In October last year, Apple launched its latest smartphones with the iPhone 12. While there are some similarities to previous iPhones, there is a notable difference under the hood that enables a new accessory: MagSafe, a magnetic connector. which can charge your phone wirelessly.
What’s so special about MagSafe?
MagSafe is both magnetic induction charging and magnetic connection technology. MagSafe branding is reused from a file completely different magnetic charging connector for older generation Macbook Pro laptops eliminated in early 2019.
The disc-shaped connector contains rare-earth magnets that allow it to clip and secure securely to the back of an iPhone. That’s about twice the diameter of the magnetic charging connector already in use on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately the two are not compatible with each other.
The anatomy of the MagSafe coil and connector assembly inside the iPhone 12
Jason Perlow / ZDNet
The MagSafe charging specification allows you to transmit up to 15W of power using the Qi wireless standard (pronounced CHEE, from the Chinese original) created by Wireless Power Consortium in 2008. It’s the same Qi we’ve been using for the past 12 years on hundreds of smartphone models and devices, so if you use it as a charging pad, it also works with older Qi devices but with a lower wattage charging Rate.
If you put an older iPhone model on it, or an AirPods charging case, or an Android phone, it will still work but slower. However, the magnetic attachment part only works on an iPhone 12. If you put the iPhone 12 in a case, it must be in a MagSafe compatible charging case; otherwise, it may not adhere to the connector and induction charging may not work.
And the cases?
Moreover Official Apple MagSafe Cases, there are other good MagSafe compatible cases, such as OtterBox is Gear4, which also hit the market. Note that for a case to be compatible with MagSafe, an adhesive ring made of a ferrous material must be affixed to the inside of the case to allow the MagSafe disc to connect.
So far, I have only been able to find “mid-range” protective cases that use this magnetic adhesive. Ultra thick cases like the classic rubber-coated OtterBox Defender don’t have these rings yet; they have to do some additional engineering work to incorporate them into the plastic and rubber or make appropriate cutouts for the connector (which wouldn’t be ideal). If you have to use a very thick case, forget about MagSafe; use traditional charging pads or Lightning cables.
We like it?
I was initially skeptical. Whenever you see Apple talk about something magical and wonderful at one of their events, you have to take a lot of this stuff with a grain of salt until you use it. I haven’t been a fan of Apple’s wireless charging technology so far. It’s slow, especially compared to what Samsung and Google offer with their own Qi implementations, and it’s not foolproof.
When using the various third-party charging pads – as Apple didn’t have any until now – it was always an alignment and positioning issue; it took too much fiddling. I can’t tell you how many times I put the thing on the pad and heard the “bloop” and then came back an hour later, or even the next morning, and it didn’t load because the placement was off or bumped or whatever.
MagSafe doesn’t have this inherent problem. The connection from the rare earth magnet is solid. If the phone is attached to the magnet, it is charging, plain and simple. It’s a low-tech solution, keep it simple and stupid, that Apple had to make after stopping that AirPower fiasco that would never work.
Can MagSafe replace Lightning or USB-C?
There are a lot of technical things Apple needs to fix in order to replace Lightning with Magsafe. For starters, there are inherent power limitations of the MagSafe (15 watts). We don’t know what the actual maximum limit is and what they tested it with. Heat dissipation at higher power levels will always be a serious problem with wireless power induction, after all, a technology not so dissimilar it is used on magnetic induction hobs in kitchen applications.
If Apple wants the iPad and future M-series MacBooks to have this technology, MagSafe will need to transmit 30W to 100W to replace the USB-C / Thunderbolt connector. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
There is also the question of data transmission. Right now, the MagSafe connector appears to be strictly for power transmission. But suppose we lose the Lightning connector in future iPhones. If so, there will be a need for a way for those phones to talk to legacy devices like older Macs, for developers, and for things like CarPlay (my 2016 GM car uses a USB-A to Lightning cable to talk to the iPhone).
USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer rate of 480 megabits per second (Mbps). USB 3.0 is about ten times faster. Bluetooth alone can only do around 2 Mbps, so it’s not fast enough to transfer videos and other types of data. 802.11ax, WiFi-6, has a maximum data rate of approximately 1.2Gbps using a single transmit / single receive antenna configuration and approximately 2.4Gbps with a dual / dual antenna configuration. Current iPhone models are 4 × 4 configurations, so their upper limits are comparable to USB 3.0 and 4.0 provided they are communicating with a device that can also communicate that quickly.
