Product Design

Apple Abandoned MagSafe—Abandon Hope, Ye Clumsy

Apple is quietly killing off MagSafe in the name of a single standardized connector. #Donglelife jokes aside, you can now charge your new MacBooks from any one of the USB-C ports (only one at a time though). The one thing you can’t do anymore is trip over your charging cable.

The Magsafe—Apple’s magnetically attached power connector—was always a quiet supporting cast member in Apple’s line-up of laptop features, but it was a great one. You young folk may not remember the days before the Magsafe, but those were dark times indeed. Back in the barrel jack power cable era, if you tumbled over your cord, your laptop went down with you. Best case scenario: Your connector or your port got a nasty tweak. Worst case scenario: You needed a new I/O board, or even a new laptop.

Apple removed MagSafe
Fare thee well, MagSafe. You shall be missed. Image by Emanuele1212 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks to the magic of MagSafe, clumsy people like me were free to trip over our charging cords 100% worry-free. Because the cable just popped free. No harm. No foul. No laptop in pieces on the floor.

Yes, the USB-C form factor has a lot to offer for the future—one (reversible) port to rule them all!—but sacrificing the MagSafe on the altar of progress is a bigger misstep than tripping over your power cord. What’s worse, the USB-C connections on the 13-inch MacBook Pro we just tore down are soldered to the logic board (Touch Bar edition configurations are yet to be seen). Trip over your cords too much, and you’ll loosen the connection between the port and the board. Eventually, you won’t be able to charge the laptop at all.

USB-C on the 2016 MacBook Pro logic board
The USB-C connections on the base model of the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro are soldered to the logic board.

If you’re a microsoldering expert, you might be able to fix the port on your own. But I can’t microsolder. And neither can anyone behind Apple’s Genius Bar. Instead, fixing a broken USB-C port will require you to replace the whole logic board. Which is expensive. Oh, and since the Touch Bar’s built-in Touch ID is tied to the logic board, you’ll basically need to replace the whole laptop. Oops.

For a company that prides itself in the details, in accessibility, and in “it just works”—this is a step on your power cord in the wrong direction.