Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out.
MagSafe isn’t a new word for Apple — it’s what the magnetic MacBook chargers used to be called before Apple swapped over to USB-C. MagSafe in its current incarnation is totally different from the original MagSafe chargers, but the common theme is the magnetic connection.
The puck-shaped MagSafe charger looks like a larger Apple watch charging puck, featuring a circular design with a cord at one end that plugs into a power adapter. The charger is designed to snap on to a ring of magnets built into the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, for a perfect alignment without any hassle.
When you order a MagSafe charger from Apple for $39, you get just the charger, which has a cord with a USB-C connector at the end. It needs to be paired with a USB-C power adapter, and Apple recommends its $19 20W USB-C option. The cord attached to the MagSafe charger is non-removable, and the charger itself is made from aluminum, but the front middle section has a grippy, rubber-like feel to it.
Apple’s MagSafe chargers line up right with the charging coil inside the iPhone 12 models, and can provide up to 15W of power. That’s double the charging speed you’re able to get with the 7.5W Qi wireless chargers, which makes this a much more appealing wireless charging option.
If you’re wondering if the MagSafe charger works with older iPhones, the answer is yes. It is compatible with all iPhones that support wireless charging, which includes the iPhone 8 and later. When used with an iPhone 12, the charger snaps onto the back of the device with what appears to be a strong magnetic connection, but the older iPhones don’t have that same magnetic ring so it the MagSafe charger can’t connect in the same way.
We don’t have an iPhone 12 model on hand yet to see the actual difference between the magnetic connection of one of the new models and an existing iPhone, but just based on the marketing materials Apple has released, that magnetic ring in the iPhone is an important factor when it comes to the strength of the connection.
Even using a MagSafe-compatible iPhone 12 case from OtterBox results in a connection that’s not super strong, and it appears that OtterBox, at least, has just stuck a couple of magnets in a little insert in the case to add MagSafe functionality. Presumably, the MagSafe ring built into the iPhone 12 models makes the connection between MagSafe charger and iPhone much stronger, and Apple’s own cases may also be more magnetic.
While the iPhone 12 models can charge at 15W using the MagSafe charger, it’s not yet quite clear how fast it can charge older iPhones, so there may be some speed limitations involved when using it with non-iPhone 12 models. As mentioned before, there’s no strong magnetic adhesion, so the non-iPhone 12 models just rest on the charger like your basic Qi charger.
The MagSafe charger is also able to charge Qi-based Android phones as well as the AirPods, but unsurprisingly, it is not compatible with the Apple Watch.
We’ll have an iPhone 12 and 12 Pro on Friday to test out with the MagSafe charger, so make sure to tune in to MacRumors later in the week to see our iPhone 12 hands-on with more detail on using the MagSafe charger with an iPhone that has the built-in magnetic ring.