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(Pocket-lint) - Apple released its iPhone 12 lineup last year and its MagSafe tech is leading to an entirely new ecosystem of accessories. Here's everything you need to know about it.

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What is MagSafe?

There are actually two versions of MagSafe.

MagSafe for Mac

Apple introduced its proprietary MagSafe technology in 2006 on a MacBook Pro. This original version is essentially a magnetic power connector for the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. The idea is, if your MacBook is tugged by someone tripping over the power cord, the MagSafe connector will pull out of the socket without damaging itself, the power socket, or your laptop.

But Apple started replacing MagSafe in 2016 with USB-C connectors. There's a magnetic charging cable on the new iMac, but it's not billed as MagSafe. 

MagSafe for iPhone

The latest version of MagSafe is a mounting and charging system for iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple essentially took the iPhone's wireless charging coil and added new components to create a new type of improved wireless charging with continued support for Qi, plus it allows for mounting of different accessories, which we'll explain in a bit.

MagSafe for iPhone adds a magnetometer and a single-coil NFC reader. It basically uses magnets to help properly align your iPhone on a wireless charger. Previously, with a standard Qi wireless charger, if your phone wasn't perfectly aligned, it would charge much slower than normal. But, with a new MagSafe charger, placement is a breeze, and you'll get up to 15W of power.

If you use Qi charging, Apple says you will be limited to the same 7.5W, same with older-generation iPhone models such as the iPhone 11.

There are plenty of MagSafe accessories

So, there are two types of MagSafe accessories: MagSafe chargers and then MagSafe-enabled cases, wallets, mounts and so on. 

Apple is integrating MagSafe into proprietary chargers as well as the back of its own silicone and leather cases, which enable you to use MagSafe chargers even while your device is in the case. Third-party accessory manufacturers have also adopted MagSafe technology into their own products, opening up the door to all-new accessories.

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MagSafe chargers

Apple has MagSafe Wireless Charger for iPhone and a MagSafe Duo Wireless Charger for iPhone and Apple Watch.

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And there are plenty of similar devices for the iPhone 12 series, such as this charger from Anker. However, because this PowerWave pad is not MagSafe certified by Apple and is just Qi, it can only charge up to 7.5W rather than 15W.

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Third-party accessory manufacturers are free to use MagSafe in a variety of ways. Belkin has a 3-in-1 dock that holds the iPhone and your Apple Watch in the air while charging your AirPods below. It also announced an in-car mount using MagSafe.

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It also has a 2-in-1 dock which just has the iPhone MagSafe charger and the AirPods cradle which we really like: 

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MagSafe cases, sleeves, and wallets

Apple has announced MagSafe-enabled silicon and clear cases that magnetically snap on to your iPhone. Your iPhone will recognise the case and show a matching animation. Apple has promised a leather sleeve, too. When your iPhone 12 is inserted into the sleeve, the sleeve should detect it and turn on your clock, which is visible through the sleeve's window. The clock is also color-matched.

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Finally, Apple has created its own leather wallet that easily snaps to the back of the iPhone 12 or a MagSafe-enabled case. Leather shell cases from Apple are also in the works. In other words, expect all future accessories from Apple to be MagSafe-enabled.

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Other manufacturers like Scosche have new mounting systems that use Apple's MagSafe Wireless Charger, too.

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Aside from chargers, cases, sleeves, wallets, docks, and mounts, more MagSafe accessories will be on the way. Stay tuned.

Want to know more?

Check out Apple's MagSafe store page to browse all its MagSafe accessories.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 15 October 2020.