I’ve relied on Apple laptops since 2004, when my older brother convinced me to give them a try. But in 2015, I stopped buying them all together.
It’s not because I’m cheap, or that I’d switched away from Apple’s Mac software.
I was participating in a not-so-silent protest against what I think was one of Apple’s biggest-ever design mistakes: Six years ago, Apple removed its MagSafe magnetic charging cable from its laptops.
It was one of the most important quirky features Apple had built into its devices, starting with the MacBook Pro in 2006. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the “patent pending” feature, saying “This is going to save us all a lot of hassle — you with getting your notebooks fixed, us with having to fix them. It’s going to save us all a lot of work.”
Jobs was right. It was so simple. MagSafe just magnetically connected to the laptop for a charge. If you yanked on the cord, or tripped over it like I did more often than I’d like to remember, it just popped out. Meanwhile, the laptop sat unmoved and unharmed, rather than crashing to the ground.
MagSafe was genius. It was a game changer. And on that Monday in March 2015, Apple tossed it away.
Apple’s reasoning (at the time) was that its new USB-C port offered “the most versatile connector” it had ever put in a laptop. Apple said it would support power charging, video out and peripherals. As an added plus, it was being adopted across the tech industry too.
But it plugged in the old-fashion way. My klutz-protecting magnets were gone.
Now we’re hearing rumors that Apple’s MagSafe is due to return to its laptops. It’s a move my fellow #TeamMagSafe devotees and I say is long overdue.
Last year, Apple even introduced a new MagSafe wireless charger for its iPhone 12 series of smartphones. It got my hopes up until Apple unveiled new laptops later in the year, with no magnetic charger to be found. I was devastated, strengthening my resolve never to pay for an inferior power cord.
My colleague Dan Ackerman, who’s reviewed Apple laptops since before some of TikTok’s biggest stars were even born, disagrees with me. He believes that proprietary charging cords are bad, and that Apple’s move to the standards-based USB-C port helps the whole industry.
“No matter what modern, mainstream laptop I have sitting around — a Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre, Acer Swift, Lenovo ThinkPad, Asus ZenBook, etc. — there’s a good chance its own USB-C power cable will work with the MacBook, and vice-versa,” Ackerman writes. “I’m closing in on one year of working primarily at home, and not having to worry about which laptop power supply was in which room. It’s frankly been liberating.”
Unfortunately, he’s wrong.
Apple’s history is filled with iconic moments. There’s the January 1984 launch of the original Macintosh. The October 2001 launch of the iPod music player. And the January 2007 launch of the iPhone.
But I’ve been obsessing over March 2015 for a long time. During an event that month, Apple CEO Tim Cook stepped out onto the stage and announced a newly redesigned 12-inch MacBook. “It is unbelievable,” he said as he turned it to the side. “Can you even see it? I can’t even feel it.”
Indeed, Ackerman called it “amazingly thin and light” in his review back then. He also noted that MagSafe was gone, acknowledging that the new laptop “doesn’t feel as accident-proof as the MagSafe version does.”
Few companies have attempted to replicate MagSafe over the years. Microsoft is perhaps most notable for using magnetic chargers in its Surface line of tablet-notebook hybrids. But, Ackerman said, that charger isn’t very good.
Apple hasn’t released any data about how popular MagSafe had been with customers before it began disappearing in 2015. And analysts I spoke to said they couldn’t remember any surveys that looked into it either.
But Apple clearly saw it as an important feature at some point. Back in 2006, Apple aired the ad “Accident,” in which it highlighted how when someone trips over the MagSafe power cord, “it just pops right off.” Apple noted, “Everything’s just thought out.”
Indeed, even Ackerman sees its appeal. Before publishing his commentary arguing against the MagSafe’s return, he tripped over a MacBook USB-C power cord near his coffee table. “I nearly killed myself,” he said. Somehow, this brush with catastrophe didn’t make him see the light.
So, Apple, if you’re reading this: Please bring back MagSafe. If not for me, then for Ackerman’s health.