Tested: MagSafe charging speed versus Qi, USB-C, and USB-A

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2021
We put Apple's MagSafe charger to test to see how fast it truly is, and see how it compares to USB-C, Qi, and USB-A.

Charging our iPhone via MagSafe
Charging our iPhone via MagSafe


Even this long after MagSafe's introduction, there are questions, theories, and rituals that users have, regarding wireless versus wired charging. Evaluating the combinations is simple, and the answer of which is best depends very much on any given user's situation and hardware.

Testing Methodology





We examined four different charging variations for this test. We chose to compare a 5W USB-A Lightning cable, a 7.5W wireless charger, MagSafe, and a 20W USB-C Lightning cable.

Apple's USB-C 20W power adapter
Apple's USB-C 20W power adapter


Apple's devices were used across the board for AC adapters and cabling. The only third-party device we used was the Moshi Otto Qi wireless charger, which can charge an iPhone up to 7.5W -- the maximum power it can receive from a Qi wireless charger.

For our testing, we used an iPhone 12 Pro with no case. We would deplete the battery until the phone shuts down. The depleted phone was then connected to one of the four methods of charging outlined above.

In five-minute increments, we'd log how much the battery had charged. Data collection continued until the iPhone 12 hit 100 percent.

Once we completed the test, we went back with a power meter to test the actual power being drawn by the MagSafe charger to confirm true charging power.

Apple's MagSafe cable
Apple's MagSafe cable


Between depleting the battery and commencement of charging, we'd also give the phone time to rest and cool down to ambient temperature to avoid variances in charging from thermal effects.

Results

When charging started, we saw Apple's 5W power brick with the USB-A Lightning cable outpace MagSafe -- but only for the first seven minutes.

After ten minutes, the Qi charger hit only 3%, the 5W charger reached 6% percent, MagSafe followed at 8%, and the 20W charger was 17%.

Charging results
Charging results


At the 30 minute point, the 5W adapter provided the least amount, only getting to 17% charge. At the same time, the Qi charger was at 20%, the MagSafe cable was at 31%, and the 20W USB-C cable hit 52%.

In the end, it took the 5W charger the most time to reach 100% at three hours and 15 minutes. The Qi charger was in second-to-last place at two hours and forty minutes to finish charging. The USB-C cable charged the fastest, hitting full power at one hour and 55 minutes. MagSafe held strong, finishing charging in two hours and ten minutes.

MagSafe -- Delivering as expected

Looking at the results, it's immediately apparent the USB-C Lightning cable was by far the fastest. At least in the short term. It also met Apple's claim of fast charging an iPhone to at least 50 percent in only 30 minutes.

Following that 30 minutes, it took 20 minutes to go from 96 to 100 percent charged, allowing the MagSafe charger to catch up. In the end, MagSafe only took 15 minutes longer than the USB-C Lightning cable to charge our iPhone 12 Pro to 100 percent.

When in a situation where you only have a brief period to charge up, the USB-C cable makes a big difference. Beyond that, the difference starts to become more negligible.

Both the USB-C Lightning cable and the MagSafe cable blew away the traditional Qi charger and the 5W Lightning cable. A hardwired solution will be the fastest, but MagSafe holds its own.

Qi needs to be perfectly aligned for optimum speeds. We tried our best to place our phone dead-center, but any variation can result in decreased efficiency and a longer charge time. MagSafe negates this issue by using magnets to align the two coils properly when the iPhone and charger are paired.

Satechi USB-C power meter
Satechi USB-C power meter


Apple promises that MagSafe can deliver up to 15W of power. Beyond calculating the total charging time, we wanted to see how many watts of power were drawn.

When we inserted Satechi's USB-C power meter, we saw that the power spiked initially, up to 15W, but then tapered down to between 11W and 12W the rest of the cycle.

Charging iPhone 12 Pro with MagSafe
Charging iPhone 12 Pro with MagSafe


So yes, MagSafe is capable of delivering up to 15W of power. Due to heat, however, the charger combination can't sustain that rate indefinitely.

If you'd like to grab a MagSafe charger to add to your kit, you can find them in stock at Amazon for $34.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    Was optimized charging turned on?
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 25
    F_Kent_DF_Kent_D Posts: 98unconfirmed, member
    It looks to me like the best overnight charger would be the MagSafe as it has a much more steady rate of charge. I’ll always use MagSafe at night and during the day if I were to need a quick charge I plug my phone in. Interesting data. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 25
    Intelligent charging?
    Most people charge at night, and power users carry a battery pack, so really, how much does this matter??? Though this kind of reporting is useful it’s also meant to drive spending within the community. Apple loves this kind of “advertising” because it certainly drives sales of high margin accessories…
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 25
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,707member
    The limiting factor of the USB A cable wasn’t the cable, it was the 5w charger. If you’d put it on a 20W USB A charger it would have matched the USB C cable. 

