The history of MagSafe charging

The history of Apple MagSafe

All you need to know about MacBook charging technology

What is MagSafe?

‘MagSafe’ is Apple’s proprietary charging technology. The name is a combination of ‘Magnet’ and ‘Safe’, and refers to the use of magnetic power connectors to connect and charge devices. They’re considered to be very user-friendly and safe because, no matter how forcefully the charging cable is yanked (say by accidentally tripping over it), no damage occurs to the port or device. In such instances, the only thing that ‘breaks’ is the magnetic connection.

Nowadays, MagSafe is commonly associated with iPhone and Apple watch wireless charging. However, MagSafe has a history with MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models that can be traced back to 2006.

 

What is MagSafe?

‘MagSafe’ is Apple’s proprietary charging technology. The name is a combination of ‘Magnet’ and ‘Safe’, and refers to the use of magnetic power connectors to connect and charge devices. They’re considered to be very user-friendly and safe because, no matter how forcefully the charging cable is yanked (say by accidentally tripping over it), no damage occurs to the port or device. In such instances, the only thing that ‘breaks’ is the magnetic connection.

Nowadays, MagSafe is commonly associated with iPhone and Apple watch wireless charging. However, MagSafe has a history with MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models that can be traced back to 2006.

 

MagSafe (Version 1)

The story goes that Apple sought inspiration from Japanese deep fryers and countertop cooking appliances to revolutionise their own charging technology. Such appliances had magnetic power connectors to ensure that if a user forgot to disconnect the power cable when moving the appliance, it wouldn’t result in scalding hot liquid spilling everywhere. The same principle could be applied to portable Apple products – the magnetic power connectors would ensure that if a user forgot to disconnect the power cable when moving around, it wouldn’t result in the laptop falling from their hands and crashing to the floor.

And so, on 10 January 2006, the first generation of MacBook Pros was released with MagSafe charging technology.

Apart from magnetic technology, there were 2 key elements to MagSafe. First, the connectors came with LEDs that turned either orange or green when connected to the device. Orange indicated the battery was still charging, while green indicated the battery had fully charged. Second, the connectors were originally T-shaped before eventually becoming L-shaped. Again, the idea was to make charging as user-friendly as possible, with the power cable connectors capable of being connected to the device no matter their orientation.

While version 1 of MagSafe technology was used in plenty of Apple models between 2006 and 2012, though compatibility issues meant the chargers couldn’t be used with every Apple device. There were 45W, 60W and 85W MagSafe chargers designed for the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and 15-inch MacBook Pro respectively.

 

MagSafe 2

On 11 June 2012, Apple released a new MacBook Air model and MacBook Pro with Retina Display that came with a newly designed MagSafe 2 power adapter. While the core concepts of the charging technology remained the same, the power connectors were now thinner and wider. Thinner to match the thinner laptop models. Wider to ensure the magnetic grip wasn’t weak. This design change meant the previous generation MagSafe charger was no longer compatible with the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models (though users could purchase an adapter if they wanted). Lastly, MagSafe 2 continued to have the LEDs, but did away with the L-shaped power connectors and stayed with the T-shaped design.

 

Why did Apple remove MagSafe?

MagSafe 2 charging technology can be found on Apple laptops between 2012 to 2017. The last device which had it was the 2017 MacBook Air. After which, the technology was removed.

One of the key reasons for this was because the charging port did not offer the same level of functionality as USB-C or Thunderbolt 3.0 connections. The latter allows you to charge your laptop, transfer data, connect to other devices, and even charge other devices. This versatility meant Apple could further refine the design of their devices because the USB-C ports have a smaller form factor than that of the MagSafe port. (This doesn’t mean previous models didn’t have the same capability, but rather, they had more ports to allow for such functionality. Many users actually found dedicated ports to be more practical, which turned the removal of MagSafe and the introduction of USB-C ports into a divisive issue for Apple users.)

 

From left to right; USB-C, MagSafe 2, MagSafe (version 1) L shape, MagSafe (version 1) T shape

The New MagSafe 3

Fast forward to 18 October 2021, when Apple brought back MagSafe technology. The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models now come with MagSafe 3 charging technology (and you can expect these devices to enter the refurbished market soon). This, of course, raises the obvious question of why did Apple decide to bring back MagSafe?

Well, firstly, Apple has brought back MagSafe while keeping USB-C Thunderbolt 3.0 ports. This means users can enjoy the practicality of charging their MacBooks with MagSafe technology while still benefiting from the versatility of the Thunderbolt 3.0 ports. Secondly, it means that if a user forgets their power adapter, they can still charge their laptop (or any other device) using the Thunderbolt 3.0 ports and a USB-C cable. But, most importantly, the dedicated charging port allows for fast charging. It’s a more reliable way of providing more power.

MagSafe 3 continues the design trend of MagSafe chargers and is thinner than MagSafe 2.

 

MacBook Charger guide

In case you’re interested in knowing which is the right charger for your device (or whether the device you’re interested in has MagSafe technology), take a look at our table below:

MacBook Air

Model Power Adapter

MacBook Air 2018 or later

30W USB-C

MacBook Air 2012 to 2017

45W MagSafe MagSafe 2

MacBook Air 2008 - 2011

45W MagSafe MagSafe (version 1)

MacBook Pro

Model Power Adapter

MacBook Pro 2021 (M1, 16-inch)

140W USB-C and MagSafe 3

MacBook Pro 2021 (M1, 14-inch)

67W (8-core) or 96W (10-core) USB-C and MagSafe 3

MacBook Pro 2019 (16-inch)

96W USB-C

MacBook Pro 2016 - 2020 (13-inch)

61W USB-C

MacBook Pro 2016 - 2020 (13-inch)

87W USB-C

MacBook Pro 2012 to 2015 (15-inch Retina)

85W MagSafe MagSafe 2

MacBook Pro 2012 to 2015 (13-inch Retina)

60W MagSafe MagSafe 2

MacBook Pro 2009 - 2012 (13-inch)

60W MagSafe MagSafe (version 1)

MacBook Pro 2008 - 2012 (15-inch)

85W MagSafe MagSafe (version 1)

MacBook Pro 2009 - 2011 (17-inch)

85W MagSafe MagSafe (version 1)

MacBook

Model Power Adapter

MacBook 2015-2017 (12-inch Retina)

29W USB-C

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