When it comes to keyboards, Apple has had a rough ride in recent years. 2015's infamous Butterfly mechanism was incredibly fault-prone, with users plagued by issues including stuck keys. Last year saw it finally replaced by a more robust Magic Keyboard in both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro – but now it looks like an even more radical keyboard redesign could be on the way.
A new patent filing has revealed that Apple is working on a MacBook featuring a solid-state keyboard – which, in short, involves a glass surface that can transform on command to suit what ever app is being used. It's certainly a novel invention – but would it actually make our best laptop for graphic design any better?
While typing anything longer than a tweet on a glass surface sounds highly uncomfortable, Apple is at pains to describe the benefits in the patent (spotted by 9to5Mac). "Conventional input devices, such as keyboards or trackpads for a laptop, are susceptible to damage," Apple says. "For example, debris and other contaminants may enter the casing," – clearly Apple hasn't quite got over the Butterfly Keyboard debacle.
Secondly, Apple claims that the configurability of a solid-state keyboard would remove several limitations of a traditional design. From number pads to enlarged directional keys (presumably for gaming), the company suggests the invention would make the MacBook much more versatile.
Sure, there could be some benefits – particularly for creatives. An enormous trackpad, for example, could be brilliant for digital art, especially if it was compatible with the Apple Pencil (check out this incredible Apple Pencil deal, by the way). And anything that makes the MacBook less damage-prone sounds like a good thing.
But for us, there's no way around the fact that, when it comes to typing, nothing compares to a physical keyboard. This invention sounds rather like a giant version of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar – a feature so divisive that Apple is allegedly considering canning it with the next MacBook Pro.
Of course, like all Apple patents, it's entirely possible that this idea will never see the light of day. Either way, we hope the traditional keyboard is here to stay, especially since Apple has finally fixed its butterfly woes with the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, with both feature a brilliant (and, most importantly, reliable) Magic Keyboard. Check out today's best M1 MacBook deals below, and be sure to swing by our Apple deals page for more offers.