    Also, you fail to report how much power is wasted by Qi and MagSafe. Inductive charging is very inefficient, wasting about 30% of the energy. Putting a case on the phone or improperly aligning it makes it even worse. You should look at the total number of watt hours drawn for each option to achieve a full charge to really see the difference. 
    muthuk_vanalingamcaladanianmike1dewmewhittonm
  • Reply 5 of 25
    MplsP said:

    Qi and MagSafe. Inductive charging is very inefficient … Putting a case on the phone or improperly aligning it makes it even worse.

    Somewhat true however let’s not forget that MagSafe uses magnets to properly align the coils 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 25
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,013member
    I’m glad to have this information. Personally I don’t see the benefit of wireless charging except for MagSafe backup batteries. If you use a charging pad, you can’t pick up the phone to use it without the charging stopping. And why use a MagSafe wired charger when you can plug in a charger? Again, just my view. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 25
    fred1 said:
    I’m glad to have this information. Personally I don’t see the benefit of wireless charging except for MagSafe backup batteries. If you use a charging pad, you can’t pick up the phone to use it without the charging stopping. And why use a MagSafe wired charger when you can plug in a charger? Again, just my view. 
    And why use plug-in charger if you can simply use MagSafe? ;) 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 25
    Don't bother with any wireless charging that are not magsafe. All the ones I tested overheated the iPhone, Apple Watch or AirPods I placed on the device. The reason is that the charging coils are not perfectly aligned. This may not sound serious but I destroyed one iPhone X and had to swap the battery in the refurbished one Apple sent me about a year later. Eventually the overheating causes the battery to swell up and pops out the screen. Even my AirPods wireless charging case feels warm when I pick it up quite often. There seems to be nothing in the wireless charging to prevent overheating from happening. However all the magsafe chargers I have used with the iPhone 13 Plus have worked perfectly. It never overheats. Unfortunately the first generation Apple watch chargers have the same problem. It sticks to them magnetically but is not held in exactly the right position so it too can overheat.
    edited December 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 25
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,013member
    urahara said:
    fred1 said:
    I’m glad to have this information. Personally I don’t see the benefit of wireless charging except for MagSafe backup batteries. If you use a charging pad, you can’t pick up the phone to use it without the charging stopping. And why use a MagSafe wired charger when you can plug in a charger? Again, just my view. 
    And why use plug-in charger if you can simply use MagSafe? ;) 
    Speed? 😳
    williamlondonwhittonm
  • Reply 10 of 25
    urahara said:
    And why use plug-in charger if you can simply use MagSafe? ;) 
    Huh?  Because it’s almost twice as fast, the cords can be 3x longer, you can still use the phone easily while it’s charging, and less energy will be wasted. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobrawhittonm
  • Reply 11 of 25
    MplsP said:
    The limiting factor of the USB A cable wasn’t the cable, it was the 5w charger. If you’d put it on a 20W USB A charger it would have matched the USB C cable. 
    Actually iPhones can’t charge with more than 12W via USB A. For anything beyond 12 you will require a USB C lightning cable
    dewmewatto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 12 of 25
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,553member
    Simply seeing the charging differences at the 30/60/90 minute points is useful information in my opinion. This answers the question, "If I only have 30/60/90 minutes to charge my phone, what are some "ballpark" expectations for how much charge I can get into the phone based on the charging options available to me?" This would absolutely be useful if I know I'll be unable to access a charger for some period of time after getting the 30/60/90 minute charge-up.

    The detailed characteristics of each charging option, beyond the ballpark numbers, are interesting but not a big deal for me. No surprise at all that higher powered and more efficient chargers charge the phone faster. It's important to recognize that the phone itself is a big part of the charging equation, and it's very likely that the phone is doing several things to optimize the charging efficiency while preserving the health and maximizing the longevity of the phone's charging circuitry and battery. With higher power chargers the phone is very likely throttling the charging rates at different points in the charging cycle for these reasons. The iPhone's charging optimization setting also influences these things.

    I would not be surprised at all if the charging characteristics of individual phones change significantly as the battery ages and consumes more of the battery's available charging cycles. This is one of the reasons why I don't get too excited when everyone is raving about the battery performance of the latest iPhone. Give it a year and a year's worth of charging cycles and then see where it stands.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 25
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,249member
    For overnight charging, none of these methods has an advantage over the other, unless somebody has very short "nights". Heat generated in charging wasn't mentioned. Too much heat can shorten the life of a battery – how much heat, how much shorter life, I don't know. But if the phone isn't going to be used during the night, a slow charge should be fine. For charging under almost any other circumstances, it would be near pitiful. Talking while on the 5W charger would heat it (the charger) up a lot but it's the "steadiest" of the lot, for what that's worth.

