MagSafe Reincarnated

Remember MagSafe? Well, it’s back again! So, let’s take an in-depth look at this new “connector.”

If you purchased a MacBook between 2009 and 2015, you’re probably familiar with the MagSafe name. 

MagSafe was the renowned magnetic power connector for the MacBook line. Its big selling point was how easily the cable could be disconnected from your computer. And you may be thinking, why would you want the power cable to be easily disconnected? Well, if the cable ever got snagged, say you trip over the cable, it just disconnects its self without yanking your expensive laptop to the ground. It was a great feature loved by many MacBook users. But, when Apple redesigned the MacBook in 2016, MagSafe was killed. Replacing it was USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, the cable standard that can do it all, connect external drives, displays, docks, and even supply power to your portable device. At the same time, no longer will your USB-C power cable disconnect when pulled too hard, your laptop will just drop. If Apple was to replace MagSafe with anything I’m happy it was USB-C. At least it’s a universal cable standard.

But now, MagSafe is back, unfortunately not with the MacBooks but instead in the new iPhone 12. However, it’s not an exact replica of MagSafe found on the MacBooks of yesterday. No, you will not find it integrated into the Lightning port of the iPhone 12. Instead, there is a round magnet around the Apple logo on the back of the phone. Not only is it encircling the Apple logo, but also the wireless charging coils on the back of your phone.

Let’s back up a bit and take a look at wireless chargers. Every iPhone since the iPhone 10 and many Android smartphones have the power to be charged wirelessly. It works by getting a wireless charger and setting your phone on it with no cables necessary. It’s an excellent way to charge. Get one for your desk and maybe your nightstand. When your working at your desk you slide your phone on the charger. When going to bed at night you slide your phone onto the charger. It’s super easy to do and is around the same price as a standard wired charger.

Although there is one major flaw, alignment. You need to align your phone perfectly for wireless charging to work at its full potential. The more precisely your phone and the charger are aligned, the faster your phone will charge. Set your phone off a bit, and it may not charge at all.

One way to solve this is to get a rectangular wireless charger. A rectangular wireless charger will make it easier to align your two boxes properly. My personal preference is a wireless charging stand. But, Apple has a different solution, MagSafe.

With MagSafe, you don’t have to worry about aligning your phone perfectly. Instead, your phone will magnetically connect to the charger, positioning itself perfectly to provide the fastest charge possible. Using MagSafe will even energize your iPhone at a faster rate than a standard wireless charger. 

Not only can MagSafe be used for charging, but also for a wide range of accessories. Wallet attachments, cases, photograph add-ons, and more. Companies are looking at ways to take advantage of this “connector.” Unfortunately, most of these accessories (other than Apple’s and a couple of 3rd parties) will not be out until early 2021.

For now, I purchased Apple’s $40 MagSafe Puck. With it, I’m going to answer some common questions about MagSafe.

How Strong is MagSafe?

It’s pretty strong. Now, would I trust it to keep my phone safe if I extended it over a cliff, no way! However, once you connect a MagSafe accessory, it does take a little force to disconnect them. If you want to learn more about magnets and MagSafe, I’d recommend watching this video from Quinn Nelson of Snazzy Labs. In it, he takes a deep dive into the technology behind MagSafe. I will leave a link to it below.

Does it work through a case?

Yes and no, let me explain. Currently, I have a basic clear plastic phone case, nothing fancy. But, MagSafe does work through it. However, the magnetic connection is nowhere close to being as strong as when connected directly to the iPhone. If you plan on using MagSafe long term, I’d recommend getting a phone case with MagSafe built-in, basically, a MagSafe extension cable. Accessories connected to the case will have the same strength as the accessory connected directly to your phone. 
Is the MagSafe puck a good replacement for a lightning cable?
No, it’s still a wired charger that directly attaches to your new iPhone. In this sense, it’s no different than using your lightning cable. So, if you’re trying to condense your cables, Apple’s MagSafe puck is not for you. However, be on the lookout for MagSafe stands like Belkin’s 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with MagSafe ($149) that will be released soon.

Is the MagSafe puck a good replacement for a standard wireless charger?

No, the magnetic connection may make it easier to align your phone with the wireless charger but let’s look at the real question.

Is it worth $40?

$40 is stupidly expensive, especially when compared to other wired and wireless chargers. If you have a lightning cable and it works well for you, then there’s no need to get Apple’s MagSafe cable. If you’re interested in wireless charging, look into getting a standard wireless charger. It will do the job just fine and uses a wireless charging standard adopted in every iPhone since the iPhone 8 and any modern Android phone. The MagSafe puck doesn’t even come with a USB-C power adapter. You’re paying $40 just for a cable. To add a power adapter, that is if you don’t already have one, would be another $20. Bring your grand total to $60 for an iPhone charger. Unless you have $60 laying around waiting to be spent, a standard $15 wireless charger can do the same job at a fourth of the price.
In conclusion, MagSafe is cool. It can be used to charge your iPhone and as a way to attach magnetic accessories. It’s an open book of possibilities. But I think $40 just for a MagSafe cable is way too expensive and not worth it when compared to the cheaper solutions available. Although, I’m optimistic about the cheaper 3rd party accessories on the way, and I’m excited to see what new features they bring with them.

MagSafe Videos


MagSafe Accessories:

More on MagSafe: