MagSafe Is Cool, but Is It Worth the Trade-Offs?

Originally published at: MagSafe Is Cool, but Is It Worth the Trade-Offs? - TidBITS

MagSafe may be the most intriguing feature of the iPhone 12, but is it worth the trade-offs in charging speed, inefficient power usage, and more? We take a look at the promise of MagSafe and then examine some of the early gotchas that have cropped up.

The really annoying thing about MagSafe is that it doesn’t work with many of the third party iPhone 12/12Pro cases out there, evidently because they are too thick.

The advantage of wireless charging is the ability to simply place your phone on the charger and have it charge with no fuss, no muss. Except that that convenience is ruined if you have to pull your phone out of its case every time before you can begin to charge it.

I have both the MagSafe charger and Apple’s 20 W charging brick but I’m thinking I’ll rarely use them to charge my iPhone 12 Pro because I see no real reason why I would want deal with the hassle. Sigh.


Doing away with MagSafe on Macs was a huge mistake by Apple, period. I don’t care how fast USB-C is in comparison, the ports are not mutually exclusive and those ports still could have been included alongside the MagSafe charger port for connecting other things, like my backup hard drives.

We’ll see how successful the technology is on iPhones. Right away, I don’t like hearing how easily the magnetic wallet comes off the leather iPhone case just by slipping the phone into a pocket. Not good. On the other hand, by doing so, it’s functioning as a typical MagSafe connection should — disconnecting easily and safely! Just not what you want your wallet to do…

In my opinion Apple is prepping the way to the removal of all ports on the iPhone. Users really only need the lightning port for charging right now. Everything else can be accomplished using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth at this point. First removed was the 3.5mm earphone jack; can the lightning port removal be far off?

In my opinion, wireless charging won’t be useful until it is built into every desk and tabletop so you can just drop your phone on a flat surface anywhere and it just charges. If you need to place your phone precisely on some pad, you might as well plug in a cable.
The new MagSafe (which is a misnomer as far as the Safe part is concerned IMHO), is even worse that a QI-type ‘wireless’ charging pad, because the magnets keep the pad attached when you pick up your phone. That, combined with the inefficiency of ‘wireless’ charging, is reason enough for me to stick to charging via a (Lighting) cable.
I have a dock next to my bed on which I simply set my iPhone at night. Works really simple, it just slides onto the connector, probably even easier than placing it on a pad of some kind.

I don’t get why people don’t like the Lightning port. I love it! Such a compact, well designed connector. I’ve been able to use a single cable type to charge my Apple devices for years. Meanwhile, for non-Apple devices I have three different types of USB cables I have to keep track of and have on hand.

I’m not keen on wireless charging as the new ‘standard’ way to charge at all. I’m sure it’s great as an occasional option, but as the article points out, the excessive wasted energy if this is (eventually) the only way to charge hundreds of millions of phones is unconscionable.

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I now have no problems with removing MagSafe from Macs.

But the imminent removal of the charging port from iPhones on the other hand (if it happens). To steal from Doctorow’s law: Apple’s not doing it for our benefit.

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On paper. In reality sync over wifi is buggy as heck.

Not that I disagree with your premise though. I’m sure Apple is preparing to ditch Lightning in favor of wireless charging/sync. I’d be OK with that if it actually worked. Alas, it doesn’t so I’m not.

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“Alas, it doesn’t so I’m not.” While I understand your frustration I would point out that the vast majority of users don’t have issues. I certainly don’t and extrapolating a generalization from individual experiences is not a valid method. There are over a billion iOS devices out there so even if several thousand users are in the same boat with you that fact is statistically irrelevant and all but 0%. WiFi and Bluetooth, routers and networks present a myriad of possibilities of failure. At any point in the chain an incorrect setting or glitch can stop things in their tracks.

It’s very risky assuming what “the vast majority of users” are actually doing.

My experience has been that very few people (not counting enthusiasts like us) sync their devices at all. Those who think about it may use iCloud backup (paying the extra monthly charges for the storage). The rest only sync their devices as a part of upgrading to a new device, and when they do, it’s over a USB cable to a computer.

In other words, the lack of a huge outcry over Wi-Fi sync problems may have nothing to do with the reliability of Wi-Fi sync, but may be because very few people are using the feature in the first place.

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3rd party bedside QI charging stands work really well. Way more convenient than MagSafe, and much less expensive.

