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Change my mind: MagSafe is awesome
For the longest time, I’ve been interested in augmenting my smartphone experience and pushing it to its limit. Apps and services are one way to achieve that, but there’s also room for accessories — tangible objects you connect to your phone — to take things to the next level. Some of these you link wirelessly, others you plug into a port on your device, and some need to be physically attached. The problem is there’s not always something to latch onto.
I watched accessory makers struggle for years to solve this last one. They used washable sticky gel pads to attach wallets and power banks to the back of phones. Then they came up with weird clamps to add tripods and lenses and brighter LED flashes. They were brave enough to suggest permanently attaching ring holders and stands. They fought over dozens of sizes and shapes for metallic plates and magnetic accessories. Heck, they even tried tiny suction cups.
As I followed along with every new trend, I hoped it would be the right approach, but soon discovered it wasn’t. I didn’t want anything permanently stuck on my phone or case, nor did I like cleaning dirt off a sticky pad every day. All I wanted was a way to add an accessory to my phone that was there when I needed it but disappeared when I didn’t.
I never thought that solution would come from Apple and its iPhones, but well, what do you know? When MagSafe was introduced, it was an “aha” moment for me. Magnets — of course, it had to be magnets. And built-in too. Simple, and awesome in its simplicity, MagSafe is, in my opinion, the perfect answer to the problem of phone accessories.
One standard and more choice
MagSafe is, first and foremost, a standardized shape and size of magnetic elements. The proprietary 15W wireless charging and NFC elements might be Apple’s primary focus, but we all know they wouldn’t mean much without the attachment mechanism. If you’re an accessory maker and you’d like your product to cling to an iPhone 12 or 13, you have to follow Apple’s guidelines, even if you’re not going to spring to get your product officially certified.
Given the clout that Apple has, and the huge market share of iPhone accessories, it was a certainty that most accessory makers would jump right on board. It was even highly likely that they would dump their own magnetic or other attachment systems to adopt Apple’s. Anker, Moment, Belkin, Mophie, Satechi, Otterbox, and even PopSockets, to name a few, hopped on the bandwagon. Many more are following suit every day.
Despite being a proprietary format, MagSafe has quickly become a standard where no other standard could be established before.
So despite being a proprietary format, MagSafe has quickly become a standard where no other standard could be established before. It reunited all accessory add-ons under one form factor: a circular array of magnets. Say what you will about Apple but it brought order to the chaos.
This is why MagSafe appeals to me. If I have a compatible device or case, I know I can find wallets, power banks, stands, and dozens of other accessories from various brands, and they’ll all work. I have plenty of choices, even in terms of price, and I don’t have to worry about one product not being compatible with another.
More standards: The best magnetic phone cases
Invisible, always ready, and convenient
A new standard on its own isn’t enough to convince me; it has to be a good one. And in the case of MagSafe, I think Apple made the right decision. Built-in magnets are invisible, unlike the metallic plates I used to stick to the back of my phones or cases. They also don’t catch on fabric when I slide my phone into a pocket or bag, and they don’t bother me when I’m holding my phone.
They’re always there, though, and I don’t have to worry about sticking or removing them, or making a semi-permanent decision to keep them on my phone or case. Whenever I want to add an accessory to my phone, I don’t have to think twice about it; I just grab it and snap it.
This convenience is also due to the nature of magnets. It takes a fraction of a second to latch it to something and another fraction to deliberately push it apart. And while it’s fixed, it forms a really strong bond.
MagSafe accessories can be temporarily affixed to my phone, freely switched around, or removed, and I know that the system is always there whenever I need it. The best tech is so good it disappears and doesn’t require me to actively think about it, and MagSafe is exactly that.
Some flaws, some dealbreakers
The biggest obstacle to using MagSafe is magnetic interference with medical devices. Apple has some guidance about this, but suffice it to say that you’re better off avoiding MagSafe if you have a pacemaker. Your life and safety are more important than adding an accessory to your phone.
