Apple's new MagSafe charger could be the next step toward a wireless future for the iPhone
- Apple unveiled a new wireless MagSafe charger that magnetically snaps to the back of the iPhone when introducing the iPhone 12.
- Apple is also launching wallets and cases that snap onto the iPhone seamlessly, and third-party accessory makers will be launching similar products as well.
- It's another sign that Apple is looking to wireless accessories as a key selling point for its iPhone ecosystem, much like it's done with AirPods in recent years.
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When Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone in 2016, it positioned the decision as a forward-looking shift away from antiquated technologies. Apple promised it would make the iPhone more convenient in the long run.
"It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices," Phil Schiller, a longtime Apple executive who previously served as the firm's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said when unveiling AirPods in 2016.
Now in 2020, Apple is introducing another wireless product likely meant to kickstart a similar step forward for the iPhone: MagSafe accessories. Apple introduced the $39 MagSafe wireless charger that snaps to the back of your iPhone when unveiling the iPhone 12 earlier this month.
The announcement is significant because it provides another glimpse at how Apple envisions the future of wireless connectivity for the iPhone. Apple also relies on the iPhone's array of popular accessories like AirPods and the Apple Watch as a key selling point for its smartphones. New MagSafe add-ons could eventually enable Apple to further boost the appeal of its iPhone ecosystem in a similar way.
The MagSafe charger magnetically sticks to the back of your iPhone, making it easier to rest the phone on its charger without having to fiddle with its placement. MagSafe also uses near-field communication, or NFC — the technology that enables features like Apple Pay — to let your iPhone identify the accessory that's attached.
Apple's new wireless charger can also power older iPhone models that support wireless charging, although the charger won't snap in place as it does on the iPhone 12 line of devices. Apple also plans to launch a MagSafe charger that can power the Apple Watch and iPhone at the same time.
Apple provided a peek at its plans to improve wireless charging back in 2017 when it unveiled AirPower, a wireless charging mat that was intended to charge both the iPhone and Apple Watch simultaneously.
But Apple scrapped the product in 2019 after it was announced, saying it did not meet Apple's "high standards." The introduction of MagSafe chargers could be its second attempt at putting its stamp on the wireless charging experience.
In my experience, Apple's MagSafe charger offers similar charging speeds as its Lightning cable. Charging speeds will vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the power adapter you're using.
When charging two iPhones simultaneously with a 5 volt USB-C power adapter — one iPhone 12 plugged in using a Lightning cable and an iPhone 12 Pro charging via MagSafe, they both charged from 70% to 81% within 15 minutes. Both phones were charging in airplane mode with their screens turned off.
In terms of appearance and usability, the MagSafe charger functions similarly to the Apple Watch's charger. Simply rest the iPhone 12 on the small, circular charger, and it snaps right to the back of your iPhone. Your iPhone may also pull up a circular graphic showing its battery level, just like the Apple Watch.
But it's not just about the wireless charging experience. Apple is laying the foundation for a whole new line of iPhone accessories that could take advantage of this easy attaching mechanism.
It's already launched new cases that snap to the back of your phone, as well as wallets designed to stick right onto your iPhone 12. Third-party accessory makers will be launching MagSafe products, too, and Otterbox is among the first to launch new MagSafe cases.
If this sounds familiar to Android fans, it's because Motorola has been pushing a similar concept for years with its Moto Mods accessory line.
Moto Mods also snap to the back of certain Motorola phones using a magnetic system, and accessory makers have launched a variety of different add-ons that bring additional functionality to your phone. These include a smart speaker with Alexa, a compact Polaroid printer, a projector, a game pad, charging packs, and much more — all of which snap to the back of Motorola's Moto Z phones.
Apple's MagSafe launch also comes after often reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a late 2019 report that Apple could be planning to release its first completely wireless iPhone with no Lightning port in 2021.
It's far too soon to tell if MagSafe accessories will have as much of an impact on the iPhone ecosystem as AirPods have since their 2016 launch.
But it's another sign that Apple is investing in its growing wearables, home, and accessories product category, which has become crucial for the company during periods of slow iPhone sales. It also shows that Apple is continuing to look to accessories to make the iPhone stand out from its Android rivals.
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