While many speculate the lightning port is going away, I’m not so sure. Losing backward compatibility with analog audio gear, Square card readers, premium headphones, and wired charging would have a huge impact on the daily lives of millions of customers.

For Apple to move in this direction, there must be a compelling reason. Notice the headphone jack is still available through a tiny adaptor. A small Bluetooth adaptor might be possible, but it would need a substantial source of power like a MagSafe connection to the phone. It’s rumored MagSafe can charge another device if Apple turns it on.


It is a really well designed connector. It’s sturdy, goes in both ways, and combines charging and data. However, it never made the transition to USB3, and while achieving the theoretical bandwidth might not be a fundamental issue, it just didn’t materialize. The de-facto standard is simply USB(-C) and in that sense I think Lightning’s fate has its writing on the wall, no matter how good of a port it was. I’ll miss it, but at the same time I also look forward to a world where one port rules them all and any of the four of them I have on my MBP can do anything I need them to at any time, adapting to my needs as required.

Lightning cables have, by far, the highest failure rates of any cables I’ve ever used. Whether Apple-made, or Apple-certified, they constantly just stop working - no misuse, no bending, no fraying. I always need backups on hand wherever I go, just in case. And they are not inexpensive. We were forced into accepting them, and will likely be forced into replacing them. A reliable inexpensive standard can’t come soon enough for me.

The lightning port is required to connect to a computer for some troubleshooting. For example see this. Apple will need to provide an alternate path for reviving a completely dead phone if no wired ports are available.

Don’t ever say something is “required” for something to function. When the headphone jack was removed that line of thinking said it was all over for Apple. We were treated to the cacophony of “How do I listen and charge at the same time!". Scenarios popped up all over the place to prove the headphone jack was absolutely, positively required.

There are always ways to accomplish something. Of course this is just me running off at the mouth but I firmly believe the iPhone is going port-less sooner rather than later because of the all advantages of that in terms of reliability and water resistance. Users are still coming to the Apple Discussion Forums complaining their device won’t charge only to find a piece of food, lint, insect jammed in the lightning port and having to dig it out with a toothpick.

Apple’s got a history of creating secret proprietary ports for this purpose:

So it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple did remove all user-accessible access ports, leaving behind some secret proprietary interface that they can use for their own troubleshooting purposes.

I’d still prefer Apple keep a standard user-accessible port, but the lack of diagnostic access isn’t going to be enough to stop them, should they decide to ditch it.

There’s reason to believe that Apple could add data transfer to the MagSafe spec in the future, so all of those things could be done with MagSafe rather than Lightning. (Or they can use something like the smart connector on the iPad Pro). Like the headphone jack, the lightning port takes space on the inside of the phone, so the phone could be made thinner and/or have a larger battery and water resistance could be improved more with one more removed port.

I have little interest in MagSafe or Qi myself at the moment. I greatly prefer cable connectivity for now. But I’m thinking this is the direction Apple may be heading.

As for lightning cables, we’ve had a couple of duds, but I have third party cables going back to 2015 and my first iPhone that still work fine.

I very much doubt the charging coil with the added magnets take up less space than the Lightning port. So, if space is the issue, dropping wireless charging would make more sense.

As for a larger battery, making the phone just a bit thicker, enough to lose the camera bump, would allow for that larger battery, and a sleeker design. I don’t think many users would then complain the phone wasn’t thin enough.

I do not see this magsafe as a practical solution for travel. I would want something to put into my pocket when I am out and about when traveling. Schlepping a magsafe is too cumbersome. No doubt that Apple should have included a flat (not bulky) charger as USB-C is new to many. Apple missed on this one!


I find all the grousing about MagSafe to be a little weird. No product is perfect, and by definition an accessory isn’t essential, but optional. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. There’s no harm to you that it exists.

I personally have found traditional Qi chargers to be worthless and far too frustrating to use (it always takes me multiple tries to position my phone correctly for charging). I love the way MagSafe snaps into place without any drama. It just works.

If it has a flaw, it’s that it is not a dock, but a charging cable. I recently pre-ordered Studio Neat’s wooden base for MagSafe (shipping in a month). Your MagSafe puck fits inside it and it suction cups to a table thereby turning your MagSafe into a dock.

I can’t vouch for it because I don’t have it yet, but they make good products and it’s a great idea (no affiliation, I’m just a customer):