Become a MacRumors Supporter for $25/year with no ads, private forums, and more!

MagSafe: Everything About Apple's New iPhone 12 Charging Technology

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
50,498
11,879


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.

Image via iFixit​

Older iPhones had the same wireless charging coil, but no magnets underneath to allow for magnetic connections.

MagSafe Charger

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.

Image via iFixit​

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 a MagSafe Duo Charger that's coming in the future. It combines the MagSafe charger with an Apple Watch charging puck in a foldable package that's ideal for travel. Apple is charging $129 for the combo charger, and it's set to launch soon.



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 it must be purchased separately.

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. Charging speeds can also be affected by

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.


MagSafe Don’ts

  • 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.


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.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about MagSafe or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.


Article Link: MagSafe: Everything About Apple's New iPhone 12 Charging Technology
 
Last edited:

trifid

macrumors 68000
May 10, 2011
1,921
4,625
Great article! However there is a very important piece of info missing, why are 'magsafe' cases necessary?

I've been trying to get more information on this, so far I found that charging speeds don't seem affected at least with some regular cases such as the example below where in the video it shows it charging at 16w using a regular clear case:

30039mAh 0004.60.png


If charging speeds are still fine with non-magsafe cases, then the other question is magnet strength, and that I have seen reduced strength with non-magsafe cases, but what does that affect exactly? Perhaps car mounting is the only example I can think of that it would be affected. But even then, what if we use really thin cases like the ones from Totallee or Pitaka?

I think this might be a great topic for another article.
 

SDJim

macrumors 6502
Aug 4, 2017
436
1,559
San Diego, CA
Great article! However there is a very important piece of info missing, why are 'magsafe' cases necessary?

I've been trying to get more information on this, so far I found that charging speeds don't seem affected at least with some regular cases such as the example below where in the video it shows it charging at 16w using a regular clear case:

View attachment 976017

If charging speeds are still fine with non-magsafe cases, then the other question is magnet strength, and that I have seen reduced strength with non-magsafe cases, but what does that affect exactly? Perhaps car mounting is the only example I can think of that it would be affected. But even then, how much is strength affected with really slim cases like Totallee or Pitaka?

I think this might be a great topic for another article.
MagSafe Wallet adhesion I guess would be the other issue.
 
  • Like
Reactions: trifid

itsmilo

Suspended
Sep 15, 2016
3,985
8,709
Berlin, Germany
Apple should be ashamed and Jobs would have thrown it all into Tim Cook’s face.

Now I have ...

an usb-c to lightening cable from my AirPod Pro that can charge both my iPad and iPhone but the iPad cable cannot charge my iPhone and the iPhone cable that came with my iPhone does not fit into the iPad charger so now I need to carry like 3 chargers and three different cables and still cannot plug any of them into my older MacBook and on top of it i need to bring an old iPhone cable to use on my powerbanks. Basically if I hadn’t had an iPhone before, I wouldn’t even be able to charge my new iPhone cuz the cable the new iPhone comes with doesn’t even fit any of the chargers and that charger doesn’t work on the new iPad either. 😫 wow I just got confused writing this. All I know is that I packed 4 different cables and 3 chargers for my weekend getaway and to use my iPad on my MacBook I still need to buy a cable 🤣
 
Last edited:

Mac2Crack

macrumors member
Feb 12, 2009
81
48
Winnipeg,Canada
Apple should be ashamed and Jobs would have thrown it all into Tim Cook’s face.

Now I have ...

an usb-c to lightening cable from my AirPod Pro that can charge both my iPad and iPhone but the iPad cable cannot charge my iPhone and the iPhone cable that came with my iPhone does not fit into the iPad charger so now I need to carry like 3 chargers and three different cables and still cannot plug any of them into my older MacBook and on top of it i need to bring an old iPhone cable to use on my powerbanks. Basically if I hadn’t had an iPhone before, I wouldn’t even be able to charge my new iPhone cuz the cable the new iPhone comes with doesn’t even fit any of the chargers and that charger doesn’t work on the new iPad either. 😫 wow I just got confused writing this. All I knowing that I packed 4 different cables and 3 chargers for my weekend getaway
Then there is the Apple Watch....
 

icanhazmac

macrumors 6502
Apr 11, 2018
439
1,216
Am I the only one that is struggling with why Apple bothered with this?

It's slow:
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.

It requires a new brick, why doesn't the MacBook charger work?
Achieving 15W charging speeds requires Apple’s 20W power adapter. 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.

Not backwards compatible in a useful way as its super slow:
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.

Magnets! I get these should be common sense but if you are going to make a magnetic credit card holder......
MagSafe Don’ts
  • 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

If I wanted wireless charging I think I would find Qi pads much more user friendly than a magnetic one. Furthermore I struggle with why I would want a less effiencient charging method when you can argue that the magnetic approach makes this as physically involved as plugging in the cable.

My .02, YMMV but I am genuinely interested in why people would want this vs cabled or Qi.
 

BorgCube

macrumors 603
Jan 10, 2012
6,416
7,988
the Delta Quadrant
Am I the only one that is struggling with why Apple bothered with this?

It's slow:

It requires a new brick, why doesn't the MacBook charger work?

Not backwards compatible in a useful way as its super slow:

Magnets! I get these should be common sense but if you are going to make a magnetic credit card holder......


If I wanted wireless charging I think I would find Qi pads much more user friendly than a magnetic one. Furthermore I struggle with why I would want a less effiencient charging method when you can argue that the magnetic approach makes this as physically involved as plugging in the cable.

My .02, YMMV

One thing I can agree with (not saying I don't agree with your other points) --- the great allure of wireless charging for me is to put my phone on/off the charger with one hand. Without an integrated stand, that is not possible with this wireless charger. If I'm going to go to all the effort of using two hands to "charge" my phone, I can plug in a cable.

While I see how nice it is to use this while charging (can't do that with my other wireless chargers) - I'm missing the ability to (one handedly) put my phone down on a pad and pick it up (with one hand).
 

Corrode

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2008
990
2,119
Calgary, AB
MagSafe is a miss for me.

- charges slower than Lightning
- needs a specific charging block to reach peak speeds (which is still slower than Lightning)
- leaves marks on cases
- not included with the phone
- doesn’t work with iPad
- doesn’t work with Apple Watch
- costs $59 CAD

That’s a long list of cons compared to Lightning, which is on nearly every apple device I own, including the magic keyboard and trackpad. I don’t want another single-use cable/device and I especially don’t want to pay an extra $59 for it.
 
Last edited:

trifid

macrumors 68000
May 10, 2011
1,921
4,625
For those dismissing the idea, I agree Apple's implementation seems lacking in several respects, but I was surprised to find some other solutions that predate magsafe that seem to be very nicely done such as this one from Pitaka, I even wonder if Apple got inspired by some of these other companies.

To me it's undisputed the convenience of magnetic charging in this use case:

71b5-nRVuzL._AC_SL1500_.jpg
 

and 1989 others

macrumors 6502
Sep 21, 2016
301
1,520
What we wanted was AirPower. What we got was this.
A technology I first discovered with a Galaxy S6 in 2015, and I tell
You what the technology is much the same, save for the 'innovation' of adding magnets.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SqlInjection

Prof.

macrumors 601
Aug 17, 2007
4,954
856
Chicago
I love my MagSafe iPhone charger. The only downside is, like the article said, the iPhone 12 gets really warm. And that’s on a granite countertop which is already the coldest surface in my apartment haha.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.