Magnets might also affect the magnetic strips on a credit card (if you live in a country that still uses those), but also security badges, passports, and key fobs. Technically speaking, you can keep these objects near a MagSafe device or accessory, but Apple warns you not to put them between the MagSafe phone and charger. That’s much less likely to happen, and I’m personally not too concerned there.
The biggest letdown of MagSafe remains in the arbitrary wireless charging speed limit that Apple has established around it.
You might also wonder whether external magnets could affect the electronics inside a device. The short answer is that you need much more powerful magnets for that. Even then, the two elements likely to succumb are the compass and speakers, which are usually placed towards the top and bottom of the phone, not the middle. Two accessory makers — Pitaka and RokForm — have explained this in detail, and while they have a stake in saying magnets are relatively safe, they do base their claims on scientific facts and tests.
For me, the biggest letdown of MagSafe remains in the arbitrary wireless charging speed limit that Apple has established around it. You only get a measly 10W for non-certified devices and 15W for certified ones, whereas competitors like Realme MagDart can go up to 50W. Too bad Realme doesn’t have the same aura as Apple and can’t trailblaze any wide adoption of its tech.
MagSafe for Android, in a way
As a MagSafe convert but an Android user first and foremost, you can imagine that I’ve spent the past year twiddling my thumbs waiting. I knew there’d be makeshift solutions that would allow me to enjoy the accessory ecosystem while still keeping my beloved Pixel, and there’s finally some movement there.
I wish more case makers would join the fray and offer MagSafe cases for Android devices.
Moment, the maker of those fancy lenses you can couple to your phone, has released (M) Force cases for the Galaxy S21 and Pixel 6 line-ups. These black cases — although a little boring in my opinion — open the door for two big accessory ecosystems. First, they have the Moment lens attachment ring, and second, they have a built-in circular array of magnets that is compatible with MagSafe. As long as that case is on my Pixel 6 Pro, my phone can cling onto any MagSafe-friendly wireless charger, ring, wallet, stand, tripod mount, and more.
I wish more case makers would join the fray and offer MagSafe cases for Android devices. I don’t understand why this is such a rarity — after all, it’s a small accessory that can open an entire market to Android users. And yes, I am aware of the dozens of magnetic add-on stickers that can bring MagSafe to any phone, but I’d be back to square one with those, i.e. having to stick something permanently to my device. Give me a case instead, please, but you do you.
Check out: The best MagSafe adapters for Android
Once you go MagSafe, you can’t go back
My current setup consists of a Pixel 6 Pro with the Moment (M) Force case ($49) and an iPhone 12 Pro Max with a yellow Apple MagSafe case ($49). Alongside them, I’ve been using Moment’s tripod mount ($49), as well as Anker’s MagGo phone grip ($15.99), wireless power bank ($59), and dual wireless charger ($79).
Are you using any MagSafe accessories?
The grip has become an essential accessory for my Pixel 6 Pro, because of how unwieldy and heavy that phone is. Whenever I’m outside of the house, I keep it on my phone to avoid dropping it and to make it usable with one hand, especially when taking pictures. When I’m back home, I just remove it and carry on using my phone as normal.
The power bank is also incredibly handy for charging my phones on the go, without having to worry about cables or keeping an exact alignment of the wireless pads. As for the other accessories, I appreciate how convenient it is to get my phones onto them for charging or photo-taking, as needed, but also how fast and easy it is to take them off. No mess, no fuss.
The best tech is so good it disappears and doesn't require me to actively think about it, and MagSafe is exactly that.
I’m very excited to see all the new accessory categories and ideas that will start popping up now that MagSafe is established. Razer, for example, just released a cooling fan that attaches via MagSafe. I expect other eccentric and interesting accessories to keep popping up.
MagSafe has won me over, and for now, there’s no going back. Until a better solution presents itself, this is the system I’ll look for whenever I want to get any accessory that attaches to my phone.
Keep reading: Apple’s MagSafe takes us closer to portless phones