MagSafe on iPhone (not to be confused with MagSafe on MacBooks, which is quite different despite using the same name) is basically a good idea. Build a ring of strong magnets around the wireless charging coils on the back of each iPhone, along with an NFC loop to identify accessories.
In addition to doubling the wireless charging speed from 7.5W to 15W, this would allow all kinds of useful accessories.
Unfortunately, the market has given us little to rave about, and Apple’s own accessories are among the worst of the bunch. Instead of leading the way with imaginative ideas and software solutions, we just have some matte chargers and wallets with magnets in them.
Apple’s Terrible Accessories
Apple’s MagSafe charger is terrible. It’s $40, power adapter not included, and seems specifically designed to solve nobody’s problems. It’s too small and too light to use as a wireless charging pad on your desk – it moves easily and stays attached to your iPhone when you pick it up. Its small size would make it a nice “charge your iPhone while you use it” solution, but the 1-meter cable isn’t even half as long as it needs to be. Are we really expected to be a meter from an outlet?
Of course, the MagSafe Duo Charger is even worse. Crushed by the press for good reason, it’s one of Apple’s worst-designed products. Expensive, thin, cumbersome and clunky, it doesn’t even fit well on some of Apple’s latest iPhones because the camera bump is so big.
The one Apple MagSafe accessory that isn’t completely terrible is the clip-on wallet. It’s still too easy to jump out, but at least the company has updated it to take advantage of the NFC coil. If you have a wallet plugged in, your iPhone will know and can optionally ping Find My with a notification and location when disconnected. You’ll only get the location of the wallet if it’s detached, but at least it’s something.
The smart connection that isn’t
And that’s really the problem with MagSafe. It has potential as a “smart” connection that is not used at all. A ring of magnets makes for a great car holder, but there have been cases that do that for centuries. MagSafe’s integrated NFC coil means devices can self-identify with your iPhone, leading to all sorts of potentially useful applications.
Right now, Apple uses this capability for two things: to identify which model of MagSafe case you’ve attached, just to show a little connection animation in a matching color, and to identify when you’ve attached a MagSafe-enabled leather wallet. , so that Find My can know when it gets loose.
The latter is useful, but just think how much more could be done here! Imagine if Apple created a MagSafe framework for developers, where MagSafe devices could identify themselves as one of many categories, triggering the correct actions of iOS.
For example, all “Made for MagSafe” car chargers, when plugged in, can tell iPhone that they’re plugged into a car mount and perform the user-selected default action (such as jumping to Siri-suggested directions in Maps or the Music or Podcasts apps). A desktop charger could automatically put the iPhone into a “desk view” mode that displays the time, weather, and home screen widgets in a large format (even on iPhones without always-on screens).
Chargers in public places like coffee shops or restaurants can activate linked apps or web pages or quickly get your device on the location’s free Wi-Fi.
Just think of all the creative ways developers — or even just Apple itself — can use information your iPhone has (like its location) along with knowledge of the type of MagSafe accessory it’s attached to — from car mounts to battery packs to selfie sticks.
And what do we get in return? An overpriced and underpowered battery pack, some awful chargers, wallets that knock off too easily, and cases that create a color-matched animation when you plug them in.
When MagSafe was announced two years ago with the iPhone 12, my imagination ran wild with all the fun things Apple and other accessory makers would do with it. Two years later, the potential remains wasted. Both on the hardware and software side, Apple has failed to deliver on the promise of MagSafe for iPhone.