Today, 16 October 2021, I purchased a MagSafe charger for my 2011 MacBook. Affectionately called “the Beast” the computer, despite its age, still runs well and lets me run older programs with ease.
I have lost count of how many Magsafe chargers I’ve purchased, but this is at least the 5th; I suspect more like the 7th. Each charger, btw, is (still!) $70–80 USD. You see, while most of the time the ‘brick’ part was fine, the cable that connects to the computer, the part with that beloved magnet, will inevitably fail, fray, and otherwise destruct over time. And since it is fixed to the brick, the whole charger is done at that point.
But I need that charger to run my computer, because the 2011 MacBook Pro has a MagSafe port, and it is the only way to charge it.
I also have a newer MacBook, one that charges via USB-C. When that charger cable frays and breaks, when I go somewhere and forget it, when I lose it, I will buy another for less than $20 from the nearest electronics store1. They will be available from multiple companies, and come in many options.
There are rumors that the MagSafe port is going to have a grand re-entrance into our lives on Monday, returning to the side of the MacBook where it was meant to be.
Now, once upon a time our laptops had ok battery life, 2–5 hours depending on the make and model, which meant that a lot of the time you were using them they were also plugged in.
This is the advantage to MagSafe, the safety feature, if you will. You’re there typing away on the couch, plugged in to the wall, chords strung about the living room floor—then someone rushes through, trips on the cable but the charger disconnects since it is just a magnet holding it in and your computer is safe!
(Well, that’s the theory, the magnets are pretty strong, so I suspect the computer is going for a flight in this specific example…)
But it is a proprietary port. One that is still as frail as any other cable, but expensive to replace. Our computers have fantastic battery life these days; we aren’t sitting tethered to the wall anywhere near as much as we were.
One day, I won’t be able to get a charger for the 2011 anymore. Maybe the machine will give up the ghost before then, hopefully. But this new MacBook? I will be able to buy USB-C cables and chargers for a long time.
And, when I go on travel? I bring one cable. I use it to charge my Mac, my Switch, and my camera. I use it to connect to my camera, to monitors, external hard drives. And that makes it much more valuable than the perception of safety a magnet charger gives me.
So my hope for Monday, should MagSafe see its way back onto the Macintosh—it made its way on the iPhone last year, in a way that makes me fear Apple is moving towards a port-less phone, which would be a step too far for me. Especially considering how inefficient wireless charging is.
Seriously, I don’t understand how you can claim to be pro-environment and then offer wireless charging. /rant
So my hope, if we are indeed to see MagSafe return to the MacBook is that it is, simply, optional, and they keep the already established USB-C charging as an option, for those of us who very much prefer to have one charger to rule them all.
The Beast will live another day with the new charger. But it has only reminded me why proprietary ports are bad for the consumer, bad for keeping things running past their ‘expiration.’ That computer’s life span is more connected to the availability of a proprietary cable than the lifespan of the components inside.
Also, a related side note, BACk-UP YOUR SHIT.
Well, we got the best of both… no three worlds. The new MacBook Pros were announced and they indeed have MagSafe back. They also include the ability to charge over USB.
BUT. Here’s the part that makes me happy. It is not a MagSafe charger, it is a MagSafe Cable, meaning that the expense to replace it will be less, and much simpler that for the MagSafe 1 and 2 chargers. And that’s a good thing.
- Yes I know not all USB-C cables are the same, but that is a different discussion ↩︎