Last week, Apple announced its brand new lineup of iPhones, and among things like 5G and the typical iterative camera improvements, one of the biggest, and for me, the most exciting additions they made to the iPhone was MagSafe, a new feature based around a set of magnets that allow users to connect a range of different accesories. So far, these accesories range from cases, wireless chargers, wallets, and a car mount, all of which are either made by Apple or an Apple-registered third party manufacturer, and are, of course, sold seperatley on Apple’s website. On the surface at least, this a logical move for Apple, whose very ethos stems from simplification and streamlining products, an idealogy that pushed them to remove the arrow keys from the Macintosh, the Floppy Drive from the iMac, and, most recently and most notoriously, what caused them to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone. The introuduction of MagSafe seemingly ties directly into the execution of this idealogy, an ideaology rumoured to culminate in the elimination of the lightning port from the iPhone, a move that could be executed as soon as next year. So, at first, MagSafe primarily makes sense from Apple’s perspective as a bridge unto the portless future, in a attempt to make wireless-ism more streamlined, accesibile and glamourous, but while this may be and likely is one of the mainly reasons Apple implemented this feature into the iPhone, I don’t think it’s the only reason and, to me at least, it’s certainly don’t it’s the best realization of this technology.
To understand the true potential of MagSafe (and just why I’m so excited for it’s inclusion in the new iPhones), you have to take a look all the way back at the original iPhone. A common misconception about the original iPhone is that it came with the App Store. And this is completely understandable, as the App Store is the medium from which we derive most of the utility and entertainment from our iPhones, and through the countless apps it provides, the App Store is one of the main selling points for the iPhone to users. But what is often forgotten is that the iPhone didnt ship with the App Store back when it initially released in 2007, and at the time, there was no way (outside of jailbreaking, that is) for users to build and download new applications for their iPhones. This was because Steve Jobs, when the iPhone was being developed, that webapps would be the main avenue in which iPhone users would access additional functionality beyond the included collection of apps on their devices.
But almost instantly, developers, confined in their developement efforts by the general purpose restrictions of web apps, wanted a software development kit so they could access the true capabilties the iPhone hardware offered. On the other hand, consumers found themselves frusturated by the limited functionality of the included iPhone apps and the lack of optimization found in web apps, and thus began jailbreaking their devices to acquire additional features like new apps that were more fine tuned to the iPhone. Jobs saw this and realized the need for a first party, easy way for developers to create apps, and easy way for consumers to download them to their iPhones. He also knew the iPhone would need something that would keep users coming back, and most importantly, it needed a way for Apple to continue making money from iPhone sales long after the final payment installment was made. And thus, about a year after the unveiling of the original iPhone, Apple announced togehter an iPhone SDK and of course, the App Store we all know, love, and use everyday today.
So how does this pertain to MagSafe, you may ask? Well, I see MagSafe as a sort of “App Store” for iPhone accesories. Much of what makes the app store such a great part of the Apple Ecosystem is its ease of use and accessibility. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of compatibilty, safety, or privacy, and to say it simply, it just works. I think that MagSafe, if executed correctly, has the potential to do the same thing that the App Store did for iPhone apps for iPhone accessories. For years, accessory manufacturers have looked for smarter and easier ways to integrate thier products with iPhones, much in the same way that developers looked for easier ways to harness the iPhone’s functionality and capability when making apps prior to the introduction of the App Store. Now, with MagSafe, accessory makers have an easy way build easy to use, well integrated iPhone accessories, much in the same way that the App Store enabled developers to do the same thing but with Apps.
When you take a look back at the app store, part of what made it the success it is the way in which it benifited all parties involved. It allowed developers to more easily create apps for the iPhone, while also giving them a powerful platform to distribute them on, while also giving consumers a safe, fast, and easy way to download apps for their iPhones, it also benifited Apple, as it meant not only that Apple could make money off of iPhone users through App Store and In App Purchases, but it also meant that iPhone users were more likely to hold onto their iPhones and stay in the Apple Ecosystem as that was where the apps they used everyday were. Taking a look at MagSafe today reveals that it offers many of the same benifits to users, accesory manufacturers, and Apple. It gives accesory manufacturers and easy way to create accessories that are more deeply integrated with the Apple ecosystem, and advantage that helps consumers through making iPhone accesories safer (through regualtion from Apple), more compatible, and easier and more seamless to use. Finally, this idea of MagSafe as the App Store for accesories benifits Apple as it helps them to build up the Apple Ecosystem without having to create new products of their own, an idea that is appealing to an Apple working to make more money from exsisting iPhone users in a world where consumers upgrade their phones less often than ever before. This also has the advantage of giving the iPhone more seamlessly integrated, and as a result, more marketable and desireable accesories, with the added benifit of giving Apple the ability to regulate which accessories are made and sold on their store. To conclude, MagSafe holds a lot of potential as a platform for more integrated and easier to use accesories that extentuate the functionality and capabitlies of Apple’s devices, but the execution this vision is entirely relient on a few factors that may be harder to nail down than it seems on paper. MagSafe truly needs great support from third party developers and from Apple itself to flourish, but if those two things can be accomplished, MagSafe has the potential to completely change the way we use our phones, just like the App Store did for software ten years ago.