What is MagSafe and how does it work?


MagSafe is a feature you can find on a number of Apple laptops and a few models of iPhone. Fundamentally, it’s a way to connect the devices to a power source, but, in the case of MacBooks, it also doubles as a safety feature to prevent people or pets damaging your device while it’s charging.

But how does it work, which devices can it be found on, and what do you need to know if you’re thinking of making a Black Friday Apple purchase this year.

What is MagSafe?

Put simply, MagSafe is a special type of jack you’ll find on the end of a charging cable. Where it differs from a conventional jack, such as a USB or lightning connector, is that a MagSafe jack uses magnets to connect to the charging port instead of physically plugging into it.

MagSafe jacks first appeared on Apple MacBooks in 2006 but have disappeared and reappeared a couple of times since then, before re-emerging in their current form (officially named MagSafe 3) in 2021.

The term MagSafe is essentially a portmanteau of ‘magnetic connection’ and ‘safe disconnection’. The idea being that a magnetic coupling can decouple immediately (and far more easily than a conventional jack) when needed if someone trips over the power cord for example. And that means your laptop doesn’t get dragged off with the cable that’s caught around your partner or pet’s feet.

MagSafe technology has now been adapted for iPhones too, though. But in this case, instead of a magnetic jack, it relies on a ring of magnets built into the back of the phone. This makes your iPhone compatible with a number of magnetic mounts and cases, but also means it can be charged wirelessly with MagSafe-compatible chargers.

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© Seremin

© Seremin

How does MagSafe work?

On MacBooks, it works the same way that any magnetic coupling does. There’s a small magnet in the jack on the charging cable and a small magnet in the charging port on the MacBook. The magnets are arranged so that their opposite poles meet and attract each other, thereby coupling the jack to the port.

MagSafe on iPhones is slightly different. Inside the ring of magnets on the back of the phone is a wireless charging receiver coil. The receiver coil will draw power from a compatible wireless charging pad, but the MagSafe ring enables a closer, more precisely positioned pairing with the pad to increase charging speeds.

What products come with MagSafe?

© Bloomberg

© Bloomberg

You can find MagSafe 3 on the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air; and the iPhone 12, 13 and 14. Apple AirPods and Watches are also compatible with wireless MagSafe charging docks.

How do I charge using MagSafe?

If you’re charging a MacBook, you first need to hook your MagSafe cable up to the three-pin plug (for UK users) and plug it in to a mains socket. Then, you simply bring the MagSafe jack close to the port on your MacBook and the magnets will pull it into place so charging can begin. The light on the jack will glow amber while it’s charging, before turning green when the battery is full.

Charging an iPhone with MagSafe is similar, in that you need to plug the charging pad into a power socket. But instead of connecting the charger to your iPhone, you simply lay your phone on top it, allowing the magnets to pull it into the correct position for optimum charging.

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