The MagSafe Battery Pack is mediocre
I was super excited for the launch of Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack. I’ve found the iPhone 12 Pro battery life to be noticeably worse than the iPhone 11 Pro, & if I’m out in the city for a full day, the battery won’t last me through the end, even entirely on Low Power Mode. As a big fan of the MagSafe charger & Apple’s MagSafe Wallet, the idea of popping on a nicely-designed battery when I’m running low felt like a no-brainer.
After a month or so, it feels like a solidly mediocre product. I like it as an object; it’s not thin but it’s not terribly thick. The smooth white matte plastic is neither the rubbery material of the iPad’s Magic Keyboard nor the shiny AirPods case, it has a great hand-feel.
But whereas I was hoping for a product I put on the phone to top off the battery percentage when it’s getting low, the 5W charging is so slow that if you’re using the phone at all with the battery, the percentage barely rises. (You’ll still rapidly lose charge while on a FaceTime call with the battery attached.) This makes the product feel fundamentally designed as an evolution of the battery cases Apple has long produced, where you keep the battery on the iPhone all day. That’s not a wrong product, but the functionality feels like a better fit for a case that remains on the iPhone than a MagSafe accessory you actively attach. While I expected to use the Battery Pack when I want more charge, clearly the idea is to keep it attached to the iPhone all day on a day when you want longer battery life.
Unfortunately, for a decently heavy attachment to my iPhone, the battery life it adds isn’t obviously worth it. It doesn’t provide a full second charge to the 12 Pro, but the primary issue here is the 5W charging speed—it’s clearly capable of faster charging since it switches when the battery is plugged in, but when freestanding it only deploys the slow speed.
In addition, since I got the iPhone X & AirPods Pro, I’ve switched entirely away from Lightning charging (except the occasional Magic accessory or TV remote). I have a Qi charging stand1 at my desk for my iPhone while I’m working or sleeping2, a MagSafe charger on my bedside table for nighttime FaceTime calls3, & older Qi pads elsewhere in the house for quick top-ups. With the AirPods Max & now the MagSafe Battery Pack only supporting Lightning, I’ve had to bring back a Lightning cable to my desk. For Apple’s highest-end accessories in each category, switching back to Lightning cables feels distinctly non-premium. Especially for a device that already supports being wirelessly charged by the iPhone while connected via MagSafe, the lack of MagSafe charging for the Battery Pack itself is a puzzling omission.
I do enjoy the ability to plug the MagSafe Battery in via Lightning while on a plane/train/car with outlets, then dock the iPhone on top to wirelessly charge. The cable charges the iPhone first, then recharges the battery, but also lets you leave the battery plugged in while removing the iPhone for short durations (e.g. at rest stops) & not hassling with cables every few minutes.
I’m certainly keeping the MagSafe Battery Pack, as well as using it when I’m traveling or out for the day. The design, compactness, & system integration are (unsurprisingly, from Apple) compelling: while other battery packs are usually larger & require a cable to the iPhone, having one object that does ensure I won’t be caught with a totally dead battery (& lowers Lyft prices) is great. I wish it charged the iPhone significantly faster & could itself be charged by MagSafe, but we make do.
(For extensive traveling, I’m continuing to also use Satechi’s Quatro, which charges via USB-C, outputs via either USB-C or USB-A, & most importantly, has an integrated Apple Watch charger. While it has a—I find unreliable—Qi charger, the lack of MagSafe makes it a no-go in a bag. It’s much heavier than the MagSafe Battery Pack, & requires a cable, but it holds much more power, & the cable-free Apple Watch charging is super handy.)
I use my trusty Logitech POWERED stand, though if I were buying now I’d gravitate toward the TwelveSouth Forté for the faster charging & handy AirPods charging support at a slightly higher total price. ↩
Keeping my iPhone off my bedside table while I’m sleeping helps me consistently go to sleep earlier & sleep better. Every time I break this habit I sleep later/worse. ↩
Long distance relationship + many internet friends = lots of nighttime FaceTime calls. The MagSafe charger is superior to a cable on FaceTime since you can rest the bottom of the phone without damaging a charging cable. Why the MagSafe charger isn’t offered with a longer cord, I have no clue, I’d begrudgingly pay $20 extra for it. ↩