The iPhone 12 Gets Faster Wireless Charging in iOS 17.4

Apple iPhone 12 Credit: Pickaxe Media / Shutterstock
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It looks like Apple just gave iPhone 12 owners a nice Easter surprise in its recent iOS 17.4 update.

According to Macworld, iOS 17.4 appears to have done for its iPhone 12 lineup what iOS 17.2 did for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 last fall, adding compatibility for the faster Qi2 wireless charging standard.

When Apple introduced wireless charging on the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X in 2017, it embraced the Qi standard but limited charging speeds to a maximum of 7.5 watts. That lagged behind what most rival smartphones could do from more powerful Qi chargers — most of Samsung’s phones could easily reach 15W speeds — but Apple didn’t budge on wireless charging performance until it introduced MagSafe three years later with the iPhone 12.

When paired with a certified MagSafe charger, the iPhone 12 and later MagSafe-equipped models could draw power at up to 15 watts. However, they retained the same 7.5W speeds when faced with a standard Qi charger — even if that charger had a ring of magnets.

Although some saw MagSafe as little more than a money grab by Apple, the iPhone maker had valid technical and environmental reasons to require MagSafe charging.

Studies have shown that wireless charging is shockingly inefficient compared to plugging your device in. This is serious enough when the charging coils are perfectly aligned, but setting your iPhone down “slightly wrong” can waste up to 80 percent more energy due to the charging coils not being properly aligned. It also generates a lot more heat, which isn’t good for your iPhone’s health.

It’s believed that this is one of the problems Apple hoped to solve with its ill-fated AirPower charger since multiple coils in the charging pad would ensure optimum efficiency no matter where you set your iPhone down.

After AirPower failed, Apple turned to a magnetic ring to solve the problem from the other side. Instead of providing multiple charging coils to accommodate the iPhone, Apple decided to force the iPhone to mate with a single charging coil. Thus, MagSafe was born.

However, MagSafe was never about selling or licensing more accessories; that was just a fringe benefit at best. About a year after Apple introduced MagSafe on the iPhone 12, it began working with the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) — the group behind the Qi standard — to create an open standards-based version of MagSafe.

When the Qi2 standard was announced in January 2023, the WPC enthusiastically stated that Apple “provided the basis for the new Qi2 standard building on its MagSafe® technology” in developing a new Magnetic Power Profile (MPP).

Since Qi2 is an open standard, companies can build Qi2 chargers without licensing technology from Apple or even involving Apple at all. Instead, Qi2 chargers are certified by the WPC in the same way that Qi chargers have been for years.

The result is a new lineup of much more affordable charging accessories that can deliver 15 watts of power to modern MagSafe-equipped iPhones. Manufacturers save on costs by skipping Apple’s MFi program in developing these chargers, and they also have a much larger market to sell them to since Qi2 is an open standard that any smartphone maker can adopt.

While we haven’t seen any Android phones that support Qi2 yet, they’re surely coming. Since Apple helped develop the Qi2 MPP standard, it was ahead of the game in bringing it to the iPhone 15, but some of that is also timing. However, at launch, the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max were the only models that supported Qi2 charging.

Apple didn’t unlock this capability on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 models until December, when it shipped in iOS 17.2. At the time, the iPhone 12 models were mysteriously left out. We speculated that this might have been due to older charging hardware, but even if that’s true, Apple has clearly figured out a way to work around it, as it now seems to be working in iOS 17.4.

Notably, when iOS 17.2 came out, Apple called out Qi2 compatibility for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 in the release notes. It hasn’t done the same for the iPhone 12 and iOS 17.4, so Macworld is deeming it “unofficial” for now, but both testing by that publication and a report from at least one reader has confirmed that it’s indeed started working on various iPhone 12 models since the update.

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