With the iPhone 12, Apple has brought back the MagSafe brand, and while it’s a little different on the iPhone than it was on the Mac, the gist is that you can use the system to magnetically attach chargers and accessories to the back of your iPhone.
It’s a neat idea. Not only does it make wireless chargers more reliable since they snap into place when you use them with your phone, but there are plenty of noncharging uses to be explored. But there are a few things missing, and we can’t help but feel that MagSafe is a little … half-baked.
These issues span across all areas of the MagSafe brand. The accessories, for starters, are limited. That’s not to mention the fact that the standard itself could use a little more development. We’re not trying to argue that MagSafe isn’t a great idea — there are some genuinely promising things about it. But it has a lot of room to grow. Apple needs to take it more seriously, or we won’t.
Accessories are limited
Let’s start with the MagSafe accessories. Apple developed a few MagSafe accessories for the iPhone 12, including a standard charger, a magnetic wallet attachment, and the so-called MagSafe Duo charger. But that’s it. And no, the phone cases don’t really count.
The accessories that Apple does offer are decent, but the company could definitely have gone a step further. The charger, for starters, has an extremely short cable. It works fine for basic use, but unless you’re placing it right next to a power outlet, you’re going to need an extension cable of some kind — especially if you’re going to use it on a nightstand or living room end table where the outlets are usually inconveniently placed. At a bare minimum, Apple could have released MagSafe chargers at multiple lengths, to accommodate for those who need them to go that extra distance. Particularly for $39.
There are other seemingly obvious accessories it has failed to introduce. What about a magnetic battery pack that wirelessly charges your device when you need it to? Considering Apple has yet to release a Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 12, this seems like a no-brainer. Heck, how about a Smart Battery Case that uses MagSafe? Or, what about a desktop charger? One that still uses the magnets to lock your phone into place, but with weight to so you don’t have to yank it off when you’re done charging.
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Now, we’re aware that not everyone buys their accessories from Apple. In fact, buying them from Apple usually means that you’re probably spending more than you otherwise would. Third-party accessories are likely to be available by the hundreds over the next few months. We’re starting to see cases with MagSafe, as well as a couple MagSafe chargers. But until that market builds out, you’re a little stuck.
Where is MagSafe data transfer?
There are things about the actual MagSafe standard that could use some work too. Most notably, where is the ability to use MagSafe for data transfer?
Rumor has it that Apple is working toward a portless iPhone, but if that’s true, the company will need to come up with another way to transfer data over a cable. Sure, most people could rely mostly on wireless standards to transfer data, but there are some situations in which that just won’t work yet. For example, while wireless CarPlay is available, the vast majority of users have wired CarPlay, and it just doesn’t make sense to force users to buy a new car if they want to use the latest iPhone. Of course, for now that’s a hypothetical, but honestly, even with a Lightning port, the ability to use CarPlay with a MagSafe mount sounds like a dream.
A slow burn
It’s up to Apple to change what MagSafe can actually do, but thankfully we don’t have to wait for only Apple to release compatible accessories. Every week, new MagSafe accessories are launched, and as that happens, it will likely get a whole lot more useful. Sure, it is a little frustrating that the first-party accessories are so limited, but hopefully that will change in the (very) near future. We’ll just have to wait a while.