Apple’s, allowing you to , may be the new feature in the iPhone 12 family that gives you the most immediate effect. And knowing that the company – and the entire wireless industry – is spending a huge amount of time shining a spotlight on 5G.
It was almost scripture writing for me to write this. After all, I’ve been covering the potential transformation of the 5G game since 2015, when I first wrote about Verizon’s intention to test very fast cellular technology. But the truth is that initial deployments do not represent a tremendous boost in speed, and your first 5G experience can shoulder one.
MagSafe, on the other hand, offers some tangible benefits regardless of where you live or if you are close to the right cell tower. A MagSafe connection charges faster than previous iPhones, bringing it to par with fast charging that Android phones have long enjoyed. And, as it sounds dumb, there is a cool thing about watching your phone snap in place, visual confirmation that you did not misplace your device.
“There is no guess where the sweet spot is,” said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst.
MagSafe has its own long-term exciting potential. The magnetic pins on the back of the phone go back to other attempts to push an ecosystem of attachments, from Motorola’s Moto Mods to the Essential Phone PH-1’s modular camera. None of those companies have switched enough phones – Importance, in particular, is a straightforward step – to really interest the many accessory makers who are at risk for bold ideas. Often, we get additional battery packs.
Apple is changing everything.
Apple’s huge reach – Analytics Strategy estimates it will sell 180 million units next year – means a potentially huge market for anyone looking to build MagSafe accessories. The opportunity is particularly rich for anyone looking at attachments beyond the basic premise of wireless charging. Think of game controllers, camera grips, selfie sticks and, yes, wireless charge battery packs that can change the way we handle or interact with an iPhone.
“We can’t wait to see the innovative way others use MagSafe, creating a stable and expanding ecosystem,” Deniz Teoman, vice president of hardware system engineering at Apple, said at Apple’s presentation on Tuesday.
That’s not hyperbole. Apple has a way of popularizing and legitimizing tech trends, from mobile payments to wireless charging. Where Motorola and Essential crashed, Apple could popularize the notion of magnetic attachments.
Apple itself has filed a patent for a folio case with additional power supply and the ability to charge AirPods, according to Patently Apple. While those patents do not always yield products in the real world, they are an indication of where the company may go in the future.
In the meantime, phone accessory manufacturer Belkin has released two MagSafe accessories, a charging stand that can hold a iPhone 12, Apple Watch and Apple Airpods, plus a more conventional car mount. Steve Malony, Belkin’s senior vice president, said the initial products were more “bread and butter” compared to future roadmap accessories.
“Some of the ideas we see coming to our desk are pretty wild,” he teased. “It would be fun to take those ideas and put them down.”
MagSafe feels like a spiritual successor to Project Ara of Google, a modular phone that uses magnets to attach smaller parts to the handset, allowing you to build it like you are assembling something. in Legos.
Modular has been hyped as a potential success factor in smartphones. LG tested its hand with its G5 phone, which allows you to replace the bottom of the device for various attachments such as grips and hi-fi speakers. The trend died down as it quickly escalated, with Google placing the project, and then quietly dismissing it. The G5 is a flop followed by LG by a much more conventional phone next year.
“The bigger issue is that fully modular designs are more attractive to engineers than consumers,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. “Smartphones have completely changed products, and people will buy the best phone they can afford that meets their needs now, not a platform to tinker with later.”
The Moto Mods represent a streamlined version of the modular concept, offering a full phone with a variety of backs that you can replace and show off. That concept allows Motorola’s Moto Z3 to be the first 5G phone in the Verizon network, thanks to a 5G Mod slapped on the back of the device. But even so, a Mod with less phone feels like half a device, and the gimmick is important to the phone.
Apple has further refined it, offering a complete handset on the iPhone 12, but with the option to magnetically attach accessories.
“MagSafe is brilliant in its simplicity,” Greengart said.
Malony called the arrival of MagSafe a “time-changing” for the accessories market, and he expects a wave of various attachments to come from the industry.
“Things like this change the game,” he said.