Apple should go all in on iPhone 12’s reverse wireless charging

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Apple should go all in on iPhone 12’s reverse wireless charging
What if you could charge your AirPods just by putting them on your iPhone?
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Turns out the iPhone 12 could do reverse wireless charging all along — Apple just didn’t talk about it until this week. And now that the cat’s out of the bag, Apple should embrace the capability and let iPhones wirelessly charge any other compatible device.

iPhone 12 offers reverse wireless charging

iPhones have been able to receive power wireless through inductive charging for years. But it turns out the iPhone 12 series can wirelessly transmit power, too.

The Apple MagSafe Power Bank that launched Monday quietly marked the debut of iPhone reverse wireless charging. The magnetic power bank wirelessly sends power to the handset. But buried in a support document, a note indicates it can receive wireless power from the iPhone, too. The handset just needs to be plugged into an appropriate charger.

Let’s make this widespread

Now that one accessory can be wirelessly charged by an iPhone 12, Apple should expand the capability. Often, people carry only a single charger and cable when out and about. It would be great to be able to plug in the iPhone and let it charge while simultaneously replenishing other accessories.

The most obvious beneficiary is AirPods or AirPods Pro. Think how convenient it would be to charge your Apple earbuds while also juicing up your iPhone.

And there are tons of other devices that support wireless charging. Any of these potentially could get power from an iPhone. Heck, you could even charge an Android device.

But there are some notable exceptions. It would be nice to do the reverse wireless charging trick with Apple Watch, but the smartwatch uses a non-standard charger. Unless some future iPhone is designed specifically to handle it, the wearable will continue to require its own specific charging puck.

And, unfortunately, MagSafe might make it impossible for one iPhone to charge another. The magnets that are part of the system are designed to hold an iPhone to a charging mat, with positive and negative magnetic poles lining up. An iPhone’s magnets are in the wrong places to be a charging mat. If they can’t line up correctly, they could hinder reverse wireless charging of other iPhones.

To add to the bad news, magnet placement might also kill any future possibility of MagSafe-enabled iPads charging iPhones. But it would be brilliant if Apple could make it work. The company is probably trying — enabling any Apple device to charge any other is something the company has been working on for years.

Maybe it’s right around the corner

The Apple MagSafe Power Bank doesn’t work without iOS 14.7, which is about to be released. It’s possible the software update will enable reverse wireless charging for other accessories, like AirPods cases designed for it. Or this could be a feature Apple adds in the future.

Even if it doesn’t happen soon, it’s worth the effort to make the feature broadly available. Reverse wireless charging adds to the usefulness of the iPhone, and the more devices it works with, the better it gets. Apple, let us use it for whatever we want.