What is MagSafe and how does it work?

MagSafe might sound familiar, and it should – it was originally the charging tech featured on Apple’s MacBook range, offering a magnetic charging connection that’d pop out rather than yank the laptop off the table when somebody (inevitably, let’s be honest) trips over the cable. It’s a great safety feature that Apple fans loved for years, but Apple ditched it for the universal USB-C in 2016.

However, Apple decided to revive the MagSafe branding at the launch of the iPhone 12, but unlike the MacBook range, MagSafe for iPhone extends beyond just charging.

As well as getting a secure 18W wireless charge using the official Apple MagSafe Charger, the ring of magnets and embedded tech that surrounds the wireless charging coil means you can attach accessories – from wallets to charging bricks – onto the back of an iPhone 12 without the need for stickers, and they’ll align perfectly every time.

The system is smart enough for your iPhone to recognise which accessory is connected at any given time, and will likely display an animation on-screen to confirm that the accessory is properly connected. It’ll vary depending on what you connect though; you’ll get a circular charging icon when connecting a MagSafe charger, while putting on a MagSafe case will temporarily turn your display the same colour as the case.

It’s a fun system that also looks to expand the capabilities of the huge iPhone accessory market, with the likes of Belkin working on a suite of grip-free MagSafe stands for home and the car and Excitrus working on wireless charging bricks that stick to the back of your iPhone.

It’s likely that manufacturers will come up with other innovative ways to use MagSafe over the coming months – we cover the best MagSafe accessories for iPhone separately for those interested.

Which iPhones work with MagSafe accessories?

This one’s easy; the entire iPhone 12 range is compatible with MagSafe accessories. The only notable difference is that the iPhone 12 Mini has a slower MagSafe charging speed than the rest of the range at 12W instead of 15W.

To confirm, you can use MagSafe accessories with the following:

  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

MagSafe accessories won’t work with older iPhones or any iPad, so only invest in the accessories if you’ve got your hands on the latest iPhone.

Is MagSafe charging faster than wired?

It’ll depend on the charging brick you use, but if you’re using the 20W USB-C charging brick Apple manufactures, a wired Lightning connection will charge your iPhone faster than MagSafe wireless charging.

You’ll get close to the full 20W wired charging speeds on the latest iPhone range, compared to the 15W wireless charging available via MagSafe. It’s a 5W difference, but if you’re charging your phone overnight, chances are you won’t notice the difference. It’s only if you like to top-up your iPhone during the day that you’ll appreciate the extra 5W of power.

Still, it’s much faster than the standard Qi charging capabilities of the iPhone range, which caps out at a disappointing 7.5W compared to the impressive 40W wireless charging available from the Huawei P40 Pro+ on the Android side of things.

Can I use any case with MagSafe accessories?

When Apple launched the iPhone 12, the company released a range of MagSafe-compatible cases with built-in chips and magnets that effectively lets you use MagSafe chargers and accessories through the case – but what about third-party cases that don’t specifically offer MagSafe support?

It’s not an easy answer. Despite not having the magnetic tech of official MagSafe cases, there are plenty of third-party cases that will still receive charge and allow accessories to snap into place, but it doesn’t work with all cases. It seems to be down to the thickness of the case, with thinner options generally faring much better than rugged ones.

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