What MagSafe on the iPhone 12 is, how it works, and what can it do

Posted:
in iPhone
MagSafe for iPhone 12 is a multi-faceted feature that enables a whole new ecosystem of accessories. But how does it work and what can it do?

Various MagSafe internal components
Various MagSafe internal components

What is MagSafe?

MagSafe does many things, which makes it hard to describe in a single word. It is the combination of a mounting system and a charging system that unlocks a wealth of potential for Apple and accessory manufacturers.

Apple started with its Qi wireless charging coil and added several new components to create a proprietary type of wireless charging as well as allow the mounting of different accessories. This allows improved MagSafe wireless charging, the addition of magnets, and continued support for Qi wireless charging.

This new feature will is present on all the new iPhones including iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Among MagSafe's multiple components is a new magnetometer and a single-coil NFC reader. This allows the phone to communicate with the accessories in new ways. more on that in a moment.




Wireless charging

One of the biggest benefits of MagSafe is the improvement to wireless charging. With Qi wireless chargers, if your phone isn't perfectly centered on the coil, you will experience much slower charging speeds and not even realize.

MagSafe aids this experience by using the magnets to properly align your phone and the charger. This guarantees placement won't slow down your wireless charging. Using a MagSafe charger, you are able to deliver up to 15W of power to the iPhone.

If you use Qi charging, you will be limited to the same 7.5W, same as the prior-gen phones.

Apple MagSafe Duo
Apple MagSafe Duo


Apple itself is launching two MagSafe devices, the MagSafe Wireless Charger and the MagSafe Duo Wireless Charger. The latter is the most intriguing with a folding design capable of charging your Apple Watch and iPhone at the same time.

Cases

MagSafe also unlocks new possibilities for cases. Apple has integrated MagSafe into the back of its silicone and clear cases which allows you to use MagSafe accessories even while donning a case.

While we can't confirm until we have them in our hands, it appears that you must have a MagSafe capable case to fully use MagSafe accessories such as mounts, chargers, or wallets. Otherwise, the magnets may not be strong enough depending on the thickness of your case.

This is important to keep in mind as you rush to pick up a case for your new iPhone. If you grab a case that's too thick, MagSafe won't work.

Fortunately, third-party manufacturers are also able to integrate MagSafe into their own cases. While at the moment only Apple has MagSafe cases, soon many third-party cases will adopt the feature as well.

With Apple's cases, users will get several nice touches we haven't seen before. As cases are snapped on and held in place magnetically, iPhone 12 will recognize the case and show a slick animation that is color-matched to the case.

Apple's MagSafe leather sleeve
Apple's MagSafe leather sleeve


Apple also has a leather sleeve set to launch. When your iPhone 12 is inserted, the magnetometer and NFC reader are able to detect the case and know when the phone is inserted as to turn on the clock to be seen through the sleeve's window. The background of the clock is also color-matched to the sleeve so it blends in even further.

At the moment, only Apple's silicone and clear cases are available but has promised its leather sleeve and leather shell cases in the future.

Other accessories

Cases and wireless charging are only part of the picture with MagSafe. There are many applications that it could be used for.

Apple's MagSafe Wallet
Apple's MagSafe Wallet


Apple has created its own leather wallet that easily snaps to the back of the iPhone 12 or MagSafe case. Many others from accessory makers will likely follow.

Belkin's 3-in-1 MagSafe dock
Belkin's 3-in-1 MagSafe dock


Belkin is already getting on board with MagSafe introducing a new 3-in-1 dock that floats the iPhone and your Apple Watch in the air while charging AirPods down below. It also revealed an in-car mount using MagSafe.

Scosche too is in the game with four new mounting systems that use Apple's MagSafe Wireless Charger.

Future potential of iPhone MagSafe

Apple's MagSafe accesories
Apple's MagSafe accesories


Between the magnets themselves, the magnetometer, and the NFC reader there is much that MagSafe can do. Right now we see cases, chargers, docks, mounts, and wallets for iPhone 12 but device manufacturers are likely already champing at the bit to bring their own MagSafe accessories to market.

