By now, you’ve probably read my colleague Nick Statt’s article about how the iPhone 12’s MagSafe magnetically attached charging cable opens a future where iPhones don’t need any connectors at all.
That sounds futuristic! Now let’s talk about something more practical … something legions of people are already doing on their phones.
We glue them in boxes – thousands upon thousands of different boxes every year – to protect them from damage, attach them to car docks, add fancy lenses, and most importantly, reflect our personality and mood. We stick on eye-catching finger ring holders and PopSockets, stick on stickers, everything to make them look and feel different than the same damn iPhone our friends, family, neighbors and strangers frolic around.
Recently, Apple has allowed iPhone owners to redesign their entire iOS 14 homescreen with custom widgets and app icons, and teenagers have gone to extreme lengths to redesign their entire phone Wildwechsel, Harry Potter, war of stars, Marvel, dusk and other topics. Despite the rise of apps like Widgetsmith, there is a lot of friction keeping most of us from doing the same.
But with MagSafe, Apple is literally Relieve your iPhone smoothly. Magnets make it a breeze.
You can see right away how much easier it would be to swap cases every morning or maybe before evening (once society starts doing that again). Today’s cases effectively have claws that grip the edges of your phone. With magnets, however, you don’t have to carefully remove them from the corners of your phone or press firmly on your expensive camera module to get enough leverage to open it up.
Equally important, these MagSafe cases are stackable with a MagSafe charger and other compatible accessories. You can attach several at the same time.
Have you ever had to remove or return a suitcase because your wireless charger was unable to reliably transmit its power? Have you ever had to glue a steel plate in or onto your case so that it could be magnetically attached to your car dock? Have you ever owned one Special In case you had to jump up every time you wanted to add an extra lens or stand, or carry credit cards, or attach your phone to your bike, or one that was thin enough to fit into the controller for your drone?
Were these special cases disgustingly ugly and without personality? I bet some of them were.
In theory, MagSafe means that your phone’s case, charging features and attachment points no longer have to be a package deal. Each case can be designed to transmit wireless power, and you can easily take out accessories (like your credit card wallet or lens mount) that might get in the way. Would you like to exchange your PopSocket or your phone? The glue doesn’t have to wear off. With magnets, you can change them several times a day.
Heck, tomorrow’s magnetic car docks may not require you to buy a case at all – they could magnetically grab the back of your phone. Additional steel plates could disappear. And instead of buying a big, hefty wireless charging dock like the one I use today, you could think of a simple holster for Apple’s existing MagSafe cable.
And why do we limit our imaginations to the types of accessories that are already attached to a suitcase? Take DJI’s Osmo Mobile 4 motorized smartphone stabilizer with removable magnetic mounts so you can quickly detach your phone in an emergency. However, you need to first attach the Osmo’s claw mount to your phone and remove it when you’re done. What if it is magnetically attached directly to your new iPhone itself?
Today’s drone controllers also use clip frames to hold your phone securely in place. What if they had a MagSafe fold-out mounting plate instead?
And what if instead of an expanded battery compartment for your iPhone, you could quickly reattach a magnetic battery? Lenovo and Motorola failed to get modular phones to a standstill, but their Moto Mods modular component ideas have always been pretty neat – I’ve stuck to a Moto Z2 Play for quite a long time. With wireless charging, you lose efficiency compared to direct copper contacts, but some accessory manufacturers may try again.
Of course, many of these ideas depend on the strength of Apple’s magnets. PopSockets and ring holders don’t work particularly well when it’s too easy to take them off the phone, and if a magnetic car mount can’t hold an iPhone 12 while you’re down a bumpy road, the claws win anyway.
It may also depend on whether Apple will be a benevolent overlord or rule the MagSafe ecosystem with an iron fist, and we don’t yet know the answer to that. The magnets themselves aren’t proprietary, so case and bracket manufacturers could theoretically easily benefit from them, and the Qi standard for wireless charging isn’t controlled by Apple either.
However, Apple’s marketing videos have already shown us that the iPhone can also recognize “official” accessories and react to them – and in the case of MagSafe only offers full charging speed with certified charging pads. After years of making money with the MFi (Made for iPod / iPhone / iPad) licensing and certification program, it’s hard to imagine Apple giving up on these revenues so easily.
Either way, this could be a lucrative new start to the Apple accessories ecosystem as fewer accessories are needed for the accessories than ever before. Combined with simply charging your iPhone before bed – where sleepy hands can misalign the coils and today’s pads don’t work well in bed – MagSafe could be the best new reason to buy an iPhone this year.
Cameras keep getting better, processors keep getting faster and 5G will inevitably get to every phone, be it Android or Apple. But no Android manufacturer has just teased an accessory system like the iPhone 12.
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