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MagSafe Battery Pack: Hands-on with Apple's new iPhone 12 accessory

It's not a phone case like previous years and that might be the best reason to buy one. We walk you through everything you need to know.

Last week, Apple released the MagSafe Battery Pack which, next to the MagSafe wallet, is one of my favorite accessories for the iPhone 12 family. When the iPhone 12 launched in October, MagSafe charging was the most surprising and curious addition. Apple took Qi wireless charging, which is used by current iPhone models and most Android phones, and added magnets. MagSafe ensures that your iPhone 12 is perfectly positioned to charge as efficiently as possible. It also allows for a number of new accessories like wallets, tripod mounts and PopSockets.

The MagSafe Battery Pack costs $99 (£99, AU$139). That's double the price of other magnetic battery packs from third-party companies like Anker and Mophie. Apple does add a neat bit of iOS integration, like the ability to monitor how much battery charge the MagSafe Battery Pack has from the iOS battery widget.

My biggest criticism is that I wished it had been available when the iPhone 12 launched. As a proud iPhone 12 Mini owner, it gives me that extra push to make it through a full day instead of needing to charge it in the late afternoon. And I have friends who really wanted to buy a 12 Mini, but were worried about how they'd cope with a shorter battery life and got the base iPhone 12 instead. I could see several getting a 12 Mini and a MagSafe Battery Pack -- and being very content.

Similarly, I can see people at an Apple Store buying a new iPhone 12, or the heavily rumored iPhone 13, and grabbing a MagSafe Battery Pack off the shelf. If you're looking for something that can double as a charging pad and an on-the-go wireless battery pack t, the MagSafe Battery Pack is a solid option. But if you are willing to part with some of Apple's built-in niceties, there are third-party options that are a better value.

I used the MagSafe Battery Pack for five days, and here's everything you need to know.

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The battery pack is the latest addition to Apple's MagSafe accessory line.

Patrick Holland/CNET

How does the MagSafe Battery Pack charge an iPhone?

It starts charging when you slap it on the back of an iPhone. There isn't a button to press. It charges the phone at 5 watts, which is equivalent to using an old Apple USB-A charger.

When plugged in, the MagSafe Battery Pack supports pass-through charging at a faster 15 watts. You need to use a 20-watt wall charger, which costs an additional $19 on top of the $99 price of the pack.

What iPhone models does the MagSafe Battery Pack work with?

For full-functionality, you need an iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max. If you have an iPhone with wireless charging you can use the MagSafe Battery Pack as a Qi wireless charging pad. You just can't stick it on the back.

The following iPhone models support wireless charging:

  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus

How much does the MagSafe Battery Pack cost?

It costs $99. But if you want to get the most out of it, especially for pass-through charging, you need a 20-watt wall charger (which Apple sells for $19). This puts the price closer to $120.

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

One of the several iOS integrations for the MagSafe Battery Pack is the ability to show the remaining battery percentage of the pack in the iPhone's battery widget.

Patrick Holland/CNET

What does the MagSafe Battery Pack come with?

The battery pack and documentation are in the box. That's it. You don't get a Lightning-to-USB-C cable or a wall charger.

Is there a MagSafe Battery Pack phone case?

No. Some people hoped Apple would release a battery case as it had in years past. But the MagSafe Battery Pack is actually more versatile because you can use it as an on-the-go wireless battery pack or plug it into a wall as a MagSafe charging pad. Since it's not a case that's semi-permanently living on your phone, you can also use it to charge other Qi wireless phones and accessories.

What else can I charge with the MagSafe Battery Pack?

You can use it to charge your AirPods or AirPods Pro case, wireless iPhone models and Android phones that support Qi charging. It just won't charge them very quickly.

The battery pack has excellent iOS integration, like showing the pack's battery percentage in the iOS battery widget. Your iPhone automatically shuts off charging once the device is at 90%. This helps prolong the life of your iPhone's battery. If you want to charge past that, just enable Low Power mode from the Control Panel and long-press the icon.

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The MagSafe Battery Pack has a lightning port and an LED indicator.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Can you charge the MagSafe Battery Pack with an iPhone 12?

Yes. When your iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max are plugged into power and the MagSafe Battery Pack is attached, it will charge both the phone and the pack. When I tried this, my iPhone 12 Mini charged to 80% first, then the MagSafe Battery Pack started charging.

How much will the MagSafe Battery Pack charge my iPhone?

I tested it with several models of the iPhone 12 family. I attached a fully charged MagSafe Battery Pack to each iPhone 12 version, all of which had an empty battery. Here is roughly what you can expect it to charge:

  • iPhone 12 Mini to 80%
  • iPhone 12 and 12 Pro to 60%
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max to 50%

Is it true that you can't charge an iPhone past 90%?

Yes and no. To protect the longevity of your phone's battery, the MagSafe Battery Pack will stop charging your iPhone when it hits 90%. You can easily override this by putting your iPhone into Low Power mode and long-pressing on the Low Power icon in the Control Panel.

What colors does the MagSafe Battery Pack come in?

It's only available in white. Different colors would be nice and would, especially at a time when you can buy a yellow iMac.

What does the MagSafe Battery Charger look like on different models of the iPhone 12 family? 

It's perfectly flush with the sides and bottom of the iPhone 12 Mini. Otherwise, there is a small gap between it and the sides of other models. It's roughly the height and width of the MagSafe wallet. Here's what it looks like on each iPhone 12 model:

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on the iPhone 12 Mini.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on the iPhone 12.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on the iPhone 12 Pro.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Patrick Holland/CNET

How heavy is the MagSafe Battery Pack?

At 115 grams (a little over 4 ounces), it's solid and a tad hefty. It feels fine on the iPhone 12 Mini and 12: I started to notice the weight when I had it on the iPhone 12 Pro. If you have it on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it is very heavy: The combo weighed just over 342 grams (12 ounces).

What is the capacity of the MagSafe Battery Pack?

The MagSafe Battery Pack has a capacity of 1,460 mAh (11.13Wh).