What is Apple MagSafe on the iPhone 12 and what accessories can you buy? In this overview, we tell you everything about the magnetic connection on the back of the iPhone 12 and what you can do with it.
MagSafe, not MacSafe
During the announcement of the iPhone 12, Apple placed great emphasis on two topics: 5G and MagSafe. What you can do with 5G is clear to most people, but what is MagSafe (or MagSafe, as some people incorrectly write it). MagSafe is more than a magnetic system for wireless charging. It will lead to a new ecosystem of accessories, according to Apple, including the already announced MagSafe Charger and various MagSafe cases for the iPhone. There are actually two variants of MagSafe (for Mac and iPhone), which we’ll cover below.
There are also a few questions that remain unanswered, as no one has yet been able to test the iPhones with MagSafe. For example: can you stick the iPhone to the fridge? How strong are the magnets? And how fast is charging on the MagSafe Charger in practice?
- What is MagSafe for iPhone?
- What is MagSafe for Mac?
- How does MagSafe for iPhone work technically?
- Which MagSafe accessories are there?
- Do you have to remove accessories before you can upload with MagSafe?
- Do you need special MagSafe cases?
- How do you recognize an official MagSafe accessory?
- Which iPhones are compatible with MagSafe?
- What are the benefits of MagSafe?
- Are there any drawbacks to MagSafe?
- Is MagSafe harmful to bank cards?
- Where can I find a suitable MagSafe case?
- Can I fast charge with MagSafe?
- What does a MagSafe charger cost?
- What does the future of MagSafe look like?
# 1 What is MagSafe for iPhone?
On the iPhone, MagSafe is a charging and fixing system for the iPhone 12 series. Magnets are placed around the coil for wireless charging. Charging is still done according to the Qi standard, where the magnets ensure that the iPhone is always properly placed on the charger. Previously, if your iPhone was not properly aligned on the charger, charging was much slower than normal. The charger of the Apple Watch already uses magnets.
MagSafe also makes it possible to attach all kinds of magnetic accessories to your iPhone, such as a case for cards. You can also attach the iPhone to a holder more easily, for example in the car.
# 2 What is MagSafe for the Mac?
Do you remember MagSafe? Apple used this term for years for the magnetic connection of the charging cable of MacBooks. Since the 12-inch MacBook in 2015 and the MacBook Pro from 2016, Apple has abandoned this practical and much-loved connection.
MagSafe on the Mac was introduced on the MacBook Pro in 2006. It is basically a magnetic power connector for MacBooks. The idea is that if someone trips over the cable, your laptop will not be dragged and fall to the floor. The MagSafe adapter is firmly seated in the laptop without falling out, but a short and violent tug will cause the cable to come loose. This way, no damage occurs, not to the laptop, but also not to the cable or the power connection.
Apple started replacing MagSafe with USB-C in 2016. This was partly due to the increasingly thinner MacBooks, which meant that there was no more room for MagSafe. Microsoft Surface devices still use a magnetic connection called Surface Connect, but the implementation is less beautiful than with Apple.
# 3 How does MagSafe for iPhone work technically?
MagSafe for iPhone includes new components and improved wireless charging. Magnets, a magnetometer and a single-coil NFC reader have been added to the back of the iPhone. A magnetometer (also called Gaussmeter or Teslameter) is a component that measures a magnetic field.
MagSafe also ensures that you can charge wirelessly with 15 Watts. With normal charging on a Qi- capable charger, the iPhone is limited to 7.5 Watts. Wireless charging is therefore much faster, also because the iPhone is always perfectly on the charger.
# 4 What MagSafe accessories are there?
There are basically two types of MagSafe accessories: chargers and all sorts of other accessories such as covers, cardholders, docks and holders.
Apple itself has released the MagSafe Charger, of which a double version will also appear. The charger costs 45 euros and is immediately available.
Nice to know: this MagSafe Charger is also suitable for the iPhone 8 , iPhone X series (X, XR and XS), iPhone 11 series and iPhone SE 2020, but will then function as a regular Qi charger of up to 7 . 5 Watt. In that case, the iPhone will not be held in place magnetically.
There are also MagSafe cases from Apple itself: the technology is built into the silicone and leather cases and in the transparent version from Apple. This gives you the option to use MagSafe when the iPhone is in the case.
Third-party accessory makers can also take advantage of MagSafe technology, opening up all kinds of possibilities. For example, PopSockets has announced to make the holders suitable for MagSafe. You no longer have to stick the PopSocket on the back of the iPhone, but it works magnetically. This way you can easily remove accessories.
