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Apple’s obsession with magnets continues unabated, but is MagSafe all it’s cracked up to be?

Magnets are not new to Apple products. The company has long used magnets to alert devices to wake up when their covers are opened. And the Apple Watch has a charger that snaps on to its back, saving you the hassle of having to line everything up to ensure the wearable doesn’t run out of juice overnight.

But it was the latest iPad Pro (and, latterly, the 2020 iPad Air) that took magnetic attraction to the next level. The tablet snaps to Apple’s Magic Keyboard, allowing it to ‘float’ above the keys; this use of magnets rather than a more traditional case also lets you — in moments — switch the iPad from laptop-style form factor to tablet, with no added bulk. The Apple Pencil snapping to the iPad’s flat edge, to pair and charge, is an action so gleeful it makes you a bit giddy.

It’s a snap

With Apple’s iPhone 12 line, magnets are intended to be part of the smartphone ecosystem in a bigger way. This starts with 18 rectangular magnets being stuffed inside the new iPhones, arranged in a circular fashion beneath the wireless charging coil. Compatible accessories click into place, with no fuss — at least in theory.

MagSafe offers benefits when it comes to charging your iPhone. Should you fail to correctly align your device on a wireless charger overnight and not notice, chances are you could wake up in the morning to a thirsty phone. Apple’s MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger make that more or less impossible, by snapping on to the back of the phone like the Apple Watch charger clicks on to Apple’s wearable.

Elsewhere, MagSafe echoes the convenience of the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard in having your iPhone instantly connect to car mounts like Belkin’s Car Vent Mount PRO. No additional hardware or cases are required.

How safe is MagSafe?

But there are areas where MagSafe lacks the same level of attraction. One is cases. You might assume on seeing Apple’s live events that its new cases just snap onto your iPhone. They are easier to get on and off than equivalents for last year’s iPhones, but much of that is down to the flat edges on the newer devices — not magnets. Removing one still takes effort.

A bigger problem is Apple’s Leather Wallet with MagSafe. For just shy of 60 bucks, it aims to keep a few cards snug and attached to your iPhone. At first, all seems fine as you wildly shake your device and find the wallet still present and correct. But magnets aren’t magic — rotate your wallet a bit and it comes away. Similarly, if it catches a tight pocket’s edge when your iPhone’s being stashed, the wallet can fly off.

That’s not ideal when you subsequently need a credit card and discover it’s missing. No doubt wags will suggest such gripes can be overcome by ‘pocketing it different’. Our advice: be very aware of MagSafe’s pros and cons and use it accordingly — because when MagSafe works, it’s fantastic; but when it doesn’t, it’s not so safe.