MacBook Pro 2020 could get this surprise upgrade

MacBook Pro 16-inch
(Image credit: Future)

Without a doubt, Apple will equip its MacBook Pro 2020 laptops with its new Magic Keyboard, but it might go one step further and add-in its True Tone display tech the keys. 

At least that’s what we can glean from a new Apple patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (flagged by Apple Insider), which describes how keyboard backlight brightness could be changed on-the-fly by using “adjustable white points”. Apple True Tone works that way, so we can hazard a guess that the tech found in its latest MacBooks and the iPhone 11 Pro could jump over to the Magic Keyboard. 

For those of you who don’t know about True Tone, the tech is currently used in Apple's Retina displays and uses sensors to automatically adjust a display’s color and brightness to match an environment’s ambient lighting. 

It’s been championed as a way to ensure that a display is clearly visible under bright lights or delivers a warmer tone in low-light environments to reduce eye strain. 

Apple MacBook Pro patent

(Image credit: United States Patent and Trademark Office)

The patent effectively takes this concept and explains how it could be applied to a keyboard to ensure its keys are visible in all manner of differently lit environments.

"If care is not taken, ambient light changes and changes in the operating settings of components in the laptop computer may cause the appearance of keyboard keys, displays, and other input-output devices to vary in ways that are not visually appealing,” the patent explained.

The patent does describe how such an ambient light sensor could be used with a backlight that has adjustable colours. That would suggest that next-generation MacBook Pros could have some form of coloured keyboard lighting, which would be a departure from the while backlight in previous MacBook models.

However, we’d be surprised if Apple went down the full RGB keyboard route, as seen in gaming laptops, as that wouldn’t really seem to gel with the clean and industrial aesthetic of the MacBook lineup. But some form of colored macro key lighting, say for shortcuts in video and photo editing apps, wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

There’s a good chance that the concept of a True Tone keyboard might not make it out of the patent stage. But with the next wave of MacBook Pro machines, we can certainly expect to see the improved Magic Keyboard replace the unreliable Butterfly keyboard mechanism of the current 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models. This would be logical, given the MacBook Pro 16-inch and the latest MacBook Air both make use of that improved scissor keyboard mechanism.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro may also get a larger 14-inch screen in the same size chassis, though it remains to be seen whether it will have a mini-LED display, which would be a much bigger upgrade than having a True Tone keyboard.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.