    Since I don't run my battery down, both MagSafe and QI work for me. I use MS at home, and never use my 30W PD charger with a cable, just for the MS puck. My other MS charger is the Belkin Phone/Watch tree. Pricy but the only game in town at the time.

    Apple hasn't allowed car MS chargers yet that I know of.  An MS puck and car charger could be used, though maybe a little ungainly. So I use a third-party vent mount QI and it works well enough for my usage. My car charger is a two port USB 30W plug so I could charge by USB-C if the need arose.

    Picking the phone up during a charge isn't an issue for me. I'm seldom on the phone for a long time so taking a call isn't a problem. If it's going to be more than a few minutes, I use EarPods and AirPods anyway, and a lot as I don't care to have to hold the phone to my ear for more than those few minutes.

    I use MS charging for the sheer convenience of it. Had I to do it over again, I'd probably look for a basic cradle desk stand that holds an MS puck for the night stand, not the Belkin tree. Early days there wasn't much choice at all. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 25
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,707member
    escargot said:
    MplsP said:
    The limiting factor of the USB A cable wasn’t the cable, it was the 5w charger. If you’d put it on a 20W USB A charger it would have matched the USB C cable. 
    Actually iPhones can’t charge with more than 12W via USB A. For anything beyond 12 you will require a USB C lightning cable
    Source? The USB A connector is capable of significantly more power than 12W. If there's a limitation then it's an artificial one imposed by Apple.

    urahara said:
    fred1 said:
    I’m glad to have this information. Personally I don’t see the benefit of wireless charging except for MagSafe backup batteries. If you use a charging pad, you can’t pick up the phone to use it without the charging stopping. And why use a MagSafe wired charger when you can plug in a charger? Again, just my view. 
    And why use plug-in charger if you can simply use MagSafe? ;) 

    Ummm... it's faster, more reliable, more efficient and cheaper. 


    MplsP said:

    Qi and MagSafe. Inductive charging is very inefficient … Putting a case on the phone or improperly aligning it makes it even worse.
    Somewhat true however let’s not forget that MagSafe uses magnets to properly align the coils 
    True - magsafe optimizes the position as much as possible, but it still can't get around the inherent inefficiencies of inductive charging. 
    edited December 2021
  • Reply 16 of 25
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,579member
    Useful article.

    For MagSafe-compatible iPhones, it is clear that the 20w charger is the fastest, but MagSafe is only slightly behind and has some advantages. All the other methods should be considered best for “overnight” type charging.

    PS. I have a standing Qi charger which I find makes it easier to align the phone exactly where it needs to be than the flat ones. That’s my “overnight” charger.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    payecopayeco Posts: 533member
    You should have used a 13 Pro Max. Testing done at ChargerLab shows that the 13 Pro Max can hit 27w charging with a capable charger as long as the phone doesn’t get too hot. That’s 35% ‘faster’ than the the phone and charger combination you used in this test.

    https://www.chargerlab.com/up-to-27w-charging-compatibility-test-of-apple-iphone-13-pro-max-20w-100w/
  • Reply 18 of 25
    Where is the data from using the power meter? It’s mentioned as being used and then never referenced again. I would like to know how much power is actually drawn from the wall to charge to 100% to see efficiency levels. I understand wireless is less efficient, but by how much?  Also it would be interesting to take 4 new identical phones and only charge them using a particular method to see the impact on battery lifespan.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    payecopayeco Posts: 533member
    Also it would be interesting to take 4 new identical phones and only charge them using a particular method to see the impact on battery lifespan.
    That would be cool but that is a lot of work. You’d need to drain 4 phones completely every day and then charge them all back up while monitoring them. That’s multiple hours of work each day for probably 6 to 9 months. 
  • Reply 20 of 25
    fred1 said:
    I’m glad to have this information. Personally I don’t see the benefit of wireless charging except for MagSafe backup batteries. If you use a charging pad, you can’t pick up the phone to use it without the charging stopping. And why use a MagSafe wired charger when you can plug in a charger? Again, just my view. 
    I have to disagree.  Using a wireless charger at night is ideal since you don't have to fuss with a cable to pick it up and put it back to charge. I generally never have to worry about battery life during the average day but my car has a Qi charger built in which makes it convenient when needing to top up a charge when traveling and using bluetooth for music. Wireless charging is far more convenient IMHO.  
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