Belkin has announced a range of MagSafe accessories, including a magnetic car holder and a dock for your nightstand. The manufacturer was informed at an early stage of Apple’s plans so that the accessories were ready immediately upon announcement of MagSafe:
Belkin MagSafe Accessories. The car holder is for confirmation only, it does not charge the iPhone. The dock for your nightstand will charge.
# 5 Do you have to remove accessories before you can upload with MagSafe?
You can leave the special MagSafe-compatible covers on if you want to charge. But you will have to remove all kinds of other accessories. This applies, for example, to the wallet case that Apple itself markets. This folder protects the cards against electromagnetic radiation and prevents the magnetic strips on cards from breaking. But if you want to upload, you will have to remove the card folder. That also applies to the aforementioned PopSockets.
What is not yet known is the maximum thickness of unsupported covers. With super thin cases such as those from Totallee, the material is thin enough to be able to charge wirelessly. But with the somewhat thicker covers from Mujjo that is still the question. We have an outstanding question about this and will of course test it ourselves as soon as possible.
So be careful with buying iPhone 12 cases, because they may be too thick to charge with MagSafe. If a case is suitable for normal wireless charging, it is usually also thin enough to use on the MagSafe charger. However, due to the thicker material, you may get a little more heat development and less efficient charging.
# 6 Do you need special MagSafe cases?
Much confusion will arise at this point. With extremely thin cases, the magnets will be strong enough to pass through the material. These manufacturers will likely call their cases ‘MagSafe ready’.
These Totallee cases are extremely thin according to the manufacturer, making them MagSafe suitable. But they do not contain any special components.
But it seems manufacturers need to work closely with Apple to provide true support for MagSafe. The Accessory Identification NFC of the MagSafe system plays a role in this. If you put an official MagSafe case on the iPhone, it will be recognized and you will see an animation. You will also see the animation when you place your iPhone on a MagSafe-compatible charger or dock.
If you place the transparent cover from Apple on your iPhone, it will be attracted by the magnets. This is not the case with extremely thin cases without special MagSafe components.
There is still some confusion as to how much approval is required from Apple to make MagSafe-enabled accessories. Apple cannot prohibit or patent the use of magnets, nor does the Qi standard belong to Apple. But Apple can ensure that only official accessories support fast charging at 15 Watts. Apple retains control over this thanks to the Accessory Identification NFC of the MagSafe system.
Apple has been making money from Made for iPhone (MFi) for years, and that’s a lucrative licensing and certification program that Apple isn’t going to give up so easily.
These eye-catching Otterbox Figura cases are MagSafe compatible.
# 7 How do you recognize an official MagSafe accessory?
Official accessories use Accessory Identification NFC from the MagSafe system.
When using an officially supported case, you will see an animation, as indicated above. This is to make it clear that the iPhone has recognized the case. This could enable new features in the future. For example, if the iPhone recognizes that you are using a blue case, your wallpaper can be adjusted accordingly. Or when you attach the iPhone to a car holder, CarPlay automatically turns on. However, this is something of the future; Apple hasn’t disclosed anything about it yet.
What will be possible is a sleeve that shows the clock when you insert the iPhone. The iPhone recognizes the sleeve and switches on the clock, which you can read through a window in the cover. This clock adapts to the color of the case. This case will be released later this year.
Most future Apple accessories are likely to be MagSafe capable. This will not be the case with other accessory makers.
For example, a patent from Apple has already surfaced, in which MagSafe is incorporated in a battery case. You can also charge AirPods with it:
# 8 Which iPhones are MagSafe compatible?
This question is easy to answer: only the iPhone 12 series models. In concrete terms, it concerns the:
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
These are the new models in Apple’s 2020 iPhone line-up. Some MagSafe accessories can also be used in combination with previous iPhones, but you will miss certain functions such as magnetic adhesion and the faster charging with 15 Watts.
A magnetic mount has been added to the DJI Osmo Mobile 4, but you (still) need a special holder for it. In the future, these types of holders may disappear thanks to MagSafe.
# 9 What are the benefits of MagSafe?
MagSafe has a number of advantages:
- Thanks to the magnets, the iPhone is always well placed on the charger
- Due to optimal positioning, charging is more efficient and there is less loss
- With MagSafe, you can charge with 15 Watt (instead of 7.5 Watt)
- New types of covers are possible, which no longer have to grip around the screen, but only cover the back, for example
- No more ugly big clamps to secure your iPhone to a selfie stick, drone, game controller, bike, dashboard or another accessory
- All kinds of accessories are possible, such as docks and (the horror!) Holsters for your belt
- It is a quick temporary confirmation method
- You don’t need adhesive strips or clamps to attach accessories
- It makes modular smartphones possible, where you can easily click additional components on it
- It enables a future iPhone without a charging port (because charging speed is no longer an issue)
- You can personalize your iPhone even further
The last point may require some explanation. With iOS 14, Apple has made it possible to completely customize the iPhone with widgets and app icons to your own taste. The Widgetsmith app in particular received a lot of attention. Thanks to MagSafe, the outside of your iPhone can also be adjusted much more to your personal preference in the future. Few people cover their iPhone with stickers, but magnetic accessories can do much more. And instead of one case, you might use two or three different accessories for cards, extra camera lenses or a game controller in the future. Large clamps and holders are no longer required, allowing for a much more elegant solution.
