Apple mulls MacBook with pop-up keyboard

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Apple mulls MacBook with pop-up keyboard

This concept drawing provides a side view of the mechanism that could be used in a MacBook with a pop-up keyboard.
Photo: Apple / Cult of Mac

Suppose the keyboard on your MacBook rose slightly and turned toward you when you opened the lid. It’s the idea described by a patent that Apple has just been granted.

The concept has ergonomic advantages, but also adds moving parts.

Imagine a MacBook with a removable keyboard

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple Patent No. 11,181,949 for retractable keyboards.

“Keyboards are revealed that can be pulled out,” Apple writes in the stylized language used in patent applications. Movable magnetic or mechanical coupling elements are configured to move key caps and stabilizers between different relative positions. Structures in a movable layer can act on the key caps or stabilizers to move the key caps and stabilizers to a retracted position for storage and to save space in an electronic unit.”

Pros and cons of a pop-up MacBook keyboard

Apple’s patent application mentions “saving space in an electronic device”, but a retractable keyboard would not actually use less space. The mechanism should still fit between the two halves of the MacBook clamshell. Plus, the mechanism for raising the keyboard would actually add bulk.

But there can be an ergonomic advantage. MacBooks are wonderfully practical to carry, but typing on one typically involves poor posture and wrist positions. A pop-up keyboard might help a little.

On the other hand, a pull-out keyboard is a moving part. Something that can break. And it’s not a feature many potential buyers will reject. Especially considering Apple’s past keyboard design issues.

All that said, a patent application does not mean that a MacBook with a pop-up keyboard will be out anytime soon. Or ever. The company’s engineers often patent designs that are never seen again.

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