This year, like every year, Apple released a new iPhone. Unlike previous years though, Apple did something a little bit different. Since the iPhone 3G, every other iPhone launch (for the most part) has been an “S-year.” For 3G, there was the 3GS, for 4, the 4s, and so on, and so forth. But this year, instead of an iPhone 11s, we got an iPhone 12.
While this buck tradition, it also doesn’t make a lot of sense.
When you look at the specs, the iPhone 12 really should have been an iPhone 11s. Other than the design change, everything about iPhone 12 seems like an incremental upgrade; from its similar camera (now with LiDAR) to its slight bump in speed.
To be fair, Apple did make some upgrades worthy of skipping the S-year.
For example, there are now three sizes of iPhone 12 (mini, 12/12 Pro, and Pro Max), new colors, a new design, and much more; but, it just seemed a little underwhelming to me. Except for one thing.
A Magnetic Attraction
One of my favorite charging systems for the iPhone has long been the Xvida magnetic system. My biggest complaint was the need for a case (something Xvida couldn’t control, but even tried to fix using a magnetic “card” that adhered to the back of your iPhone). Since using Xvida, I longed for an iPhone with built-in magnets; but, to be honest, I really didn’t think it would happen.
Well someone at Apple must have liked Xvida’s charging system, too; because iPhone 12, reintroduced the name MagSafe in a whole new (slightly stolen) way: MagSafe for iPhone.
For those who have used previous MacBooks and MacBook Pros, Apple has long used the MagSafe moniker to refer to their power cables that magnetically attached to their notebook computers. The idea here—besides ease-of-use—was that if someone tripped over the power cord, it would disconnect instead of sending your premium laptop flying. MagSafe for iPhone keeps the name and the magnets, but everything else is brand-new… well… sort of.
The magnetic elephant in the room.
It wouldn’t be fair to me to rave about MagSafe without giving props to Xvida. After all, I called it possibly “the best wireless charging solution for iPhone.” That wasn’t hyperbole. It was pure genius, and obviously Apple agreed. While there’s really no way of knowing how long Apple’s been working on MagSafe for iPhone, there’s a pretty good chance it was inspired by Xvida.
In fact, my sources tell me that the magnetic charging guru may have been in talks with Apple as early as 2015, then Apple went radio silent.
Apple has long been known for using the “great artists steal” analogy, and this doesn’t appear to be different; however, like any great artist, Apple has put their own spin on it. I think it’s important to give credit where it’s due, and I hope Xvida will be able to adapt many of their existing products (such as their awesome desk stand) for MagSafe.
Whether they stole it, borrowed it, improved it, or have been working on it since day one, Apple’s MagSafe certainly made an entrance, and with much more than magnets happening behind the glass, it’s definitely worth talking about.
Is MagSafe the iPhone 12’s Killer Feature?
A big selling point for iPhone 12 is its flat-edge redesign. Many have called it “old” since it’s similar to iPhone 4 and 5, but really, it’s all-new. Despite its flat edges, it really is more similar to more recent iPads than old iPhones. The glass is flush, the displays are pushed to the edge, and the glass back features wireless charging and a large array of camera technology.
For me, the flat edges aren’t even an improvement, I often miss the curved edges that made my 11 Pro seem sleek and comfortable in my hand. The curved display felt nice when swiping between menus and despite being somewhat thinner, the 12 Pro seems bulky to me.
It’s a still a premium phone and many people missed this design language, so it makes sense; but, for me it’s not the outward design that makes iPhone 12 great, it’s what’s beneath the surface: MagSafe.
It just clicks. Literally.
When I first saw MagSafe, I was worried they would be weak magnets simply for aligning the charging pad. Luckily, that isn’t the case. The magnets are very strong—in fact, they seem stronger than previous magnetic charging systems I have used in the past. They easily click into place.
Cases designed to work with MagSafe are also strong. I have Apple’s clear silicone case and the MagSafe charger easily snaps to the back. Although there are no magnetic charging stands currently available, Belkin has a stand and car mount available for preorder.
I’m not personally a fan of car mounts—I think there are safety issues and it seems like a great way to break your car vents—but I think for many people this is a more elegant solution than what’s currently on the market.
In addition to Apple and Belkin, Otterbox also offers MagSafe-supported cases. It’s expected that many other MagSafe products will be available down the road.
There’s a lot more than magnets happening behind the glass.
So how does it work? When you attach a MagSafe charger or accessory, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. MagSafe is able to tell what is connected to it and can even interact with the connected accessory or device. In other words, when you connect a red case, the iPhone will display a red animation. If you slide the phone into the Apple Leather Sleeve (coming soon), it can adjust the lock screen to display the clock through a window on the front of the case.
In addition to the magnet array, the inside of iPhone 12 include a copper-graphite shield, an additional alignment magnet (for accessories), an NFC ring, and the charging coil all within one, circular polycarbonate housing.
Of course, that isn’t everything Apple managed to cram in.
A nano-crystalline shield captures magnetic transfer and a magnetometer is capable of sensing and reacting to differing magnetic fields. All of this uses an improved shield to enable faster charging.
All together, these components enable MagSafe to detect accessories and align the charging coil for optimal charging, all well providing faster wireless charging speeds than previous iPhone models.
Accessories are about to get supercharged!
It’s still pretty early to predict what the ecosystem of MagSafe will be. Currently, cases and charging systems seem to be in the spotlight, but the MagSafe Wallet shows the possibilities are not limited to just this.
Hopefully, Apple will make it easy for manufacturers and product designers to create new accessories that integrate well with MagSafe and take advantage of its unique NFC capabilities. Maybe down the road, Apple will even use NFC to add trusted chargers/cables. This could be extremely useful when using public charging stations.
There are some limitations.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement. For one thing, wireless charging is still kind of slow. Luckily, MagSafe makes it easy to use your phone while it’s charging… or at least it would if the charging cable wasn’t ridiculously short.
Another oddity is the lack of reverse wireless charging. While this seems rather gimmicky, it might be the perfect addition to MagSafe.
See, some Android phones like Samsung’s Z Flip offer reverse wireless charging so you can charge accessories and even other phones using the back of your phone. One thing this might be useful for is charging your AirPods.
With MagSafe, however, certain snap-on accessories could benefit from power-sharing. For example, a manufacturer might create a light ring to be used while filming or taking pictures. Sure, it might still be a bit of a gimmick, but with other phones offering this, it seems weird to leave it out of a device with such unique wireless charging abilities as the iPhone 12.
The Future Is Magnetic
I’ve always liked magnets and think it’s interesting how many companies have found unique uses for them. Although Apple may have “borrowed” this concept from other manufacturers, it’s clear that this is a step in the right direction. It makes wireless charging seem more practical and useful.
I think there will be lots of cool things and ideas that MagSafe inspires. I can’t wait to see where MagSafe takes the iPhone in the coming years. The uniqueness and versatility of MagSafe is what, I think, makes it the best new feature of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
But what do you think? Let us know in the comments and on social media. Thanks for reading!