Please Apple, don’t kill MagSafe
When Apple finally delivered its very long awaited MacBook Air upgrade, I was one of many MacBook Air devotees relieved to see that the laptop was finally getting some much needed attention.
Because while the new MacBook Air is smaller and faster than ever (and finally has a Retina display), it comes not with the magnetic MagSafe connector of every other MacBook Air, but with two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, the same USB-C ports on the rest of the MacBook line.
And that makes me very, very worried about the future of MagSafe.
To be clear: MagSafe isn’t dead just yet. Apple is still selling the previous generation MacBook Air that was released last June, which uses MagSafe. But with all new MacBooks now using USB-C instead, if it’s not dead yet, it’s certainly on life support.
While most laptop charging cables were chunky, black bricks, MagSafe was relatively sleek. Though not everyone loved the easily-dislodged magnetic connector, everyone did love the idea that it could avert the kind of tripping disasters that had ruined so many pricey laptops before it. (MagSafe has saved my own laptops from dozens of potentially disastrous falls over the years.)
But switching to USB-C undoes all that peace of mind. Those of us with newer MacBooks once again have to worry about accidentally tugging on and tripping over cables.
There are, however, a lot of good reasons why Apple opted for Thunderbolt 3.0 over MagSafe. As we’ve been saying for years, USB-C can simply do more. Besides powering your laptop, it can also transfer data and output video. It offers more flexibility, letting you charge from external battery packs. It’s also smaller and thinner than larger, older USB ports, which helps as Apple continues its quest to make our devices thinner and thinner.
USB-C, by the way, is supposed to be at nearly the same level of ubiquity. With nearly every major flagship smartphone (save, ahem, Apple), and more and more laptop makers, supporting USB-C, the standard is more common than ever. So switching out the MacBook chargers shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right?
Not so fast.
As much as electronics makers have spent the last few years claiming that USB-C is going to fix all our charging cable nightmares, that’s still far from the case. That’s because there are actually still several different USB-C standards, and not all cables are created equally. Not all USB-C cables support Thunderbolt 3, meaning not all USB-C cables will actually be capable of charging your MacBook.
Worse still, as Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal recently pointed out, there are a ton of sketchy, off-brand USB-C cables floating around right now. And, while off-brand cables may seem like a good idea when Apple’s charging cables cost $19 and the 30W power brick is $49, they’re often ineffective at best, or potentially laptop-destroying at worst.
Sounds like a mess, right? Well, fortunately for MagSafe lovers like myself, there is a small glimmer of hope. Apple might just be working on a solution that could bridge the messy MagSafe/USB-C divide.
Apple might not be done with MagSafe yet
The company is working on a MagSafe adapter that would be USB-C compatible, according to a patent that surfaced last year. The proposed gadget would let you plug in your old MagSafe cable into a USB-C attachment, which could effectively be the best of both worlds. Some third-party companies have already come up with similar solutions, like Griffin’s magnetic BreakSafe power cables, though reviews have been mixed.
Of course, just because Apple patented the idea doesn’t mean such a product would actually launch. Loads of patents never end up becoming actual consumer products. But, at the very least, it gives us reason to hope that Apple might not be done with MagSafe yet, either.