Did Apple’s Latest Keyboard Update Make Things Worse?


Barely a week into the New Year I wrote an article entitled Magic Mouse Drains Keyboard Batteries. The clue is in the title. According to reports on the Apple Support forum, people were discovering that their diminutive Apple wireless keyboards were suddenly chewing through battery life faster than a first generation iPod in 2010. The Magic Mouse was blamed, and naturally, we wailed and gnashed our teeth.

Well, last night, Apple released version 1.1 of the Aluminum Keyboard Firmware via Software Update. And as a man almost ready to buy Energizer shares (anything to try to win back the cost of paying for high-performance batteries every week) its description sounded very promising.

“This firmware update improves battery performance of the 2007 aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard when used in combination with other bluetooth devices (eg. Magic Mouse, some bluetooth headsets) and addresses an issue with the 2007 aluminum Apple Keyboard and the 2007 aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard where a key may repeat unexpectedly while typing. The update also addresses other issues.”

Promises Promises; the Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update

I can’t say I’ve ever experienced the “key repeat” problem but I most certainly have watched in dismay as my keyboard greedily depleted — in record time — every expensive battery I put in the thing. (Remember that scene in My Stepmother is an Alien when Celeste sucks the flashlight batteries dry? Exactly the same.)


Not unexpectedly, the update required a restart — but that was a trifling inconvenience in return for longer battery life! In fact, it was only a few days ago I put in a fresh set of expensive Lithium batteries and I wasn’t eager to have to buy more any day soon. Imagine my surprise when the following message popped-up.

Shocking! Annoying, too. Prior to the update I could coax 9-14 days out of my batteries. The current batteries have been in for only three days and I’m being told they’re on the way out? Surely that’s no coincidence.

So what’s happening here? Bad batteries? Or could it be that Apple’s update has made things worse?

Mixed Results

I headed back to the Apple Support pages to see what was being said. The experience of other Magic Mouse / Wireless Keyboard owners is so far somewhat mixed. Here’s what Creator2456 reports:

Did the firmware update […] The keyboard also REFUSES to stay powered on after the update. Already tried several batteries so it is not a power problem. The LED will light when I press the power button and then turn off within 5 seconds without pairing or anything.

Conversely, here’s a more ebullient comment from Xorgoo:

It works ! My alu keyboard (3 batteries) is reborn! 1% lost during the night, compare to 10% before.

And then there’s this warning from Freekarrot:

This update won’t work on recent 2-cell AWKs, which are heavily affected by the bug as well. Letting out an update just for one of the affected devices is ridiculous. It means they know what the problem is and how it is solved, but they either don’t know or refuse to acknowledge that ALL AWKs are affected!

Conspiracy theories aside, I really don’t know what to make of this sort of incompatibility. (I’m not sure what else to call it — ‘Not Playing Nicely Together-ness” doesn’t sound very smart; perhaps “malfunction” is better?)  I understand Apple doesn’t develop its own Bluetooth drivers (that responsibility is left to Broadcomm, the manufacturers of all Bluetooth radios in Apple’s machines) but even so, for their own equipment to behave in such a flaky, unreliable manner really isn’t the ‘Apple Way’ to which I have become accustomed. It’s all supposed to ‘Just Work’, right?

Think about it; if Microsoft were to build a bluetooth keyboard and mouse that, individually, worked just fine but, together, played very silly games with battery-life, we would be so quick to tut-tut and shake our heads. We would chuckle, too, adding ever-so-smugly (in the manner many Mac-heads are wont to do when commenting on Windows-PC-based problems) “Well, what do you expect from Microsoft?”

Just prior to the Firmware update, the now-very-happy Xorgoo complained;

More Than 100 days, more than 300 posts, and… nothing.
Apple, you have to do something.
And you should at least give us some news.
Do you think time will cure the trouble ? It won’t…

Well, Apple has done something. We now we have an update, but judging from my own initial experience and fresh comments on the Apple support pages, problems remain. Of course, one is a poor sample — my batteries may have already been too far-gone to benefit from the updated firmware. Maybe.

So now it’s over to you. Have you tried updating your firmware? Has it made any sort of difference? Share your findings with me in the comments below. And please… no comments about how we should ditch our Apple keyboards. I don’t care how shiny your Logitech is.

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