With the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models introduced in October 2020, Apple reinvented "MagSafe," a name once used for the breakaway magnetic charging cables designed for the MacBook. The repurposed MagSafe name still pertains to magnet-based accessories, but this time, designed for iPhones rather than Macs.
All of the iPhone 12 models have a ring of magnets built into the back around the wireless charging coil that adhere to MagSafe based accessories like cases and chargers, and this guide outlines everything you need to know about MagSafe.
How MagSafe Works
MagSafe uses a ring of magnets in the iPhone 12 models to connect to accessories that also have magnets built inside. So, for example, Apple’s MagSafe Charger snaps right on to the back of an iPhone, much like a magnet snaps onto a refrigerator.
Cases are the same way, snapping onto the magnet ring built into the iPhone. The design of the magnet ring allows the iPhone 12 models to be compatible with a whole range of accessories that rely on magnets, from chargers to mounts to cases.
The Magnet Ring Inside iPhones
iPhone 12 models have a ring of 18 rectangular magnets arranged in a circular shape located underneath the wireless charging coil in each device, which is what allows the MagSafe magic to happen.
Older iPhones had the same wireless charging coil, but no magnets underneath to allow for magnetic connections.
The MagSafe Charger looks something like a larger Apple Watch Charging Puck with an aluminum body and a soft white material at the top of the charger. The charger snaps onto an iPhone 12 with magnets inside, perfectly aligning the charging coil in the MagSafe Charger with the charging coil in the iPhone.
Repair site iFixit took apart a MagSafe Charger and did an x-ray to show us the charger’s internal design. As with the iPhone, there are a series of magnets inside that are compatible with the magnets in the iPhone that surround an internal charging coil and a circuit board that manages the charging process.
Apple has also designed the MagSafe Duo Charger, which combines a MagSafe charger with an Apple Watch charging puck. The charger is foldable, making it ideal for travel, and costs $129.
The MagSafe Duo Charger is not able to charge an iPhone 12 at the full 15W. With Apple's 20W charger, the MagSafe Duo chargers at a maximum of 11W, and with a 27W or higher USB-C power adapter, it charges at up to 14W. The MagSafe Duo does not come with a power adapter and a charger must be purchased separately. Note that the 29W charger from Apple is not compatible, but the 30W version is.
12W Charging for iPhone 12 mini
For most of the iPhone 12 models, the MagSafe charger is able to charge at a maximum of 15W, but for the smallest iPhone, the iPhone 12 mini, charging maxes out at 12W. The same goes for the MagSafe Duo. Charging speeds can also be affected by the temperature of the iPhone.
Getting 15W Charging Speeds
Achieving 15W (or 12W on iPhone 12 mini) charging speeds requires Apple's 20W power adapter or another appropriate 20W+ PD 3.0 charger. Testing with Apple’s prior-generation 18W iPad charger and a 96W MacBook Pro charger proved that those power adapters do not allow the MagSafe Charger to reach the full 15 watts.
The same goes for many existing third-party power adapters, which also do not have the proper charging profile. New chargers from third-party companies may, however, include support for the MagSafe Charger, and testing indicates that to provide the 15W charging speed, a MagSafe Charger needs to support Power Delivery 3.0 at 9V/2.22A or 9V/2.56A, according to Apple. The iPhone 12 mini can hit maximum charging speeds with a 9V/2.03A power adapter.
You're guaranteed to get 15W with Apple’s $19 20W power adapter (this power adapter also comes with the 2020 iPad Air models), but you may also be able to use a third-party charger as long as it meets those specifications.
MagSafe Charging vs. Traditional Charging
With the MagSafe Charger, it takes about an hour to charge an iPhone 12 from zero to 50 percent, which is double the time that it takes to charge using a USB-C to Lightning cable and a 20W+ USB-C power adapter.
Charging with the MagSafe Charger is faster than charging with a Qi-based charger, which maxes out at 7.5W, but for the fastest charging you’re still going to want to use a wired charging connection with a Lightning to USB-C cable.
When the iPhone is warm, charging speeds can be throttled down, and Apple warns that if the iPhone gets too warm, charging will be limited above 80 percent. Apple recommends moving your iPhone and charger to a cooler location if it feels overly warm.
Charging Speeds With Lightning Accessories
When Lightning-based accessories like EarPods are connected to an iPhone 12 model, charging with MagSafe is limited to 7.5W, which is something to be aware of.
MagSafe Charging Animation
When you place a MagSafe Charger on a compatible iPhone, the iPhone's display will feature a MagSafe charging animation with a MagSafe-like shape on the screen along with a readout of the current iPhone charge.
Using the MagSafe Charger With Older iPhones
Using the MagSafe Charger with older iPhones is possible, but not recommended because charging is slower than with the 7.5W Qi-based chargers. Charging appears to be capped at right around 5W with the MagSafe Charger when paired with older devices, and in testing, the MagSafe charger has proven to be slower than using a plain old Qi charger.
MagSafe vs. USB-C
Testing suggests the MagSafe Charger charges the iPhone 12 less than half as fast than a wired 20W USB-C charger. With the 20W charger, a dead iPhone was able to charge to 50 percent in 28 minutes, and the same 50 percent charge took an hour over MagSafe.
MagSafe Cases and Accessories
Apple has designed cases, wallet attachments, and a MagSafe Charger to use with the MagSafe iPhones, and third-party case and accessory makers are also creating MagSafe-compatible products. We have a guide highlighting some of the available MagSafe accessories that you can purchase.
- Avoid putting single use cards like hotel cards against the magnet in the iPhone or the MagSafe Charger
- Don’t put credit cards, security badges, passports, or key fobs between the iPhone and MagSafe Charger because magnetic strips and RFID chips can be damaged
- Don’t charge with the MagSafe Wallet attachment on the iPhone (cases can remain on)
MagSafe Charger Warnings
When using the MagSafe Charger, Apple warns that it can leave an imprint on the Leather Cases designed for the iPhone 12 models, which is something to be aware of. It can also leave a mark on Silicone cases based on reports from MacRumors readers, and it’s possible that this will affect third-party cases made from soft materials as well.
Apple recommends that those worried about the ring that can be caused by MagSafe choose Silicone or Clear cases instead of the Leather versions.
MagSafe and Pacemakers
Like all iPhones, the iPhone 12 models with their MagSafe technology can cause interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators. Apple recommends keeping iPhone 12 models and all MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from implanted medical devices.
A safe distance is considered more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging. Though there are more magnets in the iPhone 12 models, Apple says that they are "not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models."
Cleaning the MagSafe Charger
Apple recommends cleaning the MagSafe charger with a soft, lint-free cloth. Abrasive cleaning cloths need to be avoided, as do cleaning agents. Apple recommends against excessive wiping, which could cause damage, and says that bleaches and aerosol sprays shouldn’t be used.
MagSafe Chargers can be disinfected with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or a Clorox Disinfecting Wipe, as long as no moisture gets in any openings.
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