When Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 12 in October he detailed all the shiny new features: he lauded over 5G connectivity, waxed lyrical about the cameras and gushed about the flat-edged design. But one thing that received less attention than it deserved was the revival of Apple’s magnetic charging system MagSafe.
After its introduction in 2006, MagSafe was inexplicably removed, without reason, from subsequent MacBook laptops a decade later. But unlike the original MacBook MagSafe, which was simply a magnetic charging connector that plugged into your laptop, ensuring it didn’t fall onto the floor if you accidentally tripped over the cord, MagSafe for iPhone is a completely wireless charging ecosystem that does more than just charge your device.
Weirdly, whilst the all-new MagSafe for the iPhone 12 keeps the same MagSafe moniker as the original connector, the only thing it really has in common with its predecessor is that it uses magnets to help attach itself to the device. MagSafe in the iPhone has a whole lot more potential.
iPhone MagSafe gets rid of the need for a Qi wireless charging mat. Instead of fumbling around, trying to place your iPhone on the correct spot to wirelessly charge it, the MagSafe charger magnetically snaps onto the back of the iPhone. As a wireless charging system it can deliver a power output of up to 15W, but the magnets inside the phone also double up as an accessory connector, and that’s where the potential for third-party innovation lies.
While Apple has only released snap-on wallets and MagSafe-integrated cases, there are many more possibilities for the accessory ecosystem. “Apple have already started to introduce accessories like cases and wallets, but this is a drop in the ocean in terms of what is possible especially when third-party companies get involved,” thinks Alex Pearce, a designer at product design firm Seymour Powell. “Imagine your device attaching seamlessly on to the handlebars of your bike or the dashboard of your car. Suddenly your iPhone is able to offer new functionality in new, more convenient ways.”
However, Pearce says that the missed opportunity with MagSafe is that there is no ability to transfer data between the accessory and the device. In 2016, Motorola released a phone called the Moto Z, which had magnets in it. It let people attach their phone to a variety of modules, like a battery pack, a projector and a printer. It didn’t really catch on, but it shows the potential of what MagSafe could be in the future.
François Nguyen, head of ID at design firm Frog’s North American studios, also envisions that, one day, we will be able to recharge the Apple wireless keyboard and trackpad on the base of the iMac using MagSafe. “Other potential areas may include apparel and clothing, such as a coat pocket that charges the phone and then the coats re-charge themselves when hung on a charging coat rack,” he says. “The next tech evolution in charging devices may be a more open, fluid system of giving and receiving, where devices can charge one another with ease so we are even less tied to a grounded power source.”
While we’re certainly not there yet, Apple has unveiled its first efforts for a few MagSafe-compatible accessories. The company didn’t give third-party accessory manufacturers much notice, so understandably the range of MagSafe-compatible accessories is fairly limited at the moment. But as time goes on, expect this list to grow and broaden out beyond the cases and charging stands.
Apple MagSafe charger
Let’s start with dull but essential power management. This is the accessory you’ll need if you want to take advantage of the new MagSafe charging system. The one metre MagSafe charger will align neatly to the back of your iPhone 12. But in order to get a 15W wireless charge, you’ll also need to purchase a 20W charging brick. It is also compatible with your Qi-compatible iPhones and AirPods, so iPhone 8 and above. The only thing is it won’t deliver that same 15W power output.
Price: £39 | Apple
Moment iPhone 12 Thin Case with MagSafe
The company most known for its array of attachable camera lenses, smartphone tripods and apps has just announced a series of MagSafe-compatible cases. They’re a selection of super-thin, soft cases made from bioplastic materials that are also compatible with Moment lens mounts. The company says that the cases can handle up to a 1.8m drop and also come with a wrist strap attachment. The strap itself is, oddly, sold separately, though. It comes in blue, mustard, black and olive green.
If you want something more protective, this Moment case has a dual-material design, with nice wooden back panels. Sadly, the estimated ship date for both cases is scheduled to be in March 2021.
Price: $49.99 | Moment
OtterBox Figura Series Case with MagSafe
OtterBox is one of the first third-party manufacturers to develop a MagSafe-compatible phone case. The company, known for creating those cases for the clumsy, has a series of elegant MagSafe cases that are ultra-thin and come in attractive graphical designs. There are raised edges which help to protect from accidental drops and the case itself is made from a grippy, flexible material.
Price: £39.95 | Apple
Moment Tripod Mounts with MagSafe
As well as MagSafe cases, Moment has also introduced a series of tripod mounts that allow you to attach your iPhone 12 using magnets, without the need for a clamp. Because the magnet in the iPhone 12 isn’t the strongest, and you obviously don’t want your iPhone sliding off the tripod and smacking into concrete (no matter how tough that Ceramic Shield claims to be), Moment has designed its own proprietary magnet system array called (M)Force, which its says is stronger than the ordinary MagSafe.
