Updated 11/03/20: Apple’s support document for MagSafe clarifies that the iPhone 12 mini will only charge up to 12W with MagSafe accessories.
Remember MagSafe? The beloved charging plug for MacBooks was given the boot when Apple moved to USB-C charging, but the company just brought it back as a new standard for iPhone charging and accessories.
With a ring of magnets around a new charging coil design, along with improved shielding and NFC, you can sort of “snap” the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro to a new MagSafe wireless charger, just like you do with the Apple Watch.
The more precise alignment and improved internal components allow for faster charging—up to 15 watts instead of 7.5 on earlier iPhones (or 12W for the iPhone 12 mini). That’s about as fast as charging previous iPhones plugged in!
This doesn’t make existing Qi chargers are useless. The new iPhones still support existing Qi-enabled wireless charging at rates up to 7.5 watts, just as previous iPhones have.
More than charging
The new MagSafe standard is about more than just charging. Apple has added a single-turn coil NFC antenna and a magnetometer to the MagSafe components, so the phone can recognize and react to accessories.
The magnets enable all sorts of snap-on accessories and cases. MagSafe cases will snap on securely, but will still allow the chargers and other accessories to snap on to the back at the same time. Apple is making new silicone, clear, and leather cases that securely snap on to the MagSafe magnets, and allow MagSafe snap-on charging right through them.
Apple has even got a slim snap-on MagSafe wallet, for example. There are third-party chargers and accessories coming, too.
Apple’s got a new MagSafe Duo charger that will charge your iPhone 12 and Apple Watch at the same time, and folds up for travel. There’s no word yet on when it will be available or how much it will cost.
Apple’s official MagSafe charger is a reasonable $39, though it does not come with a power adapter. The leather wallet is $59 and comes in four colors, and the silicone and clear cases are $49 no matter which size of iPhone 12 it’s for. The official Apple leather cases do not yet have a price or release date.
Third-party developers are already at work making MagSafe compatible products. Apple called out a car mount and a multi-device charging dock from Belkin, for example, but you can probably expect the array of snap-on magnetically attached devices for iPhones to expand rapidly over the coming months.