Why Would Anyone Buy Apple’s Expensive MagSafe Battery Pack?

Convenience, and good looks

Key Takeaways

  • Apple's MagSafe Battery Pack sticks to the back of the iPhone 12 and charges it.
  • The iPhone can reverse-charge the battery pack.
  • Deep integration makes this pack more convenient, and more battery-friendly, than the competition.
Apple MagSafe Battery Pack in white

Apple

Apple’s new MagSafe battery pack offers a fraction of the capacity of alternatives, while costing at least twice as much. So, why would anyone pay $99 for it?

The new battery pack may be light on capacity, but it’s long on features third-party makers can’t add, thanks to Apple’s exclusive access to the depths of the iPhone’s brain and guts. Add to that the fact that this is a supremely convenient charger, and that MagSafe makes it more future-proof than Apple’s previous efforts, and you may have a winner.

"I guess the big advantage this battery pack has is that it’s a genuine MagSafe charger," traveling businessman and Filter King-founder Rick Hoskins told Lifewire via email. "From what I can tell, the other battery packs on the market use Qi charging coils. They’re significantly less efficient. The MagSafe battery pack can charge a phone roughly twice as fast. That means less time with your phone attached to a heavy battery pack."

MagSafe and Reverse Charging

MagSafe is the name Apple has given to the stick-on magnetic induction chargers and accessories it makes for the iPhone. It’s a kind of souped-up version of the Qi chargers that work with most phones. Some makers sell Qi-enabled battery packs, as Hoskins mentions. Others, like top-tier third-party accessory house Anker, make MagSafe-compatible chargers, but as they’re not certified by Apple, they cannot charge at the full rate. Which brings us to the first advantage of Apple's new pack.

When used as a battery pack, it charges at the same 5-watt speed as the competition. This keeps things cool. But you can also plug the unit into a power outlet, where it can then charge the phone at a speedy 15 watts. For this, you need to hook it up to a USB-C power brick that is capable of supplying 20 watts or more.

"I guess the big advantage this battery pack has is that it’s a genuine MagSafe charger."

"Its line of MagSafe wireless chargers are the only ones that can fast-charge an iPhone 12 at 15 watts, while all other wireless chargers charge an iPhone 12 at a max of 7.5 watts. And it has given some similar powers to its first-party MagSafe Battery Pack," Nigel William, CEO of Cream Charger Warehouse, told Lifewire via email.

The iPhone also can reverse-charge the battery pack. Usually, you’d plug the battery pack into power, and it would charge itself and the iPhone. But if you instead plug the iPhone into power, the same thing happens. The iPhone charges itself, and charges the pack via MagSafe.

This reverse charging is more useful than it sounds.

Apple MagSafe battery back on the back of two iPhone models

Apple

"I drive a lot," says Hoskins. "If a battery pack goes dead while I’m on the road, it’s basically useless. But with the Apple battery pack, I can charge my phone using CarPlay, and my phone will charge the battery pack. For someone who’s always on the road, this functionality is invaluable."

It’s possible that this reverse-charge feature could come to other gadgets in the future. Imagine charging your AirPods by laying the case on the back of the iPhone. Or charging your iPhone from an iPad.

"Reverse-charge is supposedly very fast and efficient when charging an iPhone, and [it] emits less energy, so there's less chance of damaging the phone's battery," Christen Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire via email. "As someone who's lost many batteries to overheating during a charge, I'd say that's worth it."

Secret Apple Sauce

The battery pack beats the competition in some other ways, too. One is that the iPhone shows the battery level of the pack on its lock screen and in the battery widget. This lets you keep an eye on levels without any effort—the info is in the same places you already look.

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack battery on the home screen

Apple

Another advantage is the iPhone can optimize its charging patterns to better preserve its own battery. Any rechargeable battery has a finite number of charge/discharge cycles—as you use the battery, its capacity shrinks. Because it controls the whole chain, Apple uses a few tricks to protect your iPhone at the expense of the battery pack. For instance, when in an Apple battery case, the iPhone will deplete the external battery first, instead of discharging and recharging its own battery.

These packs also can use Apple’s optimized-charging feature, which pauses charging before the iPhone’s battery is full, again to prolong its life.

Many folks won’t know about these excellent features, but they’ll enjoy their benefits nonetheless. And for those in the know, this deep integration, and the convenience it brings, are definitely worth paying extra for.

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