It often seems like it doesn’t, for a couple reason. Firstly, because it usually doesn’t come right out and say “we’re listening”—at least not specifically. But more visibly, because the actions that result from that listening generally take a pretty long time to come to fruition.
The old metaphor for something that’s slow to change is “turning a battleship,” but Apple is so big at this point that it’s more like turning a flotilla of aircraft carriers that have been lashed together as a floating city. In the middle of a glacier.
We’re talking slow here, people.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro released this week points to the fact that Apple can bring its ships around, eventually. And even when they do get on a new heading, it might not be exactly the one that all of its users are looking for. But there are certainly enough significant changes in this latest update to indicate that the company is looking to keep its customers, especially its most vocal ones, happy.
Bye bye butterfly
The first Mac to feature the butterfly keyboard was the 12-inch MacBook, back in 2015. It wasn’t long after that the first complaints about it started to surface, and Apple took several cracks at revamping the mechanism. First with a second-generation keyboard that slightly tweaked the switches themselves, and later with a third generation that added a silicone membrane to supposedly prevent dust from getting in.
Ultimately, none of those fixes quieted the complaints, which ended up leading to a much bigger problem: perception. Even if the keyboard problems were limited to a small percentage of users, the outspoken nature of the complaints and failures to acknowledge them (beyond the tacit admission inherent in the repeated updating of the keyboard mechanism) resulted in trust being broken between the company and its users. In the end, Apple could have rolled out a redesigned butterfly keyboard that really did fix all the problems—but as long as it had a butterfly mechanism, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Sometimes you can ride out a problem like this, and sometimes you need to make a change. At some point, probably even as the company was rolling out one of those successive generations of butterfly mechanisms, Apple must have realized that the only option left was to pull out the old drawing board and start again. It just took a while to deliver.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro also reverses course on another Apple trend: the one that keeps the company’s products sliding constantly towards thinner and smaller. This time around, the MacBook Pro even grew a little bit—though there was no real surprise there, given that it added a larger display to the mix.
But it got additional benefits from that size increase too, not least of which was the ability to include a 100Wh battery, providing an additional hour of quoted battery life…