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As cool and innovative as Apple’s new iPhone 12 MagSafe charging system is, there was one accessory that was conspicuously absent from the lineup last year: a true MagSafe battery pack.
While several accessory makers have released MagSafe-compatible battery packs, it’s important not to confuse these with actual Apple-certified MagSafe accessories.
After all, anybody can build a ring of magnets into a normal Qi wireless charger so that it stays attached to the iPhone 12, but unless it’s MagSafe-certified, you’re still only getting 7.5W charging at best.
Don’t be fooled — while there are some MagSafe-compatible battery packs that advertise 15W charging, they’re simply quoting compatibility with other 15W technologies, like Samsung’s Fast Charge 2.0.
However, Apple has now released its long-awaited MagSafe-certified battery pack, which is not only capable of charging an iPhone 12 at speeds of up to 15W, but also packs in a couple of other interesting surprises.
Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack is available now for $99, and, as you’d expect, it simply snaps onto the rear of your iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, or iPhone 12 Pro Max.
It’s about the size of Apple’s MagSafe Leather Wallet, although naturally thicker, but unlike the wallet it also includes an extra magnet to ensure proper alignment.
How the MagSafe Battery Works
Unfortunately, as cool as Apple’s new MagSafe Battery Pack is, it does come with a few catches.
Firstly, despite the MagSafe certification, it only charges at a mere 5W when it’s being used as a battery. This means that in that respect, it’s no better than any of the MagSafe-compatible battery packs that are already out there — and it’s considerably more expensive.
On top of that, not only does it omit the power adapter, but it doesn’t even include a USB-C to Lightning cable. All you get in the box is the battery pack — and that’s it.
However, the MagSafe Battery Pack can also double as a wired charger, and will provide up to 15W of charging power when connected to your own 20W+ USB-C power adapter.
While you’ll still need to supply your own cable, this does make the MagSafe Battery Pack a bit more reasonably priced when you consider that it can replace a standard Apple MagSafe Charger.
Similar to the Smart Battery Cases that Apple has been selling for years, the MagSafe Battery Pack also offers tighter integration with your iPhone than most other MagSafe accessories, allowing you to see its power level and charging status right from your Home screen.
Like the iPhone itself and other Apple devices like your AirPods and Apple Watch, the MagSafe Battery Pack will appear in the Batteries widget on your Home Screen and Today View.
Note that this latter feature requires iOS 14.7, which is currently in beta. However, the iOS 14.7 Release Candidate also landed today, and it’s a safe bet that this will be available to all by the time the MagSafe Battery Pack starts landing in people’s hands.
In a more unusual twist, Apple also says that the MagSafe Battery Pack may only charge to 90% by default, noting that users will need to press and hold the Low Power Mode icon in Control Centre to charge past that level. It’s unclear why this would be the case, although we’re guessing it has something to do with preserving battery health.
MagSafe Battery Two-Way Charging
What’s perhaps most surprising about Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack is that it provides the first solid evidence that the iPhone 12 was indeed designed with two-way wireless charging in mind.
We heard reports earlier this year that the MagSafe Battery Pack itself would support reverse charging — allowing users to charge up a set of AirPods on the other side of the battery pack — but now it appears that the sources of these rumours didn’t quite understand Apple’s plans.
We’ve been hearing rumours for years that the iPhone itself would eventually bring two-way wireless charging, and yet that’s never materialized.
However, last year, Jeremy Horwitz of VentureBeat found FCC filings that revealed that the iPhone 12 did indeed include a wireless charging transmitter — information that was also backed up by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
At the time, it was unclear what Apple planned to do with this. Gurman speculated that it might support a MagSafe feature on a future version of Apple’s AirPods, or possibly even AirTags. However, the FCC filing simply indicated that it was for “an external potential apple accessory in future.”
Now we know what that “potential apple accessory” is — or at least the first of them. According to Apple’s support article, the new MagSafe Battery Pack can actually receive power and charge itself up from an iPhone 12.
You can also charge both if you attach your MagSafe Battery Pack to your iPhone, then plug your iPhone into a power source. You might want to charge this way if you need to connect your iPhone to another device while charging, like if you’re using wired CarPlay or transferring photos to a Mac.Apple
While the normal way of charging the MagSafe Battery Pack is to connect the pack to a USB-C power source, it appears that if you instead connect your iPhone 12 to a USB-C power source with the MagSafe Battery Pack attached, your iPhone will charge the battery pack.
This allows you to juice up the MagSafe Battery Pack while using your iPhone in situations like wired CarPlay, where it needs to remain connected to your vehicle. In this case, connecting the MagSafe Battery Pack to USB-C would provide power, but wouldn’t pass through the necessary data to communicate with your in-car infotainment system for CarPlay.
To be fair, as cool as this is, it does seem like a rather obscure and niche use case, so it seems odd that Apple would add a two-way power transmitter to the iPhone 12 solely to provide charging back into a battery pack. More likely, the MagSafe Battery Pack is just a proof of concept — the first of many more accessories to come that will take advantage of these new reverse wireless charging capabilities.