With the arrival of the iPhone 12 comes a new ecosystem with accessories for Apple smartphones. MagSafe makes it easier to charge an iPhone wirelessly, attach cases and use a variety of other accessories. Here’s why it’s a big step forward for the iPhone.
A new MagSafe
If you itch and think you’ve heard “MagSafe” before, you’re right. Apple previously used the name of its MacBook chargers before switching to USB-C.
Back then, MagSafe was not a wireless technology. It was designed to be easily turned on and off, so you can easily connect a charger to your MacBook even in the dark. The result of having the charger secured with a magnet meant that accidents were much less likely to lead to a broken laptop.
MagSafe for iPhone is a little different. It’s a completely wireless charging standard, but it’s not just for charging. Most excitingly, it paves the way forward for an iPhone that does not need a flash port. This means better waterproofing and more space inside the chassis for other things, such as a larger battery.
MagSafe’s wireless charging and accessory functionality is available on iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. It will probably be included in future iPhones as well.
Wireless charging takes center stage
Apple first introduced wireless charging along with the iPhone 8, but so far this has been limited to 7.5w. MagSafe doubles the throughput to 15w, giving the iPhone a line with most other fast-charging Android devices.
But there is a catch. For an iPhone that uses MagSafe to reach these speeds, you must use an Apple-approved fee. You will be limited to the old 7.5 w speed if you use an old Qi charger outside the brand. This gives Apple more control over the MagSafe ecosystem, a concept most iPhone users are familiar with now.
But MagSafe is not just about speed, it’s also about ease of use. One of the biggest problems with wireless charging is finding the “sweet spot” where the charger and device close the circuit. This is something you will know if you have ever put your smartphone on a wireless charging tablet and returned 30 minutes later to see that it has not been charged at all.
MagSafe aims to solve the problem by attaching the charger to the back of the iPhone. This creates a perfect circuit every time, with enough magnetic force to hold the iPhone and charger firmly in place. Belkin’s new three-in-one MagSafe wireless charger for iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods demonstrates this by showing the charger that holds the iPhone 12 at a 45-degree angle.
The first approved MagSafe charger is Apple’s own basic $ 39 offer, with the company planning to introduce a travel-friendly MagSafe Duo that charges both your Apple Watch and iPhone. Both Belkin and Griffin will have their own third-party accessories available soon, and more manufacturers will no doubt jump on board as the device’s availability improves.
Great news for cases
In addition to a wireless charger and snap-on wallet, two first-party cases were announced for each variant of the iPhone 12 along with the MagSafe reboot. A transparent plastic case and a solid silicone case with MagSafe will get the magnetic treatment in what can be a big upset about how we apply and remove cases from our iPhones. Apple also teased a leather case in its presentation.
Most cases have a lip to hold the case in place when used. This prevents your iPhone from falling out, but it can make it difficult to delete a case. Not only does taking an iPhone out of a tough plastic case require some force, it often deforms and distorts the case with each application. It really should be easier to change cases, clean the phone or just enjoy a fall-free iPhone, right?
Enter MagSafe. With a magnetic grip that holds your iPhone in place, you no longer need a lip. This is the design philosophy that Apple embraces with the arrival of the transparent plastic and colored silicone cases from Apple that are launched together with the iPhone 12 and a magnetic case from a third party from Pitaka.
The transparent plastic case looks especially radiant with its MagSafe magnetic ring on the display. Cases are designed with accessories in mind, which means you should be able to attach any MagSafe-compatible accessory directly to your phone or to a MagSafe-compatible case.
It remains to be seen how the new MagSafe goals handle being dropped. Because many rugged cases use lips to protect the outer edges of the iPhone’s screen, you may be in need of the new Ceramic Shield protection built into the iPhone 12 family, which promises four times better shock resistance.
Of course, there will still be common “stupid” cases for sale well into the future. Some may include MagSafe for better charging performance while still relying on the extra protection that a lip provides.
A new ecosystem of accessories
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of MagSafe is the accessories that have not yet been announced. With support for up to 15W power supply, identification of accessories via NFC and a magnetometer built into every iPhone in the future, it remains to be seen what Apple and third-party manufacturers have in store.
PopSocket, which makes hugely popular stick-on smartphone grips, has already announced plans to embrace MagSafe. The success of such a product certainly depends on how strong the magnetic connection between the device and the accessory is, so it will be interesting to see what the company comes up with.
MagSafe is more than just a charging method, but battery cases and snap-on battery packs can become a reality. This would provide an easy way to greatly increase your iPhone’s power capacity simply by attaching an accessory to the back.
It is not clear if MagSafe has any data transfer overhead in its original form, although it is possible that Apple may use MagSafe to “shake hands” with devices to enable fast wireless data transfer. This can see the arrival of MagSafe devices (just as we have Lightning USB combo devices today) for backup and data transfer.
How about audiovisual accessories such as lenses and microphones or audio interfaces? Apple received a patent for what can loosely be described as “MagSafe lenses” in 2014. Can companies like Square and PayPal use MagSafe for their card readers as well? Time will tell, but Apple really does seem to steer us toward a wireless future.
“Magnets, how do they work?”
One issue that has been raised by Apple’s decision to put magnets in the pocket of the iPhone 12 is the risk of damage to items such as credit cards and hotel room keys. While this is a real possibility, Apple says the MagSafe wallet will not cause more damage to these items than your smartphone would normally do.
Apple does this with shielding built into the wallet, so it’s possible that a bare MagSafe connector could still cause problems. At the moment, it is best to put items with sensitive magnetic tapes (such as gift cards and hotel keys) in another pocket. Most credit cards are resistant to magnetic interference – and if you use a chip or contactless payments, you have nothing to worry about.
MagSafe is not the only major change on the iPhone 12. Read more about Apple’s implementation of 5G in its latest smartphones.
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