Apple has done something it hasn't done in some time, in creating an entirely new iPhone accessory ecosystem to add functionality to our handheld devices. Let's see where it goes.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    I'll be very interested to learn how Apple has engineered this magnetic wallet so that it doesn't screw up the mag strip on credit cards.  It seems like an incredibly obvious question.  Surely that Apple Pay card they show in the photo hasn't been ruined by the strong iPhone magnet.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 30
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,834member
    At first glance, this looks like a brilliant new addition to the iPhone product line. Like you say, let's see where this goes, but the future for this new incarnation of MagSafe seems very bright. I'm probably more excited about the mounting possibilities than anything. Looking forward to seeing auto dash/console mounting & charging versions. Kudos to Apple for bringing their own clear case to market so the lovely new chassis colors are not hidden.
    gregoriusmmike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 30
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,937member
    I'll be very interested to learn how Apple has engineered this magnetic wallet so that it doesn't screw up the mag strip on credit cards.  It seems like an incredibly obvious question.  Surely that Apple Pay card they show in the photo hasn't been ruined by the strong iPhone magnet.
    It’s a good question.  Or it would be if we were dealing with another company...

    “The leather wallet is shielded so it’s safe for credit cards.”

    This is the last line of the product description for the leather wallet in the Apple Store app.
    forgot usernamelolliverfastasleepStrangeDaysmatrix077Rayz2016watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 30
    I'll be very interested to learn how Apple has engineered this magnetic wallet so that it doesn't screw up the mag strip on credit cards.  It seems like an incredibly obvious question.  Surely that Apple Pay card they show in the photo hasn't been ruined by the strong iPhone magnet.
    The product page clearly states "The leather wallet is shielded so it’s safe for credit cards."
    forgot usernamelolliverwatto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 30
    bageljoey said:
    I'll be very interested to learn how Apple has engineered this magnetic wallet so that it doesn't screw up the mag strip on credit cards.  It seems like an incredibly obvious question.  Surely that Apple Pay card they show in the photo hasn't been ruined by the strong iPhone magnet.
    It’s a good question.  Or it would be if we were dealing with another company...

    “The leather wallet is shielded so it’s safe for credit cards.”

    This is the last line of the product description for the leather wallet in the Apple Store app.
    As I said, I'm interested in how they engineered this.  I didn't say I doubt that they did.  Isn't it non-trivial to "shield" a strong rare earth magnet with something only a couple of millimeters thin?
    lolliverMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 30
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,937member
    My question is: what is that oval under the MagSafe circle on the clear cases.  Is it functional or decorative?
    gregoriusmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 30
    I'm not a hater by any means, but what happens when you put an iPhone 12 in the same pocket as a hotel keycard?  I've had these get messed up from time to time when I wasn't carrying a strong magnet around with me.

    Maybe it won't matter since hotels barely exist post-Covid.  Or it will force them to support using iPhones to open hotel doors (as a very few hotels do already).

    Actually, screw hotel key cards, what about the credit cards in my (mini) wallet?  I routinely have credit cards in a leather sleeve in the same pocket as my phone.  Will I have to replace that with a shielded sleeve?
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 8 of 30
    cmd-zcmd-z Posts: 69member
    Not interested in wireless charging, but since I use a magnetic mount for my iPhone in my truck I wonder if this will this still work. The magnets in the new iPhones surely aren't strong enough on their own to securely hold onto a bare steel plate, but a magnetic mount *should* work as long as the polarity does not repel the iPhone.  I guess I have a 50/50 chance of this working, depending on my magnet mount's polarity.
  • Reply 9 of 30
    M68000M68000 Posts: 369member
    I'm not a hater by any means, but what happens when you put an iPhone 12 in the same pocket as a hotel keycard?  I've had these get messed up from time to time when I wasn't carrying a strong magnet around with me.

