iPhone 12 MagSafe has some big drawbacks — what you need to know

iPhone 12 Pro review
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One of the biggest announcements of the iPhone 12 launch event wasn’t the phone itself; it was the fact that Apple was resurrecting the MagSafe brand. While pitched as a more secure way to wirelessly charge your phone, it turns out that there are a lot of other ways you can utilize a ring of magnets on the back of your phone.

But with all the buzz and hype around the new MagSafe products, we have to admit to ourselves that magnets aren’t the solution to every problem. They’re incredibly useful when utilized properly. But some things don’t, and shouldn’t, need a special ring of magnets to work.

It's only been a few weeks since the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro launched, and we’re already seeing a huge range of products that hope to capitalize on MagSafe. Many of them have good reason to as well, like Moment’s camera accessories which promise  to connect to your phone without you having to wrestle it into the right grip. The same is true for car mounts and other similar add-ons.

But just because something can be attached by a magnet doesn’t mean it should. Like Apple’s own MagSafe wallet, which holds onto your credit cards and snaps onto the back of your phone. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I feel like the thing holding all your money isn’t the kind of thing you should be able to easily remove.

You can argue the pros and cons of keeping credit cards in a phone case in general, but until this point those cases have generally been quite sturdy — and most importantly firmly attached to the phone. Taking off the wallet part without taking the whole phone would be a challenge, to say the least. As secure as the MagSafe magnets might cling onto that wallet, you’re still relying on a quirk of physics to keep it all together.

Just take a look at this video from MacRumors and see what I mean. Skip ahead to 2:20 for the pertinent section.

While secure enough for generally waving your phone around, the fact that MacRumors' review had issues with the wallet falling off shows a key failing of MagSafe accessories. Magnets are fantastic if you need to connect two things temporarily, or if you’re not really moving them around, but beyond that they’re just not secure enough.

It’s bad enough to pay $60 for a wallet attachment that can come loose at random intervals during the day. But when it’s holding critically important contents — be they credit cards, drivers licences, or something else — it becomes a much more serious problem than overpaying for a leather pouch.

Apple could have made the magnetic grip stronger, sure, but that would lead to more problems than it would solve. Like the fact that you may need to remove the wallet to get your cards out, or that the iPhone 12 can’t MagSafe charge while it’s still in place. Not to mention that there have already been warnings from Apple about how the existing magnets might affect the magnetic strips and RFID chips you would find in things like credit cards, key fobs, and so on. Increase magnet strength, and those problems will increase along with it.

Let’s just be a bit more cautious about what accessories we decide to include MagSafe on. Chargers and compatible cases? Sure thing. Accessories that were never meant to be used for extended periods of time? Absolutely, if it makes things easier. Something that will cause serious problems if the magnets disconnect suddenly? Let’s give those a miss.

Whether it’s a wallet, a selfie stick, or something else entirely, magnets are not a fool-proof solution. So let’s use a bit of common sense. Because let’s be honest, the last thing you need is a dodgy magnet connection coming apart at the worst possible moment.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.