MagSafeBatteryPackAlmost exactly one year ago, Apple released a new product: the MagSafe Battery Pack.  The initial retail price was $99.99, but you can now often find it for less on Amazon.  As I type this, it is on sale for $79.99.  I was intrigued by this product when it was released last year, but because I wasn’t doing much travel in 2021, I didn’t purchase one.  About six weeks ago, I took advantage of one of the sales on Amazon to purchase this product in anticipation of a vacation to Italy that my wife and I were planning.  We just returned, and we had a fantastic time in Italy—even though COVID did its best to interfere.  My wife and I originally planned this trip for the Summer of 2020, but obviously that trip had to be canceled due to COVID.  And when we finally took what was supposed to be a two-week trip while my kids were in summer camp, we had to cut our vacation short and come home early because my son got COVID, followed a few days later by my daughter getting it.  So as I sit here in my home, typing this review while wearing a mask, I cannot help but think that I should be in Venice right now.  Darn COVID!

My vacation didn’t turn out as planned, but what did perform like a champ was Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack.  I really cannot say enough good things about this product.  If you are looking for a great way to extend the battery life of any iPhone that supports MagSafe, and if you use an iPhone that supports MagSafe, this is the product to get.

Get through a long day

During a normal day, the battery in my iPhone 13 Pro has no trouble lasting all day.  But on a normal day, I’m not using the phone non-stop.  And even when I am using the iPhone, I typically have easy access to a Lightning cord connected to a computer or a wall outlet so I can easily top off the battery during the day.

When traveling for work or pleasure, however, you often find yourself away from a power source for most of the day.  And you may also find yourself using your iPhone far more than normal.  That was definitely true while I was in Italy.  I frequently used the TripIt app and PDF Expert to keep track of my itinerary.  I made extensive use of Apple’s Maps app to guide me around cities in Italy (Milan, Verona, Bologna, and Parma).  When walking around cities that are over 2,000 years old, the street pattern can often seem chaotic for a tourist, so it is easy to get lost without GPS and a map on an iPhone.  I also used ApplePay on my iPhone to pay at restaurants and other establishments, used translation apps to read signs and menus and communicate with others, used train apps to get from town to town, used apps like Messages and WhatsApp and sometimes even the phone itself to make reservations or request information.  And of course, I used my iPhone to take hundreds of photos and many 4K videos.  Suffice it to say that I was using my iPhone all day long every day.  And because my wife and I would often start early in the day and not get back to our Airbnb or hotel until late at night, I had no easy access to traditional charging methods.

Fortunately, my MagSafe Battery Pack was with me at all times, so I had no trouble using my iPhone all day long.  The amount of extra battery power that you get depends upon the iPhone model that you are using.  Apple says that you get:

  • Up to 70% additional charge with iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 13 mini and MagSafe Battery Pack
  • Up to 60% additional charge with iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 and MagSafe Battery Pack
  • Up to 60% additional charge with iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro and MagSafe Battery Pack
  • Up to 40% additional charge with iPhone 12 Pro Max or iPhone 13 Pro Max and MagSafe Battery Pack

I use an iPhone 13 Pro, and about 60% additional charge seems about right.  Without this battery pack, my iPhone would have died most days in the afternoon, but instead, I was able to make it through the end of the day.  I never once ran out of power during my vacation thanks to the MagSafe Battery Pack.

By the way, the MagSafe Battery Pack is designed to stop charging your iPhone when it hits 90%.  This reduces the stress on your internal battery.  If you want to push pack 90% anyway, there is a way to do that.  First, make sure that the Lower Power Mode icon is visible in your Control Center—which you access on a Face ID iPhone by swiping down from the top right.  (If it is not there, go to the Settings app and add it.)  Second, hold down on that icon, which looks like a battery, for about two seconds.  You will now see an option to continue charging past 90%.

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Small size and lightweight

The MagSafe Battery Pack is about 11mm thick and weighs about 114 grams.  When I slipped it into a pocket in my pants or shorts and walked around, I never even noticed that it was in my pocket, except for the times when it might bounce against something else in my pocket.  And frankly, that is the only test that matters.  Because you can easily slip it into a pocket, it is always with you without being annoying to you when you are not using it.

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When you are ready to use the MagSafe Battery Pack, just put it behind your iPhone.  There are no on/off switches to flip.  There are no cords to get in the way.  It just works.

Of course, there are tons of ways to have portable power with an iPhone.  For example, I’m a big fan of the Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux ($49.95 on Amazon), which I can slip into my pocket along with a USB-C to Lightning cord to recharge my iPhone.  And the 10,000 mAh of the PowerCore provides far more power than 1,460 mAh of the MagSafe Battery, not only because of the difference in power capacity but also because transferring power over a cord is far more efficient than wireless charging, which can waste up to 30% of the power due to heat. 

It is also worth noting that Apple’s MagSafe wireless charging is better than other wireless charging solutions, such as Qi chargers, because Apple has a higher voltage potential, and also because the user of batteries places the devices in the best position to maximize efficiency—which is why you lose only about 30% of power during MagSafe charging but you lose about 50% using traditional Qi charging.  (This article by Simon Jary of Macworld provides more information on all of this.)  But even if you can get more power with a product like the PowerCore, I still think that the MagSafe Battery Pack is better because it is so small and lightweight.

