MagSafe: a bust out of the gate

Graphic by: Charlie Zitta | Production Assistant

I have spent about three months with the new iPhone 12 and while I love it, one of its most toted new features is a bust for now.

The MagSafe moniker was first introduced as a type of charger with the 2006 MacBook Pro, it was a magnetic charger that was trip proof and quickly gained critical acclaim. It was first removed in the 2015 MacBook to major disappointment and now has completely vanished from modern MacBooks entirely.

However, it was sort of reintroduced on the iPhone 12 series as a mechanism to attach accessories. I have tested a wealth of these accessories and the tl;dr is they’re just not that good.

The main problem with this tech is that the magnets are just not strong enough for what they need to be doing. While they hold on well with direct contact and little movement, as soon as you go to put your phone in your pocket with the MagSafe wallet on it, the illusion quickly dissipates.

To make these accessories work, you need the magnets, but you also need some type of friction. Furthering the problem, if you want to use a case, you need to have a case that has the magnet passthroughs built in, or accessories simply won’t stick.

The MagSafe charger is a cool piece of kit until it clicks that you can’t use a popsocket or a wallet case or any case that isn’t made by Apple or Otterbox because they are the only cases with the passthrough magnets needed directly built in.

I tried to use the MagSafe charger with my case of choice, a Spigen Ultra Hybrid clear case and even though the back of that case is incredibly thin, the charger I received in my press kit failed to stick at all. I had to go caseless or use a MagSafe case to use it, but then, what’s the point?

The same goes for the charging stands, while they have really cool concepts to charge an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a pair of AirPods, they are all north of $100 and offer the same limitations as the standalone charger.

As for the wallet, the results were even worse. Attaching it caseless proved to be a waste because it slid right off as soon as I held my phone. Attaching it while I had a MagSafe compatible case was better but as soon as I attempted to put it in my pocket, it fell right off.

About those cases, they are just plain overpriced. The first party Apple silicone and leather cases are $49 and $59 respectively and each are $10 more than previous editions. As for the Otterbox cases, which are the only officially licensed cases so far, they are just plain hideous in my opinion.

I will be keeping an open mind though. I am looking forward to seeing what 3rd party companies can make and I am holding out for a popsocket that can get the balance of magnets and friction just perfect to work with MagSafe.

For a more in-depth explanation of the friction vs. magnets problem, check out “The Problem with iPhone MagSafe…” a video by Quinn Nelson of SnazzyLabs.