    Maybe it won't matter since hotels barely exist post-Covid.  Or it will force them to support using iPhones to open hotel doors (as a very few hotels do already).

    Actually, screw hotel key cards, what about the credit cards in my (mini) wallet?  I routinely have credit cards in a leather sleeve in the same pocket as my phone.  Will I have to replace that with a shielded sleeve?
    I hear you.. had that hotel key issue happen to
    me with a case that had cover that had tiny magnet to keep it closed.  Will never buy such a case again.  Will be very interesting to see how it goes with the new phones for users.  
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 10 of 30
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,834member
    bageljoey said:
    I'll be very interested to learn how Apple has engineered this magnetic wallet so that it doesn't screw up the mag strip on credit cards.  It seems like an incredibly obvious question.  Surely that Apple Pay card they show in the photo hasn't been ruined by the strong iPhone magnet.
    It’s a good question.  Or it would be if we were dealing with another company...

    “The leather wallet is shielded so it’s safe for credit cards.”

    This is the last line of the product description for the leather wallet in the Apple Store app.
    As I said, I'm interested in how they engineered this.  I didn't say I doubt that they did.  Isn't it non-trivial to "shield" a strong rare earth magnet with something only a couple of millimeters thin?
    Apple engineers know the magnetic field strength (gauss) of the magnets they are using, they know the distance from the magnet where the shield is placed, and they know the relative permeability, saturation point, and thickness of the shield material. This allows them to design a shield that will shunt the vast majority of the magnetic lines of flux from the magnets to keep the magnetic field strength on the other side of the shield well below the demagnetizing strength required to scramble the magnetic strip on a credit card. The engineering behind magnetic shielding is very well understood and fully resolvable. 

    Apple is providing an engineered solution where they control all the variables. 
    edited October 2020 adaeonrandominternetpersonfastasleepStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 30
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 863member
    bageljoey said:
    My question is: what is that oval under the MagSafe circle on the clear cases.  Is it functional or decorative?
    Good question...I wondered that myself. I wish they had options so the circle would match the color of the iPhone instead of being such a bright white. Maybe in future versions? Also, I hope that the wallet and sleeves are offered in silicon at some point as not everyone enjoys leather. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 30
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 554member
    I'm not a hater by any means, but what happens when you put an iPhone 12 in the same pocket as a hotel keycard?  I've had these get messed up from time to time when I wasn't carrying a strong magnet around with me.

    Maybe it won't matter since hotels barely exist post-Covid.  Or it will force them to support using iPhones to open hotel doors (as a very few hotels do already).

    Actually, screw hotel key cards, what about the credit cards in my (mini) wallet?  I routinely have credit cards in a leather sleeve in the same pocket as my phone.  Will I have to replace that with a shielded sleeve?
    Magswipe hotel key cards use low-coercivity magnetic strips. They're easy to change. The speaker or vibration motor magnets in phones have basically always been able to erase such cards if you keep them in the same pocket.

    Most magswipe cards meant to be used for more than a week (such as most credit cards) use high-coercivity magnetic strips, which are considered permanent magnets. They can still be rewritten, but it takes a much stronger magnetic field. Little short of direct contact with a neodymium magnet should be able to affect them.

    The shielding they talk about is just a high-permeability metal (like iron or certain steels) inside the leather. The idea is to give the magnetic field a shorter path between the poles which doesn't go through the card strips. I bet there will be cases which have shielding to protect cards, but which break the ability to use a MagSafe charger.
    randominternetpersondewmembenz1962watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,120member
    Aren’t most modern credit cards chipped anyway? I can’t think of the last time I used a magnetic swipe to pay fir something.
    watto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 14 of 30
    Japhey said:
    bageljoey said:
    My question is: what is that oval under the MagSafe circle on the clear cases.  Is it functional or decorative?
    Good question...I wondered that myself. I wish they had options so the circle would match the color of the iPhone instead of being such a bright white. Maybe in future versions? Also, I hope that the wallet and sleeves are offered in silicon at some point as not everyone enjoys leather. 
    I assumed that was an alignment magnet.
    bageljoeylolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 30
    entropys said:
    Aren’t most modern credit cards chipped anyway? I can’t think of the last time I used a magnetic swipe to pay fir something.
    Good point. I have had to "swipe" more than once in the past several months, but it's less and less common.
    Japhey said:
    bageljoey said:
    My question is: what is that oval under the MagSafe circle on the clear cases.  Is it functional or decorative?
    Good question...I wondered that myself. I wish they had options so the circle would match the color of the iPhone instead of being such a bright white. Maybe in future versions? Also, I hope that the wallet and sleeves are offered in silicon at some point as not everyone enjoys leather. 
    I assumed that was an alignment magnet.