Otterbox once tried to fit PopSockets into a case. They were even sold in the Apple Store, but it wasn’t much of a success. Much nicer solutions are possible with MagSafe.
# 10 Drawbacks of MagSafe, are there any?
MagSafe also has a number of drawbacks:
- It is Apple’s own system, Apple is in control
- Manufacturers must make their cases especially suitable for MagSafe
- Additional components make covers more expensive: Apple’s silicone covers first cost 39 euros and now 55 euros
- Confusion can arise as to which cases are truly MagSafe compatible, not all of them work with Accessory Identification NFC
- The iPhone can fly off, for example, if a passer-by collides wildly with a selfie stick or if you drive the car on a bumpy road
- The magnets can damage the magnetic strip on cards
# 11 Is MagSafe harmful to bank cards?
Dutch ATMs in shops have stopped using the magnetic strip on bank cards since 2012. Instead, the chip is used, which cannot be damaged by magnets. Nevertheless, the magnetic strip is still used on bank cards, namely when opening the doors of ATM rooms. The strip is also used in ATMs for a first check whether you have inserted the correct card. You can read more about this in the article below.
The magnetic cardholder that Apple sells itself is suitable for, for example, public transport card, driver’s license and bank card. It has a special shield for electromagnetic fields; the cards cannot, therefore, be demagnetized. If you want to charge, you will have to remove this cardholder first.
# 12 Where can I find MagSafe cases?
You cannot find suitable MagSafe cases at most online stores. Totallee, Mujjo, Otterbox and other manufacturers have already announced covers for the iPhone 12, but they have not been specially adapted or are not yet available in Dutch and Belgian stores.
If you want to be sure that your case supports MagSafe, it is best to look at Apple for now:
- Silicone case for iPhone 12 (Pro)
- Transparent case for iPhone 12 (Pro)
- Leather card holder for all iPhone 12 models
# 13 Can I fast charge with MagSafe?
Due to the correct alignment with magnets, MagSafe can charge your device faster. The iPhone 12 can be charged wirelessly with a power of 15 watts. This is much less than the wireless charging of the OnePlus 8 Pro, which can handle a power of up to 30 watts, but it is a significant improvement compared to a normal Qi charger. With iPhones, this is maximized at 7.5 watts.
Apple has not yet provided concrete figures on how fast charging with MagSafe is. Because there is always more loss with wireless charging, MagSafe will go slower than charging via the Lightning port and a 15 Watt power adapter. If you want to fast charge your iPhone, it is better to purchase the 20 Watt charger that Apple sells. For this you need the USB-C to Lightning cable, which is included in the box.
# 14 What does a MagSafe charger cost?
Apple does not include the MagSafe Charger as standard with the iPhone 12. It is an optional purchase of € 45, which is a reasonable price for an official accessory. Apple’s simple charging cables often also cost around € 30. Other phone brands often also sell their wireless chargers for around $ 45. It is also a lot cheaper than the Google Pixel Stand at € 79.
Other MagSafe chargers will likely be a bit more expensive. You pay around 150 euros for the Belkin dock, but Belkin’s earlier docks were, frankly, already in that price range. For a car holder that cannot charge, Belkin charges € 40.
# 15 What can we expect from MagSafe in the future?
We will probably see more and more accessories with MagSafe connection, not only from Apple but also from third-party manufacturers. The possibilities are endless. It also seems quite logical to us that Apple will also build MagSafe on the iPad, although the magnets must be strong enough to be able to use a dock, for example. This way you can watch and charge Netflix at the same time. Power banks with MagSafe connections are also a logical next step.
With the Apple Watch Magnetic Charger, manufacturers are required to use the Apple ‘, Charging Puck’. This is also the reason why these chargers are always made of white plastic. This may also be the case with the MagSafe chargers. This does, however, create an extra dampener for manufacturers to get started.
The MagSafe System Accessory Identification NFC also raises additional barriers for manufacturers looking to make officially supported accessories. But even without that extra identification, many beautiful things are already possible.