First introduced in 2006, the MacBook’s MagSafe charger “died” a decade later when Apple replaced the magnetic connector with USB-C in 2016. MagSafe was a brilliant piece of technology that MacBook buyers quickly came to appreciate — and a rare Apple innovation that competitors didn’t rush to copy. The MagSafe charger’s primary purpose is to recharge the battery and provide the power the laptop needs to deliver all those sophisticated features. But trip on that MagSafe cable once, and you’ll discover the best thing about it. The built-in magnets are just strong enough to keep the connector in place, but they won’t pull the entire notebook off the desk if someone trips on that wire.
After nearly four years, Apple added MagSafe functionality back, but this time to the iPhone. By placing magnets on the back of the iPhone 12, Apple enabled a whole new range of accessories. Soon after that, reports came out saying that the MagSafe will make a triumphant return to the MacBook Air and Pro this year, thanks to a significant design makeover that will also bring changes to the types of ports available on Apple’s laptops. But those MacBook updates are likely several months away. As it turns out, however, Apple just brought MagSafe charging back to the Mac at yesterday’s big Spring Loaded event — and everyone nearly missed it.
The iMac all-in-one desktop computer that Apple introduced during Tuesday’s virtual press conference delivered an unexpected feature: the power adaptor on the back attaches magnetically. That’s typically not a feature you’d need from a desktop charger, which is the kind of accessory you plug in once and then forget it. You’ll rarely need to unplug the charger, and the risk of tripping and pulling the entire iMac with it isn’t the same as what happens with MacBooks. Yet Apple still added a magnetic charger to the iMac.
Interestingly, Apple never labeled the new connector as a MagSafe charger. “To complete the simplified design, iMac comes with a new power connector that attaches magnetically and a beautifully woven 2-meter-long color-matched cable,” Apple explained in the iMac’s press release.
Apple uses similar language on the iMac’s product page when describing the new feature:
A power connector that easily attaches via magnets. With a color-matched woven cable.
There’s no mention of the magnetic charger on the specs page, although Apple notes that the new all-in-one features “100% recycled rare earth elements in all magnets.”
Here’s what the magnetic power cord looks like when it’s plugged into the iMac:
Here’s a look at the inside of the charging port:
We’re clearly looking at a different design than the MacBook’s MagSafe charger. And the new iMac does come with a different power adapter as well. It’s a 143W power brick that adds in a bonus feature, a built-in Ethernet port to satisfy wired internet connectivity needs.
It’s unclear why Apple isn’t going with MagSafe branding for the new iMac. After all, it fits with its previous use of magnets on Macs. Then again, maybe Apple doesn’t want to tip its hand and ruin the MagSafe surprise for the 2021 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro redesign. Whatever the reason, the new iMac shows us that Apple hasn’t given up on powering Macs with magnetic chargers, and that’s enough to give us hope that MagSafe will return on laptops soon enough.