When you add the MagSafe Battery Pack to the back of an iPhone, it does make the iPhone a little heavier, and enough to notice the difference.  Because of the curves on the sides, I didn’t find the iPhone to be much more uncomfortable to hold, but the additional weight does mean that you notice the iPhone in a pocket even more. 

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On the other hand, the experience is far better than using an external battery such as the PowerCore along with a cord to connect the external battery to the iPhone.  I have had times when the PowerCore was in my pants pocket, my iPhone was in my shirt pocket, and a cord extended from my pants pocket to my shirt pocket.  That works, but I look silly and I need to be incredibly careful that the cord doesn’t catch on something, especially if I’m walking around.  If I’m sitting at a desk, it works fine.  But if I’m walking around, an external battery+cord is a pretty miserable solution; in comparison, the MagSafe Battery Pack is a dream.

You can use the MagSafe Battery Pack when your iPhone is in a case that supports MagSafe.  For example, I sometimes use Apple’s leather case on my iPhone, and I used it pretty much all of the time that I was on vacation because it added some friction to side of my iPhone, reducing the chance that it would slip out of my hands.  This battery pack worked fine with that case.

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Note that for the leather case, if the battery pack is attached for an extended period of time, it makes a small mark in the leather that, in my tests, went away a few hours after I removed the battery pack.  These are just imprints from the compression of the leather as a result of the magnets.

Useful information on charging

If the MagSafe Battery Pack was nothing more than a small and lightweight charging solution that avoids a cord, that would be enough to make me happy.  But what puts this product over the top is how versatile it is.  For example, I love the information that you can see on charging status.

If your iPhone screen is off, when you put the MagSafe Battery Pack behind the iPhone it quickly connects using the magnets.  Next, you see an indication on the screen of how much power your iPhone has and how much power the MagSafe Battery Pack itself has.

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No third-party battery has the capability, and it is a great feature, making it very easy to see how much total power you have.

If I continue to make extensive use of my iPhone with the battery pack attached, I find that the iPhone’s battery percentage doesn’t change very much, neither adding nor decreasing the battery percentage.  In other words, adding the battery pack stops the drain of my battery percentage.  When my iPhone is turned off and in my pocket with the battery pack attached, then the percentage of power on my iPhone will increase at a pretty decent pace as power is transferred from the matter pack to the iPhone. 

To see the battery indicator again, I can quickly pull off the battery pack (to disconnect) and then place it on again (to connect) to once again see the current battery percentages.  Or, you can swipe to the right on your Home Screen to see a widget showing battery percentages, assuming that you have that widget enabled.

Multiple choices for charging

The MagSafe Battery Pack has a Lightning charging port at the bottom, just like the iPhone.  Thus, if I plug the battery pack into a Lightning connector, I can recharge it.

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Additionally, when the MagSafe Battery Pack is connected to the iPhone, you can plug a Lightning Cord into either the iPhone or the battery pack to charge both.  If you connect the Lightning cord to the battery pack and use a 20W or higher power adapter, then the MagSafe Battery Pack can provide up to 15W of charging to the iPhone, first charging your iPhone and then recharging the battery pack.  Or, you can connect the charging cord to the iPhone, which will charge the iPhone and then charge the battery pack connected to the iPhone.  (When you use the battery pack on-the-go, without being attached to a power cord, it provides 7.5W or charging to the iPhone.)

There is a rumor that the 2022 or 2023 model of the iPhone will use USB-C instead of Lightning.  When that happens, perhaps Apple will release a new version of the battery pack that supports USB-C instead of Lightning.  I mention this because if you buy this product today and buy a new iPhone with USB-C in the Fall, it will be somewhat less convenient to use two different charging options for a future iPhone and this battery pack.  On the other hand, because you can use a cord that charges the iPhone and have the iPhone charge the battery pack, or you can use a cord that charges the battery pack and have the battery pack charge the iPhone, I don’t think that any transition to USB-C will have a big impact on the usability of this Lightning version of this product.

AirPods Charging Case

Apple advertises the battery pack as a way to recharge an iPhone.  Having said that, in my tests, if you put an AirPods Charging Case that supports wireless charging on top of the MagSafe battery pack, you can use the battery pack to recharge the AirPods Charging Case.  And Apple’s website does seem to acknowledge that this works on a page that address MagSafe charging in general, although not the MagSafe Battery Pack in particular.

Conclusion

The best part of the Apple MagSafe Battery Pack is how easy it is to use.  It is easy to carry around in a pocket.  It is easy to attach—just put it behind your iPhone and let the magnets do the rest.  And it makes it easy to get through a long day with your iPhone even if the built-in battery wouldn’t provide another power to do so.

There are countless other ways to use a portable battery to charge an iPhone, including options that try to mimic some of the features of Apple’s battery pack, and most of those options are cheaper than the $80 you will pay to get this device on sale the $100 normal price.  But what you save in up-front costs is, in my opinion, made up for in convenience.  If you have an iPhone that supports MagSafe (iPhone 12 or 13 line), there is simply no easier way to charge an iPhone when you are on-the go.

Click here to get the Apple MagSafe Battery Pack from Amazon ($99.99, but currently on sale for $79.99).