iPhone 12 MagSafe accessories: How Apple’s new snap-on magnets work


iPhone 12 Pro silicone coral Magsafe charger

MagSafe centers a compatible charger on new iPhones using an array of magnets.


Apple

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple’s four new iPhone 12 models — two of which are now available to preorder — come with 5G, better cameras and the return of a beloved feature Apple long used on MacBooks: the MagSafe charger. MagSafe for iPhone 12 uses a magnetic connection to attach a wireless charger and a potentially endless supply of magnetic accessories you can snap onto the back of the phone, such as cases, docks, mounts and even a wallet.

By embracing a snap-on ethos that has failed other phone makers (more on that below), the iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max represent a bold new direction for Apple and a new way for iPhone owners to use their phones. 

We’ll test MagSafe on the iPhone 12 as soon as possible. In the meantime, here’s a look at what Apple says MagSafe does, how it works and how you might use it once you upgrade. And here’s why MagSafe is Apple’s sleeper feature that’s bigger than you think.

How does MagSafe work on iPhone 12?

The new iPhone 12 devices are embedded with what Apple describes as “an array of magnets” (Apple says they’re recycled) around a centered charging coil that can pull up to 15 watts of power — twice as powerful as wireless charging on previous iPhones (but on par with phones from other brands). 

When you bring the charging end of the power cord close to the iPhone’s back, those magnets will pull it into place. The same goes for other MagSafe accessories and, depending what you’re clipping on, your iPhone will display a brief animation related to the accessory to confirm that it’s locked on.


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Will iPhone 12 come with a MagSafe charging cable?

No, Apple will include only a USB-C-to-Lightning cable (and no power brick or earbuds) in the box with new iPhones. Apple’s two MagSafe charging cables — one standalone and another that also charges an Apple Watch — will be sold separately, but Apple confirmed that at least one other manufacturer, Belkin, will be selling MagSafe-compatible charging cables as well.

How much will Apple’s MagSafe accessories cost and when will they go on sale?

The standalone MagSafe iPhone charger is available for preorder for $39, with shipping listed as two to three weeks. Clear and silicone cases cost $49 with shipping in 7 to 10 business days. The leather wallet costs $59 and ships in five to six weeks. No word yet on the dual iPhone and Apple Watch charger’s price or availability. 

iphone-12-silicone-case-blue-leather-wallet-with-magsafe

Apple also unveiled a MagSafe-compatible leather wallet that clips on to new iPhones and costs $59.


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What are all the accessories using MagSafe now?

Besides the charger, Apple announced a leather wallet as well as an array of leather, silicone and clear cases (the wallet can be added on top of the cases). Wireless charging will be possible using the cases but is unavailable with the wallet attached. 

Beyond that, you can expect third-party accessory makers to use their imaginations in the coming weeks and months. Possibilities include mounts, like for the dash in your car, and docks for your nightstand, table or desk.

Won’t the magnets mess up my bank cards?

Apple says the wallet accessory is specially shielded to prevent damage to credit cards, debit cards and the like.


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Does MagSafe work with waterproofing?

No, every iPhone 12 is rated IP68, meaning water resistant up to 6 meters for 30 minutes. In fact, MagSafe wireless charging may lead to even greater waterproofing, if Apple ever decides to go portless

Do I have to use MagSafe to charge my iPhone? 

No, every iPhone 12 will come packaged with a USB-C-to-Lightning cable (you’ll need to supply the power brick). The Lightning port on the phone itself will be backward-compatible with the Lightning chargers you already own.

iPhone 12 Magsafe all combinations layout

MagSafe accessories like chargers and the wallet can be stacked atop others, like cases.


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Will my current wireless charger work with the new iPhones?

Yes, the new iPhones are backward-compatible with existing Qi-enabled wireless charging devices. If your old device supplies 7.5 watts of power, that’s how much your new iPhone will draw, but it’s capable of pulling up to 15 watts.

Interestingly, the new MagSafe charger is also backward-compatible with older iPhones (but will only deliver 7.5 watts). 

Didn’t Motorola have magnetic accessories first?

Yes. In 2016, the Moto Z series introduced a phone that connected magnetically to Moto Mods: cases, wireless battery packs, a projector, a mobile gaming console and even a fancy DSLR-like camera rig with optical zoom

While Motorola issued magnetic Moto Z phones for a few more years, the clever modules never caught on (even Motorola didn’t always seem enthusiastic), and neither did the enormous ecosystem of accessories of which Motorola foretold. We’ll see if Apple, with its global status and devoted fans, stands a better chance.

motorola-moto-z3-product-photos-22

The Motorola Z3 used magnets to connect to accessories (called “Moto Mods”) all the way back in 2016.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

How did MagSafe work on MacBooks?

The original MagSafe on MacBooks was a way to magnetically attach Apple’s proprietary power cable to the laptop, designed to snap off with a tug. It was included in the name of safety. 

Accidentally tripping over a power cord no longer meant worrying about launching your laptop across the room or falling yourself, since the magnet was powerful enough to connect the cable but still loose enough to pull free in the event of a mishap. On the iPhone, MagSafe seems to be more about mobility, making it easier to connect and disconnect to both power and accessories.

Thinking about upgrading to a new iPhone? Check out the differences between the four iPhone 12 models Apple announced, how to prepare your current iPhone before you upgrade, and everything to know about the 5G included in Apple’s new iPhones.



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