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Apple reportedly planning to revive the MagSafe charging standard with the next lot of MacBook Pros
While the Touch Bar is to be banished
Renowned Apple soothsayer Ming-Chi Kuo reckons the iGiant is bringing back its beloved MagSafe charging standard with the next generation of MacBook Pro machines.
The revived version will appear on two new MacBook Pro models expected to arrive later this year: a 14-inch version codenamed J314, and a 16-inch model currently known as J316.
Citing internal sources, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman wrote that the next incarnation of MagSafe will function much like previous generations, with an elongated rectangular design held in place by a small halo of magnets.
This proprietary design will purportedly allow Apple to deliver charging speeds beyond those offered by the 31W USB-C adapters shipped. USB-C will, however, remain the main way to connect peripherals and external storage devices, as well as additional monitors. There is no escaping dongle hell, no matter how much you moan.
Separately, Apple is said to be contemplating removing the Touch Bar from future machines. First introduced in 2016, this feature replaced the function keys with a thin strip of OLED touchscreen, which would show context-sensitive buttons based on whatever app was being used. At best, this was a white elephant, with third-party developer enthusiasm tepid.
At worst, it was unhelpful. The Touch Bar made accessing the function keys feel clunkier and replaced the physical Escape key on earlier models, leading to countless jokes about developers being forever trapped in Vim.
Apple learns from history
Launched in 2006 with the inaugural MacBook Pro, MagSafe used a gentle magnetic force to hold the power adaptor in place. In practice, this meant that should someone snag their foot on your cable, it would harmlessly detach from your machine. In the same circumstances, a PC using a barrel-based connector would end up pirouetting across the room before landing with an unceremonious thud.
This came at a time when Apple was switching from PowerPC to Intel chips, and many feared Cupertino would lose its distinctness amid a sea of other PC manufacturers. MagSafe was as much a safety feature as it was part of the Mac's identity.
But MagSafe wasn't perfect either. Durability was be a major problem with early models, and it wasn't uncommon to see charging bricks held together by gaffer tape and prayers. They were also known for getting extremely hot during use, with some early models decried as a fire hazard. Replacements weren't cheap either, and the cost led some towards inexpensive and unlicensed Chinese knock-offs, which in some cases were dangerous.
Despite these stumbles, MagSafe had its fans. When Apple began its discontinuation in 2016, it provoked a fierce outcry from users who perceived USB-C as a step back in terms of functionality. By 2019, MagSafe had been completely withdrawn from Apple's laptop line-up following the cessation of the 2017 MacBook Air.
News of MagSafe's return isn't all that surprising. Apple began testing the waters late last year with a semi-revival of the tech on the iPhone 12 series. Owners of Apple's latest mobes can now affix accessories and wireless chargers to the back of their devices, thanks to a constellation of integrated magnets. This has proven fairly popular.
Beyond that, Apple is seemingly learning from the mistakes of the past five years, particularly when it comes to its laptop portfolio. The best example of this is the discontinuation of the loathed Butterfly Keyboard, which sacrificed durability and typing comfort for the sake of slightly thinner laptops.
Still, there's more room to improve. While it's unlikely to see the return of USB-A or dedicated HDMI, it would be nice to see Apple bring back the built-in SD card slot of yore. Repairability remains another Achilles' heel worth addressing. ®