Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

MagSafe in a USB-C World

When the first MacBook Pro was announced in 2006, it was better than the PowerBook G4 is a myriad of ways: it was way faster, promised to run cooler, included a camera for video chats and — of course — included an amazing new charging technology that made it to the top of Apple’s “Design” webpage for the machine:

MacBook Pro Design Webpage
From Apple.com, via the Wayback Machine

Like many of Apple’s best features, the idea was so simple. Instead of a connector that had to plug into the side of the machine, this one was simply held on by magnets. This would protect countless Mac notebooks from repair after their power cords were tripped over by a pet or yanked out by a careless child.

MagSafe was introduced to great applause, and it quickly worked it way into the hearts of Mac users the world over. It showed up on the 13-inch MacBook a few months after the MacBook Pro was introduced, and was even present on the LED Cinema Display that came out in 2008.

LED Cinema Display
The younger readers among you may be shocked this 24-inch display cost only $899. The later 27-inch model was $999, or the cost of the Pro Stand for the Pro Display XDR. Sigh.

In 2012, MagSafe got slimmer to fit Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro. MagSafe 2 made its way onto the MacBook Air as well, and Apple still sells a $10 adaptor to use a MagSafe power brick with a MagSafe 2 machine.

Some complained that MagSafe 2 wasn’t as good as the original, but the dust settled pretty quickly. And then came 2016, when MagSafe was replaced by USB-C ports on everything but the then-neglected MacBook Air. When the Air was brought back from the brink in 2018, MagSafe was truly gone from all of Apple’s modern notebooks.

USB-C charging has a bunch of advantages, like being able to use any port on the machine, including those on the right side of the notebook if present. If a user has other USB-C devices, a single brick can be used to power them all if it’s powerful enough.

These upsides clearly were enough for Apple to move past MagSafe, despite the fact that an ill-timed accident can send a Mac notebook to the ground, pulled to its death by a USB-C charging cable.

Rumor has it that MagSafe may be coming back to the Mac as Apple continues to update its machines with Apple silicon inside. I think most Mac notebook users would welcome that. I know I would, but I am hoping that Apple does this and keeps USB-C charging around. Sometimes, it’s just super handy to plug in a MacBook Pro on its right side, and whenever I travel again, I wouldn’t want to have to carry a MagSafe brick and a USB-C one for my iPad Pro.

When the USB-C machines came out, there was talk about people accidentally plugging in two power adaptors at once, but I can’t imagine that has been an issue out in the real world, and I think the same would be true if a future notebook could charge via MagSafe and USB-C.

Often when Apple makes a change, it cuts off the old way of doing things. If MagSafe comes back, I hope USB-C charging stays around, too.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]


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