It’s about as predictable as the sun rising that iPhone and Mac accessories from third parties will pop up on Amazon. Apple’s products are very popular and Apple-built accessories tend to be expensive. But not every iPhone and Mac accessory carries Apple’s seal of approval — and that can be risky for you.
Sometimes that’s fine. Apple’s rules for the Made for iPhone, or MFI, are okay with unpowered cases being unlicensed. The company does, however, exclude MagSafe from that rule. That implies that anyone developing anything that uses MagSafe will need to be in the MFI program.
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But are these cheaper accessories any good? MacRumors has taken a look at a spattering of the available options and come to some interesting conclusions. One surprise is that Apple’s official accessories don’t charge the iPhone at the maximum 15 watts. It was very nearly half of that for both official and unofficial hardware.
While that might come down to how the charging was measured, it could also be that Apple’s planning for future devices with MagSafe that might need a bit more juice. Keeping the power down also helps with heat, which is important in safeguarding devices.
Heat tends to be a big battery killer. The more heat that's generated by charging will often shorten the lifespan of a battery. That’s one reason Apple’s MagSafe design snaps on precisely and is generally made from high quality parts. A proper wireless connection will prevent excess heat dissipation and keep iPhones cool. That might help extend your battery life, along with other Apple features, like its intelligent charge cycles.
If your eye has been turned by other accessories, like saving a few bucks on the MagSafe wallet, then you could end up paying heavily if you use a third-party design. In MacRumor's video, host Dan Barbera demonstrates how weak the unofficial magnet connection is, and how easily you could end up losing money and credit cards if you use a non-Apple design.
It’s entirely up to you what route you take. Certainly MacRumors' findings suggest that some stuff works as well as Apple’s, just with lower quality materials but equal performance. Other accessories seem like they might be more frustrating than dangerous. But the phrase, buy cheap, buy twice, certainly has some resonance here.
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Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited as ever about how tech can make your life better. Ian is the editor of T3.com but has also regularly contributed to Tom's Guide.