We had thought Apple’s MagSafe was dead after the popular charging tech was removed from the MacBook years ago. But it’s coming back with the iPhone 12 range in a big way.
This new take on MagSafe is a clever way to provide faster wireless charging to all four handsets in the iPhone 12 series. And it’s looking like it could be one of the iPhone 12’s most important features. Here's what you need to know.
- iPhone 12 release date, price, specs and news
- iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max: All the key differences
- Plus: iPhone 12 hands-on video revealed — here's your first look
What is MagSafe?
In a nutshell, MagSafe is a magnetic wireless charging system for the new iPhone 12 handsets. But the tech has a history.
For those of you who don’t know, MagSafe was originally used to easily secure a charging cable to MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops. Through the power of magnets, the cable would snap neatly into place in the charging port. But if you were to accidentally catch the cable on something, or a clumsy colleague tripped on your charger, the cable would easily detach from the port rather than yank the attached MacBook to the floor with it.
We’ve seen Microsoft’s Surface devices do the same with the Surface Connect port, only not as well as MagSafe. However, the move to make MacBooks slimmer saw both the Pro and Air machines go for USB-C connections, leaving no space for MagSafe. And thus one of the neatest features of Apple’s laptops was consigned to the bone orchard.
But by adding magnets into the back of the iPhone 12 handsets, Apple has repurposed MagSafe to become what appears to be a rather neat wireless charging system.
How does MagSafe work?
MagSafe doesn’t reinvent wireless charging; instead, it improves it. Much like the Qi wireless charging that Apple phones have supported since iPhone 8, MagSafe relies on a wireless charging coil in the iPhone 12’s glass rear.
But with a ring of magnets encircling the coil, a MagSafe wireless charger can be snapped onto the back of an iPhone 12, with the magnets ensuring the coil in the phone is perfectly aligned with the coil in the charger. This eliminates problems with misaligning the coils that can prevent a phone from charging or see it filling up very slowly.
And MagSafe can be used for more than just charging. It supports MagSafe cases that can be easily snapped into place by the magnets. And there’s also a MagSafe leather wallet which snaps onto the back of all four iPhone 12 handsets and can be used as a slick cardholder.
There's scope for Apple and third-party partners to make more MagSafe accessories. For example, a MagSafe tripod could hold the iPhone 12 Pro Max in place so it’s high-end suite of cameras can be used to their maximum potential.
How fast is MagSafe charging?
Thanks to the accurate alignment MagSafe provides, the iPhone 12 handsets will receive a 15W charging speed. While that’s not going to beat the 30W wireless charging the OnePlus 8 Pro has, it’s an upgrade over the 7.5W charging offered by the Qi standard found in the iPhone 11 range.
MagSafe won’t offer quite as fast charging as a Lightning connection. While Apple won’t be providing a charger in the iPhone 12’s box, it will support 20W charging over a USB-C to Lightning charger.
But MagSafe still has plenty of watts to charge an iPhone 12 in good time. So it’s likely to be something you can pop onto your iPhone 12 before bed and wake up to a fully charged phone.
How much are MagSafe chargers?
Apple is selling its official MagSafe charger for $39, which is rather reasonable for an Apple peripheral. And it’s around the same ballpark cost as other chargers from big phone brands.
The MagSafe chargers are also a lot cheaper than Google’s Pixel Stand wireless charger, which costs a hefty $79.
Other MagSafe accessories cost a little more. MagSafe compatible cases are $49, while the MagSafe leather wallet is $59.
But we can expect third-party companies to come up with with more MagSafe accessories. Belkin has the $150 BoostCharge Pro MagSafe 3-in-1 charger, as well as a MagSafe car vent mount, which costs $40. PopSockets, those strange grip accessories for smartphones, will come with MagSafe support. Expect a lot more accessory brands to jump on the MagSafe bandwagon.
What’s next for MagSafe?
We suspect that MagSafe chargers will become an almost essential accessory for the iPhone 12 range when it arrives this month and in November. But we also hope this is a sign that MagSafe will return for other Apple devices.
A MagSafe stand for the iPad would be handy, as it could prop the tablet up so users could watch Netflix or stream games while it glugs down electricity. And some clever form of wireless charging pad for MacBooks would be rather good — imagine simply being able to walk over to your desk and pop your MacBook on a flat charging pad and get on with your day without the need to find charging cables.
Time will tell if Apple pushes MagSafe further. But for now we’re glad it’s back, as it’s looking set to be one of the iPhone 12’s most satisfying features.