Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 27, 2020 and was updated on November 11, 2020 with new findings.
The Apple Event on October 13th,2020 made waves in the industry with the launch of iPhone 12’s MagSafe that allows accessories – including wireless chargers – to be magnetically snapped onto the back of the iPhone using a “ring” of small magnets positioned around the receiver. Apple claims the new phones can charge wirelessly up to 15 watts, but FCC filings show that is only possible with Apple MagSafe chargers operating at 360KHz. Qi charging speeds are limited to 7.5 watts.
The NuCurrent team got to work on answering some of the pressing questions with a teardown of the iPhone 12 to test and analyze the:
- Performance of all iPhone 12 models and MagSafe chargers
- Impact of MagSafe magnets on Qi transmitters
- iPhone 12 charge times and device heating
NuCurrent Exclusive: The Implications of Apple’s MagSafe and iPhone 12 on Wireless Charging
With more and more companies creating proprietary (custom) wireless charging solutions and claiming industry-leading performance, the question remains: What will happen to Qi and other global wireless charging standards?
CEO Jacob Babcock sits down with Vice President of Engineering Jim Crnkovic for a discussion on the implications of Apple MagSafe and other trends seen across the industry, including:
- Why are standards bodies slow to innovate?
- What risk do companies assume by going to market with proprietary ecosystem solutions?
- What compromises will third-party product manufacturers make to create Apple MagSafe-certified products?
Apple’s iPhone 12 + MagSafe Solution: Part “think different” and part “think again”
Apple’s iPhone 12 and MagSafe charger represent a different approach to wireless charging, but is different always better? In this case, we don’t think so.
How Does The MagSafe Stack Up As A Wireless Charging Transmitter?
Apple’s MagSafe charger was clearly designed with iPhone 12 (and future iPhone versions) in mind. The charging speed for a MagSafe with an iPhone 12 is good (about as fast as Qi chargers work under the EPP Qi Spec), but all other iPhones take over 5 hours to charge with the MagSafe, and Android phones can take even longer.
The user experience is more of a toss-up and a matter of preference. Some industry reviewers really dislike the experience and equate it to having your phone plugged in, albeit with the plug being on the back of the phone instead of the bottom of the phone. Others are concerned about damage to the phone and their accessories.
Other industry reviewers find the user experience to be simple and elegant, allowing for an expanded ecosystem of Apple MFi magnetic products like phone sleeves and wallets. Alongside this, others are predicting that this spells the end of the Lightning connector on future iPhone models, which will mean that iPhones would soon ONLY charge wirelessly (more on that from us at a later date.)
Conclusion: Apple MagSafe works reasonably well with iPhone 12’s, but the user experience is a toss-up and the MagSafe charger is sub-par for other phones including, surprisingly, pre-iPhones 12 models.
How Does The iPhone 12 Stack Up As A Wireless Charging Receiver?
The biggest value of Qi wireless charging is likely the convenience of knowing that you can charge your phone anywhere a charge spot exists – hotel, rental car, restaurant, office, night stand. The iPhone 12 has preserved this convenience factor by maintaining compatibility (but not certification) with the Qi standard. However, as shown below, the iPhone 12 is lagging its competition in its performance within the Qi ecosystem.
Conclusion: iPhone 12’s work on Qi chargers, so customers receive the convenience of wireless charging on the go. However, Android phone manufacturers are outpacing Apple when it comes to developing phones that don’t sacrifice interoperability in pursuit of faster charging speeds.
Immediate Opportunities: Infrastructure & Multi-User Charging
As a feature, wireless charging continues to grow within the phone category, which means that there will be more and more demand for infrastructure and multi-user charging options.
Apple’s MagSafe solution – which is not Qi-certified – provides the best charging experience for the iPhone12, and that’s it – it’s an Apple solution for Apple products.
So, when it comes to public or multi-user charging infrastructure like cars, furniture, boats, hotels, restaurants, etc., the strongest option is the one that brings together user experience, charging volume, power transfer, interoperability and safety.
NuCurrent’s MP-A17 does exactly that. It is the only Qi-certified transmitter that provides the greatest spatial freedom (3x more distance between coils) and the fastest available charging speeds (15W). This technology is already available in the market via PopSocket’s PopPower Home product, and others are coming to market this year.
To discuss an MP-A17 transmitter design for your product please contact us.
Near-Term Considerations For Device Makers
Leading global phone manufacturers are exploring proprietary charging solutions to bring additional value to their customers. Some include faster charging solutions similar to MagSafe (Oppo and Huawei have 40W wireless charging) and others include turning the phone into a charging device (Samsung phones ‘reverse charge’ lower-power devices like earbuds and watches.)
So, stay tuned for our next installment where we’ll talk about how NuCurrent’s technology and expertise will bring this new era of innovative device charging solutions to market.
Below: Apple MagSafe Teardown and Analysis is underway
Initial Phone 12 and Apple MagSafe Findings
- Makers of accessories and chargers will have to adapt designs to the proprietary design scheme and pay licensing fees to operate in the MagSafe environment.
- NuCurrent’s preliminary testing shows that MagSafe magnets in the iPhone 12 degrade the performance of standard Qi chargers (check for updates on our dedicated page as those details emerge).
- 15 watt Qi chargers will only be allowed to charge Apple phones at half the rate of Apple’s proprietary standard (7.5 watts), despite the iPhone being capable of charging up to 15 watts with the MagSafe charger.
- Magnets are rare-earth materials and they are heavy and costly. Apple went out of its way to talk about how they are all recycled, but with Apple’s volumes over time, it’s fair to wonder if this ecosystem is sustainable (in terms of both cost and weight).
Watch This Space
- Apple – along with other leading phone manufacturers globally – are turning to proprietary charging technologies to deliver fast charging speeds and/or other user benefits, situating Qi as the standard for interoperable infrastructure (e.g. Automotive, Furniture, Hotels) but proprietary chargers as the best charging experience on a closed platform.