All about the MagSafe magnetic charger and the iPhone

With the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models unveiled in October 2020, Apple has brought back the “MagSafe” name that it once used for magnetic cables designed to charge MacBooks. So the reuse of the MagSafe name still refers to accessories that use magnets, only designed for iPhones rather than Macs (who knows if there will eventually be a Magsafe for Mac again!).

All ‌iPhone 12‌ have a ring of magnets placed on the back around the wireless charging coil that makes the accessories, such as cases and chargers, stay fixed in optimal position.

In this guide we are going to talk about everything you need to know about MagSafe.

How MagSafe works

MagSafe uses a ring of magnets on ‌iPhone 12‌ models to connect accessories that have magnets inside, For example, the Apple MagSafe Charger is placed in the proper position on the back of the iPhone, in the same way that a magnet sticks to the refrigerator door.

The same happens with the cases, adhering in the exact position thanks to the ring of magnets built into the iPhone.

The ring of magnets inside the iPhone

iFixit

The ‌iPhone 12‌ models have a ring of eighteen rectangular magnets arranged in a circular shape below the wireless charging coil, allowing accessories to “magically” snap into position over and over again.

Older iPhones have the same wireless charging coil, but they don’t have the magnets underneath that allow accessories to lock into position effortlessly.

The MagSafe charger

The MagSafe charger looks like a giant Apple Watch charger, with an aluminum body and a smooth, white material on the top. The charger is fixed in an iPhone 12‌ thanks to the magnets they have, perfectly aligning the wireless charging coil of the MagSafe charger with the charging coil of the iPhone.

This is important because, being an induction load, the distance between the coils affects the speed at which the energy is transmitted from the emitter to the receiver. In other words, if the phone is placed offset from the charging surface, the phone will charge more slowly than if it is in the ideal position. The MagSafe ring of magnets means that the user does not have to worry about placing the phone in the ideal position, since the magnetism does it for him.

This is applicable to all chargers from other companies, although it is likely that they will gradually release accessories with MagSafe compatibility (that is, with the same ring of magnets).

Although until now it was not a great topic of conversation, the charging power of the accessories is crucial, as it is what allows the battery to charge more or less quickly. According to tests, for a MagSafe charger to provide 15w of power, it has to be compatible with a 3.0 power supply at 9V / 2.22A or 9V / 2.56A, according to Apple. The ‌iPhone 12‌ mini can only charge at full speed with a 9V / 2.03A power adapter.

Which is better, charging using MagSafe or charging using a cable?

With the MagSafe charger, it takes an hour to charge an iPhone 12 from zero to 50%, which is twice the time it takes when using a USB-C to Lightning cable and a 20W power adapter.

Using the MagSafe charger is faster than using a charger that uses the Qi standard, which allows a maximum power of 7.5 W, but if you want to charge the phone quickly, it is best to use the cable that has been used until now (and which is included in the iPhone 12 box).

When the ‌iPhone‌ is hot (for example, because it has been running very intensive tasks with the processors, or because you place it near a heat source -such as a radiator), the charging speeds can slow down, and Apple advises that if the phone gets too hot, the load will be limited to 80%. Apple recommends moving the ‌iPhone‌ and charger to an area where there is better ventilation.

Charge speeds with Lightning accessories

When accessories that use Lightning, such as EarPods, are connected to the iPhone 12, charging with MagSafe is limited to 7.5W, something to keep in mind (because it will take longer to fully charge).

Animation to indicate charging using MagSafe

When you place a MagSafe charger in a compatible phone, the iPhone screen will display an animation representing the MagSafe connection in a circular shape (equivalent to the size of the ring of magnets) with the iPhone’s charge percentage in the center.

Use the MagSafe charger with older iPhones

The MagSafe charger can be used with older iPhones, but it is not recommended because charging is slower than using a 7.5W Qi-based charger. Charging appears to be limited to around 5W when using the MagSafe charger when used with older devices, and in testing the MagSafe charger has shown to be slower than if you use a conventional Qi charger.