The mount turns any tripod into a MagSafe-compatible one. It works in both portrait and landscape orientation. There is a standard mount and a Pro mount. The Pro comes with a cold shoe, so that you can attach other accessories to the mount, like a microphone or lights. Both mounts can affix to any 1/4″-20 tripod and are both made from aluminium. The standard mount costs $39.99 (£30.60) and the Pro costs $49.99 (£38.28).
Moment also sells a separate cold shoe mount with an adjustable arm so that you can attach various cases and phone sizes to it without the need for a clamp or a grip. The cold shoe mount costs $29.99 (£22.96)
For those serious about filmmaking, Moment is also selling a magnetic cheese plate, or a multi-threaded mount. It has four 1/4″-20 female threads and two 3/8-inch female threads. With a cheese plate, you can connect rigs, ballheads, tripods and arms, etc. It costs $29.99 (£20.96).
Price: from $19.99 | Moment
Apple MagSafe Wallet
Apple’s wallet is made from tanned and finished French leather, featuring magnets that can stack on top of MagSafe-compatible cases. Apple says that the wallet is shielded so that any magnetic credit cards you have are safe. Word on the street is that it can hold only two cards before the magnetic attraction becomes a bit too loose to safely use, and it’s probably not something you want to keep on your iPhone 24/7. It comes in blue, yellow, brown and black.
Price: £59 | Apple
Moment wall mount
We love the idea of this one, especially after seeing the ingenious way a Reddit user magnetically attached his iPhone 12 above his bed frame so that they could grab it as soon as they woke up. Moment’s wall mount is pretty much the same thing. On one side of the mount is a 3M adhesive and on the other side is Moment’s (M) Force magnet array. You can screw it into the wall thanks to the countersunk through-hole. Only thing we wish it could do was charge while magnetically attached. We’re sure someone will think of a way to hack it once released.
Price: $19.99 | Moment
Apple MagSafe Clear Case
OK, this is probably the ugliest clear case we’ve seen, but at the moment, Apple is the only one who has made a MagSafe clear case so you can actually see your green iPhone 12. The clear case has a magnet ring embedded into it so that it can align neatly to the MagSafe charger. There have also been reports of the case cracking when people try and take it off. For a costly £49, it isn’t the best MagSafe case out there.
Price: £49 | Apple
Belkin BoostCharge Pro 3-in-1 MagSafe charger
Belkin featured quite heavily at the Apple iPhone 12 event, and for good reasons. The company has developed the wildest looking multi-charger we’ve seen for some time. The BoostCharge Pro MagSafe 3-in-1 wireless charger is made of stainless steel and has two arms. One to magnetically charge your iPhone, another to charge your Apple Watch, and a flat surface to charge your AirPods, or really any other Qi-compatible device which can fit in that area. It will deliver a charge of 15W if you have an iPhone 12. But it isn’t cheap, however. In the US, it will cost $149.99. A UK price has yet to be decided. The charging stand is due to be released this winter.
Price: $150 | Belkin
Apple MagSafe Silicone Case
If you want a case with a bit more grip, then Apple’s silicone MagSafe case is the one for you. Like the clear case, it has magnets embedded into it, but thankfully because it’s made of a solid material, you can’t actually see the magnet. It comes in plum, deep navy, kumquat, Cyprus green, pink citrus, white, black and red. The plum goes really well with the pacific blue iPhone 12 Pro.
Price: £49 | Apple
Belkin MagSafe Car Vent Mount
As well as the 3-in-1 charging stand, Belkin has also made a car vent mount for you to magnetically attach your iPhone 12 while you’re driving. There’s nothing super special about the mount – it doesn’t charge your device like the BoostCharge, so you will still need to plug your lightning cable into the USB port in your car’s console if you want to charge as you drive. There’s no price yet, but the car vent mount will be released in the winter.
Price: £TBC | Belkin
Apple MagSafe Duo
Apple announced the MagSafe Duo at its October event, but the company didn’t give any indication of when it would be released. The Duo is a charging pad that lets you juice up your iPhone 12 and an Apple Watch or AirPods at the same time. It’s a spiritual successor to the AirPower, a charging mat that Apple announced but embarrassingly cancelled after failing to make it work. The MagSafe Duo has passed compliance in Korea, so we might not have long to wait before the MagSafe Duo gets a release date.
Price: £TBC | Apple
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