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Is MagSafe 1 gadget too far for Apple?

MagSafe may about to become more important to Apple, but it seems a little lost

image courtesy of author

Changes are coming

MagSafe could possibly be at the point of becoming crucial to Apple.

With changes coming to the way in which we charge our phones and devices, driven by impending regulation changes within the EU, MagSafe could become the next lightning cable for the company.

Part of the reason that lightning has outlasted its welcome, is because it is a proprietary Apple cable. As such, when any company wants to make an official lightning connector product, they first have to go through a lengthy approval procedure from Apple. Once approved, it will then come under the Made for iPod banner (MFi), meaning the supplier will then hand over 10% of all profit earned from the product – for life! It’s a very handy little earner for the Californian company.

Life after lightning

There remains some speculation as to how Apple will proceed with these EU enforced changes, that must be adhered to by autumn 2024. Many feel that Apple will include a USB-C port on the next iteration of iPhone. Some even suggest that the port on the Pro & Pro Max phones could be Thunderbolt speed, which would certainly help in getting large files from iPhone.

But, of course, there is another route that Apple could take – doing away altogether with the port, and going the MagSafe route, instead. It makes some sense, and is very Apple. Again, the MagSafe connector is proprietary to Apple, and is part of the MFi programme. It will make Apple good money, and we can already see some signs of Apple implementing the MagSafe system further in to their walled garden.

The law actually states, that if you have a charging port on phones & tablets etc, that it has to be USB-C. However, it doesn’t state that you must have a USB-C port on the devices. That loophole, leaves open the possibility of Apple using their MagSafe system to charge devices, rather than USB-C, and becoming portless.

Already, the new generation of AirPods have MagSafe cases, and Apple Watch now ships with a MagSafe cable included. Where we have become accustomed to a lightning cable shipping with devices, over the coming years, the switch to that being a MagSafe cable, is more than believable, and easily achievable.

Early next year, the next few product releases could be very telling. If a big play is made about MagSafe being included on them, then it could mean we are having a glimpse in to the future, and what to expect come the fall, and iPhone 15.

Odd choices

With so much potential importance hanging on MagSafe then, it is odd seeing some of the developments, or lack of with the range of MagSafe accessories.

Last week, images began to emerge online showing in detail a MagSafe product, that Apple had been working on. The Apple Magic Charger was, well, flawed, and odd. The fact it didn’t come to market is not a surprise. What is a surprise, though, is that it was ever developed this far!

The Magic Charger was to be a round cornered, anodised, aluminium-based device. The body has a rubber base, to help give it grip on desks and surfaces. Within that base would sit your MagSafe charger. The ‘Magic’ bit was that the MagSafe puck would flip out & up, to hold your iPhone in a vertical position in front of you. This device had been developed all the way through to the Design Validation Test (DVT) stage, which happens late on in the process. It is images of these devices, that have made it online. It was to be supplied with a braided USB-C cable.

The major flaw with it, though, was that there was no provision for iPhone to be held in a horizontal position, so making viewing video in full-screen landscape mode, more natural. It would have been the first time that an official Apple MagSafe product, would have been sold with a hinged, fly-out design.

The now redundant device took design steers from a few previous chargers, such as the iPhone lightning dock (which I used to own), the MagSafe Duo, and the now discontinued Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock.

Obviously flawed

Although I’ve not laid hands on this device, it seems to have one of the common flaws, common to so many official, Apple MagSafe devices – that of weight and substance.

The magnets on iPhones, particularly when you have a MagSafe case on too, are very, strong. These chargers are way too light, and insubstantial. The idea should surely be that you should, single-handed, be able to grab your phone, and be on your way. But that is not the case with many of Apple’s chargers.

Apple is a design focused company, and basics like this, should be a given. If they cannot incorporate these elements in to their chargers, then why would you choose to buy an Apple made MagSafe charger, over a third-party manufacturer.

Continuity proved it

Apple has just released macOS Ventura. Included in that, is the great new Continuity Camera feature. The stand you need to make the most of it, is a MagSafe accessory, yet Apple decided to outsource that to Belkin, rather than make it themselves. Why? The product is simple enough, and Belkin have made a great job of it, but why Apple would have chosen not to badge it themselves, I have no idea.

Then, if further proof were needed as to the state of MagSafe confusion running through Cupertino, you need only single out two other products – the MagSafe Battery Pack and Wallet. Both look like, quick, botched, under-developed, after-thoughts. When compared to what other companies have come up with, it makes you wonder if Apple just doesn’t care enough. Some of these other products put Apple to shame, with what could have achieved. Fit, finish, style, stands…there are some great designs out there, but just not from Apple.

The MagSafe puck, in itself, is a pretty boring, bland disk. It requires some jazzing-up, to make it a desirable choice. Apple – the ball is in your court.

Wrapping up

MagSafe is important to Apple. They are one of the wealthiest, net-worth companies on earth. They have the brains, and resources to make this work.

If only they could re-align their focus, and realise, they have another huge revenue stream on their hands here, and one where they could dazzle at what they are know for best – design.

Charging, as we have been shown by companies like Belkin, and Nomad, can be contemporary, chic, elegant, and thoughtful in its execution. With these enforced changes coming, am I being too hopeful in what to expect from Apple? If they are not genuinely interested in the future of MagSafe, then back out of the market. Stay to what they do best, and let others take the lead.

Maybe, they are spreading themselves too thin, in trying to maintain a presence in the accessories market. They have, and are, designing so many great products right now, it would be a shame for them to attract any negative comment for lacklustre efforts.

As I said earlier…it could be the next few products we see from Apple will give us a real insight to what future then envision for cables and charging.

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