Some of the newer cars can run CarPlay using a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and it would appear that this would be the preferred way of doing CarPlay in the future.
There are some third party products to adapt existing vehicle USB ports to run wireless CarPlay. However, let’s assume we want to talk to older devices in an officially supported way in addition to using Wi-Fi directly. In that case, MagSafe will have to run data and emulate a Lightning connector. We will need some kind of Apple USB-A / USB-C wireless adapter that allows an AirPlay connection to work with legacy USB hosts or some host software that communicates via Wi-Fi with iOS.
While CarPlay is not the most demanding application that uses direct communication with iPhone, others, such as exporting photos and videos in bulk to Mac and PC and uploading developer firmware versions of iOS, require a high-speed connection. If Apple decides to perform data transmission only with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, we will have many angry end users if that happens.
The official Apple MagSafe connector cable and the incredibly expensive Duo charger
Official Apple MagSafe charger connected to the iPhone 12
Jason Perlow / ZDNet
Officer Apple MagSafe cable it is a metal disk connected to a USB-C cable and you need to use it with a minimum 20W USB-C charger adapter to provide the maximum 15W of power to the iPhone 12. If you own a 12 Mini, the maximum you will get is 12W. If you use an 18W charger, such as the common Apple A1720, that came with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and have kept it when you upgraded it or another member of your family uses it, this charger will only provide 11W of power. MagSafe. The 20W USB-C power adapter. MHJA3AM / A that comes with the 2020 iPad Pro looks almost identical to the A1720, and you can only tell the difference if you look very closely at the small label near the plug.
The USB-C ports on a Mac and PC equipped with USB-C they only deliver up to 15W of power, so the output to the iPhone via MagSafe will be greatly reduced. It is much more efficient to charge your phone using a USB-C to Lightning cable via your computer than MagSafe. Apple has a support document which details MagSafe’s power output when connected to various devices and chargers, and is a bit confusing.
Apple is new and incredibly expensive Duo charger (which costs $ 129 and doesn’t even come with a charging block) is a little tricky because it requires 15W of minimum power if you want to use both the Magsafe and the watch charger at the same time, at a slow charging speed.
To get the maximum charging speed on Duo – 14W, not 15W on this device – you need at least 20W of power output from a USB-C adapter. But according to Apple’s support document, relatively common 29W OEM MJ262LL / A adapter that will not work. So, you’ll want Apple’s 20W adapter, minimum, or a comparable third-party adapter with at least 20W of USB-C power output to use this.
Just say; you want at least 20W of power to get the 15W for iPhone using MagSafe. So you lose 5W in the process. Magnetic induction charging is not very environmentally friendly or efficient, and this is one of the drawbacks of using this technology.
Using the MagSafe cable and knockoffs
If you use the Apple MagSafe charger by itself and not a third party product like Belkin stands, I find it annoying and unwieldy to try to place the iPhone flat on it on a table, especially with a case. If you get one of these OEM cables over one of the other third party solutions, like the new Belkin 2 in 1 or the 3 in 1 or the above Duo charger, I would like one of the cheap MagSafe stands from Amazon, like the KOOPAO, which I purchased for my home office. Insert the official MagSafe disc in it and soon you have a charger holder.
That said, I think Apple’s charging connectors and cables are generally overpriced compared to what third parties do. However, aside from big partners like Belkin and OtterBox, who license Apple components to make their products, I would avoid third-party MagSafe compatible products unless they are designed to house the official Magsafe connector cable or not. have undergone extensive testing and reviews.
In the past, I’ve had issues with third-party Apple Watch cables, such as during OS updates, and with MagSafe, I don’t expect this to be any different. Don’t save and buy third-party MagSafe connection cables until they are MFi certified – and right now, I don’t think Apple has implemented a program like this yet as it did for USB-C to Lightning cables. It took over a year to see them, and I would have expected a similar time frame for MagSafe MFi cables.
Anker is RAVPower – two companies that I think are very reputable with their charging cables and accessories – they currently have their own MagSafe USB-C drives and are less expensive than Apple. However, they have not yet certified their products, and although I have requested production samples, I have not used them yet.
Are you already using MagSafe? Answer and let me know.
- According to this source Hail to the MagSafe: An in-depth analysis of Apple’s new wireless charging connector
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