analyst says

Key Points
  • Apple will reportedly replace the butterfly keyboards in its new laptops, beginning with a new MacBook Air this year, according to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
  • Apple's butterfly mechanism keyboards have been used in laptops since 2015.
  • The company began fixing all butterfly keyboards in May for free.
The new MacBook Air
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple may replace the controversial butterfly mechanism keyboards that it has used in all modern MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air computers introduced since 2015, according to a note from top Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

The keyboard, which Apple has tried to keep improving, is known for sticking or creating multiple keypresses and has been a problem for some users. Apple has said that only a fraction of users have problems with their keyboards, but it's widespread enough that the company began fixing all laptops with the butterfly keyboards for free in May.

Kuo said Apple will launch a MacBook Air with a new scissor-style keyboard this year, followed by a new MacBook Pro with the updated keyboard in 2020. It might also help Apple increase margins. "The cost of a butterfly keyboard is much higher (by 250–350%) than that of a general notebook keyboard because of low production yields," Kuo said.

Kuo said Apple is turning to a scissor mechanism to replace the butterfly mechanism, which was created to help keep MacBooks as thin as possible.

"There have been successful developments in the new scissor keyboard," Kuo said. "The new keyboard could improve the typing experience by offering longer key travel and durability by adopting glass fiber to reinforce the keys' structure."

Apple said a new keyboard design in the latest MacBook Pro, launched in May, would improve reliability by employing new materials. However, the design of the keys remains the same, and they may still stick.

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