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72 hours with MagSafe: How good is the wireless iPhone 12 charger?

MagSafe was one of the big new reveals that came alongside the iPhone 12. Rather than just being a single accessory, MagSafe is supposed to be an ecosystem, all of which utilise magnets. There are cases, chargers and third-party mounts coming soon.

The highlight is the MagSafe Charger – a wireless charging puck that clips on to the back of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. It looks a little bit like a larger Apple Watch 6 charger and might just be a glimpse of what we have in store with the rumoured portless iPhone.

I’ve been using the MagSafe charger, along with a few of the cases, over the past number of days and here are some of my early thoughts.

What is the MagSafe Charger?

The iPhone 12 doesn’t come with a charging block, and neither does the MagSafe Charger. To use this wireless charger you’ll need to plug the USB-C cable into a fast adaptor, something like Apple’s 20W charger. If you’re buying one of those to use with your new iPhone 12 then it’ll work here, but I wouldn’t use anything slower than an 18W plug. If you have a recent iPad, you can use that plug – same goes with one for a MacBook.

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For £39, the MagSafe charger isn’t cheap – however, it doesn’t feel that expensive for an Apple iPhone accessory. It’s cheaper than the silicone cases, for example, and cheaper than a wireless charger Samsung sells for its phones. You should also factor in the £20 cost of the plug, so if you’re coming in new then it’ll be £59 all in.

iPhone 12

The charger itself is simple. Round, white and with a silver ring and back. It’s small enough to slip in a bag and sits flush to a table.  The magnets inside clip satisfyingly onto the iPhone 12 when you attach and while it will come off if you wave it about, the connection is sturdy.

How fast does it charge?

One of the real on-paper benefits of the MagSafe Charger is that while it still uses the Qi standard of charging, it also enables the iPhone 12/12 Pro to charge at 15W, twice as fast as you’d get with any other wireless charger on an iPhone. This makes it the fastest way to wirelessly charge an iPhone.

A completely depleted iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro took an hour to juice up 50% using the MagSafe charger. The same test on a 7.5W Qi pad from Mophie took well over an hour. So yes, this is far faster wireless charging than iPhones are used too.

If you’re in a situation where speed is key though and you need to quickly juice up your phone before heading out, you’re still best off with a cable and a fast plug. With a USB-C 20W plug and cable the iPhone 12 went from 0-to-50% in less than half an hour.

iPhone 12

Does it charge AirPods and Apple Watch?

If you’re hoping the MagSafe Charger will be the magical add-on that charges your entire arsenal of Apple tech than you might be a little disappointed.

As this is a Qi pad, if you have AirPods Pro and AirPods with the wireless case then they’ll both charge up fine here – just don’t expect the magnetic benefits. Speeds are the roughly the same as you’d get with a different wireless charger, and still slower than a cable.

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The Apple Watch though, use a proprietary form of wireless charging and won’t work with MagSafe Charger. Apple would either need to switch to Qi on the next Apple Watch or make the next MagSafe Charger also compatible with the charging method used by the Apple Watch.

iPhone 12

A slight workaround seems to be the upcoming Duo Charger, an Apple accessory that has a spot for your phone and another dedicated Apple Watch charger. This was teased at the iPhone reveal event and will be coming soon, unless it ends up going the way of AirPower.

What about Android phones?

The MagSafe Charger can also charge any Qi-supported Android phone and many I tried, like the Pixel 5, work with the magnets too. Charging here is slow though (like hours and hours to charge Google’s new flagship). The same goes for older iPhones – if they support Qi (that’s everything from the iPhone 8 onwards) they’ll work, just at very slow speeds. This is fine if you’re charging overnight, but useless for a quick top-up.

Does MagSafe Charger work with cases?

Apple’s is selling MagSafe Silicon cases with the iPhone 12 and these have magnets in them too. Other thin cases should fine with the charger too, but I haven’t tried many out yet. Bulky wallet style cases will likely not work, hence Apple releasing its own leather card sleeve that’ll attach to the back of the iPhone 12.

iPhone 12

Related: All the MagSafe accessories 

Is the MagSafe Charger worth buying?

The idea of a MagSafe ecosystem is interesting and I have been impressed with the wireless charger so far. It’s faster, well designed and the addition of magnets means you can still use your phone while it’s charging – a constant problem I usually have with wireless charging. I would like the cable to be a bit longer though, and the fact you’ll still another charger for your Apple Watch is a little bit irritating, if far from a dealbreaker. I’m also curious about whether the magnets really are strong enough for use in things like car mounts, a product Belkin has already announced.

As a £39 add on for the iPhone 12, the MagSafe Charger is a neat charging solution that might one day be the only method to charge your iPhone.