MacBooks could get retractable keyboards, according to Apple patent

MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
(Image credit: Future)

The quality and design of Apple's MacBook keyboards has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years, with the Cupertino company's dreaded Butterfly switch implementation proving to be the most contentious.

While Apple has taken steps to address its users' concerns, officially ditching the Butterfly switches with last year's MacBook Pro 16-inch, it appears the tech giant isn't quite done with its keyboard tinkering. 

According to documents obtained by Patently Apple, the MacBook-maker has submitted a patent application for a new type of retractable keyboard that lowers into the base of the laptop's body when closed.

The design places keycaps on a stabilizer, which is coupled to a base layer. The latter raises or lowers when the MacBook is open or closed, respectively, and that should theoretically allow Apple to produce even thinner MacBooks in the future.

Below is an illustration from the patent which demonstrates how the retractable keyboard implementation would work in both open and closed positions.

MacBook retractable keyboard patent

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

While the US Patent Office only revealed the patent publicly today, Apple's application was submitted back in the third quarter of 2019. 

Whether the company plans to bring its retractable keyboard idea to market is anyone's guess, although it would surely be interesting to see how much thinner Apple's MacBook lineup can get.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.