Apple’s End Game: Gadgets That Charge Each Other

Soon, all your gadgets will work together

Key Takeaways

  • Many of Apple’s devices already charge each other.
  • Did you know your iPad Pro can already charge your iPhone or AirPods?
  • MagSafe may be the future of Apple charging.
Stack of Apple lightning-to-usb cables

Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

The plot of Apple’s charging story is getting absurdly complicated, and yet, when you come to charge your gadgets, it’s all pretty straightforward. 

The new MagSafe battery pack charges AirPods. The iPhone charges the MagSafe Battery Pack. The Mac and iPad can charge iPhones. Might Apple be making an ecosystem where everything can charge everything else?

"Apple’s many charging options provide Mac devotees with a cohesive way to keep their products charged and able to use simultaneously," Daivat Dholakia, director of operations at Force by Mojio, told Lifewire via email. "If you only have one Apple product, the charging integration doesn’t benefit you much. But if you have a Mac, AirPods, an iPhone, and an iPad? You’re set!"

MagSafe—The Future

It may be too early to predict that MagSafe will be Apple’s go-to charging method for all devices, but neither is it a bad bet. After reviving the name, Apple has used it for the magnetic chargers for the iPhone 12, as well as for simple magnetic accessories. It has also been used for the M1 iMac’s new power and data connector, and is rumored to be returning with the next MacBook Pro.

The MagSafe name seems like a major part of Apple’s charging strategy.

"I honestly think that Apple will keep innovating to the point where any device can charge—or be charged by—another device."

At the same time, many of Apple’s devices can charge each other. You’ve always been able to charge iPhones, iPods, AirPods, or any other device from the USB ports on your Mac, but did you know the iPad Pro can charge an iPhone, if you connect them together with a USB-C to Lightning cable? And you can use the same trick to charge AirPods from the iPad Pro.

This might seem little more than a gimmick, but it changes how you use your devices. 

"The advantage of all these charging options is that you are less likely to be stuck with a dead device," Brian Donovan, CEO of Timeshatter, told Lifewire via email. "It is especially great for people [frequently on the move] who have less access to actual charging stations."

Tying It All Together

The MagSafe Battery Pack is the clearest manifestation of Apple’s strategy yet. It can charge an iPhone 12 via the magnetic induction charger, but it’s also semi-compatible with standard Qi charging. This means you can use it to charge a pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro. 

But in a weird plot twist, the iPhone can charge the MagSafe Battery Pack over the same MagSafe connection. It only does this when the iPhone is connected to power, but it’s a genius feature. If your phone is plugged into your car, for example, it can simultaneously use CarPlay while charging the battery pack.

This hints at a future where the iPhone could offer an emergency charge to your AirPods.

"I honestly think that Apple will keep innovating to the point where any device can charge—or be charged by—another device," says Donovan.

"I do think that the iPhone will be able to reverse-charge AirPods someday through a cordless charging method," agrees Dholakia.

Or, equally interesting, you could plug the iPhone into its own charger, place it face down, and use the MagSafe coil to charge the AirPods. And why not go further? If Apple adds MagSafe to the iPad, you could stack it up with AirPods and iPhone, each charging the other. You can already charge an iPhone from the iPad while the iPad charges from the Magic Keyboard, via Smart Connector, for example.

The Downsides

Like much of Apple’s ecosystem, the more you buy in, the more benefit you get. iCloud sync is pointless if you only have an iPhone, but becomes essential when you add a Mac and an iPad. These charging changes are no different. 

"If you only have one Apple product, the charging integration doesn’t benefit you much."

"The new charging innovations may not always be compatible with pre-existing products, requiring you to purchase the upgraded version to receive the full benefits," says Dholakia. 

Then again, if a single battery pack and a couple of cables can take care of all your charging needs, that’s a lot better than a bag full of cables and chargers.

See? It’s complicated. But if you’re all-in on Apple gear, it’s going to make things a lot easier.

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