What's your keyboard's worst enemy?
The patent also sees Apple acknowledge the debris problem as they note, "residues from such liquids, such as sugar, may corrode or block electrical contacts [and] prevent key movement by bonding moving parts". Spilled coffee? Crumbs or other bits of food (or indeed dust) getting stuck under the keys?
A 2016 patent from Apple has been made public this week, and it imagines a keyboard that's more resistant to debris and crumbs As noted by The Verge, this patent was filed back in 2016, but only now has become public information.
Apple describes a diverse range of solutions to make a keyboard effectively bulletproof to these dangers, which include the likes of gaskets, flaps, brushes or wipers which are designed to block the gaps beneath key caps. With Apple's brand being built on premium and highly engineered user experiences, it is no wonder that they are investing in keeping their keyboards free of any contaminants that could reduce this. The designs in the patent document show some kind of membrane covering the mechanicals of the keys. It's been a well documented issue with the MacBook Pro, with dust seriously interfering with the butterfly switch mechanism. As we've seen recently, another patent showed Apple is mulling the idea of giving the MacBook a virtual OLED keyboard. The patent was filed on September 8th, 2016, just a day after the company officially announced the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
The new patent application outlines how the keyboard would use "a guard structure coupled to the key cap operable to direct contaminants away from the movement mechanism".
There are a lot of different ideas here, and it's perhaps not surprising to see Apple is exploring how best to shore up its keyboard against the ravages of crumbs.
It's 2018 and smartphones rule the roost.