What is Qi?

Qi standard logo

We’ve already mentioned Qi several times, and you may have never heard the word until now. You simply have a wireless charger at home where you place the iPhone (and other accessories) to charge them by induction. This is what you have to know:

Qi is an interface standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) for the transfer of electrical energy by induction, at distances of up to 4 cm). To use the system, the mobile device is placed on top of the power transmission pad, which charges it through electromagnetic induction.

Among the mobile device manufacturers that are working with the Qi standard are Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Samsung, Apple and Sony. The Wireless Power Consortium was created in 2008 and aims to create a global standard for inductive charging technology.

MagSafe vs USB-C

Tests with the MagSafe charger seem to indicate that charging an ‌iPhone 12‌ requires twice the time than using a 20W USB-C wired charger. With the 20W charger, an ‌iPhone‌ that has run out of battery had 50% in 28 minutes, and that same 50% needed an hour when using MagSafe.

MagSafe Enclosures and Accessories

Apple has designed cases, wallet accessories, and a MagSafe charger for use with MagSafe-compatible iPhones, and other manufacturers of cases and accessories are also launching MagSafe-compatible products.

Things not to do with MagSafe

  • Avoid putting single-use cards (such as those for hotel rooms) against the magnet area on the ‌iPhone‌ or on the MagSafe charger.
  • Do not put credit cards, security passes, passports or magnetic keys between the ‌iPhone‌ and the MagSafe charger because the magnetized areas and the RFID chips can be damaged.
  • Do not charge the iPhone with the wallet accessory attached (you can leave the case on).

MagSafe Charger Notices

MacRumors

When you use the MagSafe charger, Apple advises that it can leave a mark on the leather cases of the iPhone 12‌, which is something you have to be aware of. It can also leave marks on silicone casings, and this is likely to happen with accessories produced by other companies as well.

Clean the MagSafe charger

Manzana recommends Clean the MagSafe charger with a soft, lint-free cloth or tissue residue. Abrasive cleaning cloths or cleaning soaps cannot be used. Apple recommends not overdoing cleaning, which could damage the product, in addition to advising against the use of bleach and aerosol sprays.

MagSafe chargers can be disinfected with a cloth impregnated with 70 percent alcohol as long as no liquid gets into the openings.

The MagSafe charger will only deliver 12W when used with the iPhone 12 Mini

In a support document Recently updated, Apple has indicated that its new Magsafe charger will have maximum power limited to 12 W when used with the iPhone 12 mini, while with the other iPhone 12 models its maximum power will be 15 W.

Apple says that the iPhone 12 mini will be able to get 12 W with a USB-C plug that is at least 9 V / 2.03 A.

That same document says that when Lightning accessories like EarPods are connected to any iPhone 12 model, the MagSafe charger will have a maximum charging power of 7.5 W to meet regulatory standards.

Apple says that the MagSafe charger has to be connected to power before placing it in the iPhone, as this way you can verify that it is safe to allow maximum power. If you put it on the iPhone in the MagSafe charger before plugging it in, unplug it from the phone, wait three seconds, and put it back to get full charging power.

Apple Design Guide for specifics when designing MagSafe compatible products

Apple iPhone 12 models have a “MagSafe” ring of magnets that make them compatible with magnetic accessories such as cases, chargers and wallets. Apple makes ‌MagSafe‌ accessories, but other companies can also design ‌MagSafe‌ products.

Apple has an Accessory Design Guideline at PDF which delves into the types of magnets manufacturers can use, and other Apple design requirements.

For example, cases that have ‌MagSafe‌ magnets, for example, must encapsulate the device, with a maximum thickness of 2.1 mm. and must be firmly attached to the device without the need for magnets.

Apple’s announcement of the ‌iPhone 12‌ has a scene where the case appears to make a sound when attached with the ‌MagSafe‌ magnets, but neither Apple nor other companies will make any sound when placed and Apple does not want them to either.