    That's what it's called on the exploded view diagram in the Apple presentation.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 30
    zimmie said:
    I'm not a hater by any means, but what happens when you put an iPhone 12 in the same pocket as a hotel keycard?  I've had these get messed up from time to time when I wasn't carrying a strong magnet around with me.

    Maybe it won't matter since hotels barely exist post-Covid.  Or it will force them to support using iPhones to open hotel doors (as a very few hotels do already).

    Actually, screw hotel key cards, what about the credit cards in my (mini) wallet?  I routinely have credit cards in a leather sleeve in the same pocket as my phone.  Will I have to replace that with a shielded sleeve?
    Magswipe hotel key cards use low-coercivity magnetic strips. They're easy to change. The speaker or vibration motor magnets in phones have basically always been able to erase such cards if you keep them in the same pocket.

    Most magswipe cards meant to be used for more than a week (such as most credit cards) use high-coercivity magnetic strips, which are considered permanent magnets. They can still be rewritten, but it takes a much stronger magnetic field. Little short of direct contact with a neodymium magnet should be able to affect them.

    The shielding they talk about is just a high-permeability metal (like iron or certain steels) inside the leather. The idea is to give the magnetic field a shorter path between the poles which doesn't go through the card strips. I bet there will be cases which have shielding to protect cards, but which break the ability to use a MagSafe charger.
    Thanks for that. I wondered why the hotel keys were so flaky. I suppose I'll have to stop carrying around the 3.5" floppy disk in my pocket that I keep for emergencies. (j/k)
    lolliver
  • Reply 17 of 30
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,741member
    I'm not a hater by any means, but what happens when you put an iPhone 12 in the same pocket as a hotel keycard?  I've had these get messed up from time to time when I wasn't carrying a strong magnet around with me.

    Maybe it won't matter since hotels barely exist post-Covid.  Or it will force them to support using iPhones to open hotel doors (as a very few hotels do already).

    Actually, screw hotel key cards, what about the credit cards in my (mini) wallet?  I routinely have credit cards in a leather sleeve in the same pocket as my phone.  Will I have to replace that with a shielded sleeve?
    most credit cards now use the embedded chip and no longer use the stripe.  That should answer at least that part of your concern.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,757member
    Did they announce availability of MagSafe leather cases or the MagSafe Duo?
    Japheywatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 30
    Japhey said:
    bageljoey said:
    My question is: what is that oval under the MagSafe circle on the clear cases.  Is it functional or decorative?
    Good question...I wondered that myself. I wish they had options so the circle would match the color of the iPhone instead of being such a bright white. Maybe in future versions? Also, I hope that the wallet and sleeves are offered in silicon at some point as not everyone enjoys leather. 
    Looks like the store is currently just listing silicone and clear cases. I'll be looking forward to the leather option, myself, and may delay my upgrade until it's available.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 30
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,278member
    entropys said:
    Aren’t most modern credit cards chipped anyway? I can’t think of the last time I used a magnetic swipe to pay fir something.
    Gas stations

    Also, I’ve had plenty of times when the chip reader wouldn’t work and I had to swipe my card. Magnetic strips are not dead by any means.
    edited October 2020 bageljoeybaconstang
Sign In or Register to comment.