While there’s a lot of new technology coming with the iPhone 12, Apple is also making a move to reduce “e-waste” by giving you less stuff in your iPhone box. Taken together, these two facts mean that you’ll probably end up spending anywhere from “a little bit” to “a lot” more money after buying your brand-new iPhone to pick up all the accessories you’ll need—in addition to any other monthly fees you’ll need to cough up for 5G service.
What accessories can you get? What accessories should you get? Let’s take a look at the essentials, and I’ll give a few recommendations for what you should do for each category.
A brand-new case for your iPhone 12
- Should you get a new case? Definitely.
- Should you buy it from Apple? Probably not.
Normally, I’d be on the fence about buying a case for your iPhone. Yes, they can offer extra protection. In fact, I used to use one religiously. One day, though, I wanted to see what a caseless life was like, so I took mine off for a few days. That became a few weeks. And I haven’t used a case with my older iPhone since—and have been lucky enough to not drop it at all.
MagSafe changes the game, though. Now, you can purchase a case that also still allows you to wirelessly charge your device (also one of the many reasons I’d rather not slap a thick hunk of protective material around my device). While I can’t envision any major case manufacturers making something that doesn’t work perfectly with Apple’s new MagSafe technology, I’m sure you’ll still see some iPhone 12 cases that aren’t optimized for the new tech. Avoid them like the plague. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m convinced that MagSafe is one of the iPhone 12’s best new features—even more so than 5G, but that’s just me.
As for buying it from Apple, though: Right now, the third-party market is just starting to churn with ideas about MagSafe-friendly cases. Because of that, I might risk an unprotected iPhone for a month or two just to see what else arrives (beyond the OtterBox, unless they’re working on an exclusive with Apple for the time being.) Apple’s asking prices for MagSafe cases are a wee bit too steep at $50—especially that “Clear Case” that’s basically just a hunk of plastic with a magnet slapped in the center. Oof.
A new wireless charger for your iPhone 12
- Should you get a new charger? Definitely.
- Should you buy it from Apple? If you’re impatient, yes
Second verse, same as the first. For your MagSafe-friendly iPhone 12 to properly snap to a wireless charger, that charger is going to have to support MagSafe. This means that you’ll need to buy a new charger—whether that’s something for your desk, something for your car, a nightstand holder for your iPhone 12, etc.
While I would normally suggest waiting for third-party chargers that give you a lot more variety for a lower price than Apple’s, you might be waiting a bit of time for new chargers to arrive—especially given the newness of the MagSafe technology. Only Belkin has an alternative charger right now, and it’s a bit pricey.
Will your existing wireless charger work with your iPhone 12? Sure. Is MagSafe more fun? Absolutely. Will it cost you $40 to get right now? You bet. If you can wait, wait, but I won’t begrudge you for splurging a little to have fun with Apple’s new magnetic tech.
A power adapter for your iPhone 12
- Should you get a new power adapter? Potentially
- Should you buy it from Apple? Definitely not.
If you’ve been buying iPhones for some time, you probably have plenty of tiny “power bricks” you can use to charge your new iPhone 12 via its Lightning connection. You’ll be able to charge it even faster if you have a higher-watt power adapter—everything from an iPad power adapter to your MacBook’s power adapter is fair game.
If an iPhone 12 is your very first iPhone, or you’ve just been lazy about saving those power adapters, you’ll need to purchase one yourself. Apple isn’t including them in the box anymore—just a USB C-to-Lightning cable. While Apple has dropped the price of its 20W USB-C power adapter by $10 (ooh, ahh) to account for this, you can do better than that.
This Anker model is just as good, but cheaper, as is this Aukey charger—both Wirecutter favorites. I love combo chargers myself; they give you speedier USB-C charging for your iPhone along with a USB-A port for all the other devices you own. Oh, and they’ll still be cheaper than Apple’s single-port charger.
A snap-on wallet for your iPhone 12’s case
- Should you get a new wallet? Eh.
- Should you buy it from Apple? No.
Rounding out our MagSafe coverage is this new leather wallet that you can now snap to the back of your iPhone. If you’re a big Apple fan, sure, go pay $60 for a little magnetic pouch. Otherwise, I’d wait for every other company under the sun to come up with their own snap-to accessories. You can get by using your pocket to store your cash while you wait. It’ll be OK.
A car mount for your iPhone 12
- Should you get a new car mount? Someday soon, but not yet.
- Should you buy it from Apple? No.
Honestly, all this talk of MagSafe makes me incredibly thrilled for one particular experience I’ve been waiting for: a car mount that I don’t have to fuss with. I get annoyed having to slide a phone into a mount and tighten the sides so it stays in place—and I imagine whatever other contraption other car mounts use to secure your phone (and ideally charge it, too) are equally aggravating.
I presume MagSafe car mounts like Belkin’s—currently the only one you can purchase—will function kind of like those magnet-based showerheads. In other words: snap on, snap off. No fiddling with clamps. No aligning with Lightning connectors. Just attach your smartphone and go.
I love the concept; now I’m just waiting for someone to make a car mount that also allows the magnetic connector to charge your phone. Belkin’s “magnet on a clip” is close, but not quite. I’ll wait.
Earbuds for your iPhone 12
- Should you get new earbuds? No.
- Should you buy it from Apple? No way.
How many of Apple fans have drawers full of earbuds? I know I do. The more recent Lightning earbuds—introduced with the iPhone 7—are the only ones that will let you connect to your new iPhone 12 sans dongle, but you won’t find these in the box. Yes, in the name of eco-friendliness, Apple has ditched its earbuds, too. But you can still purchase them directly from Apple for $19.
Were I you, I’d ask any of my Apple-loving friends to borrow (permanently) one of the many pairs of earbuds they’re not using. And if that still doesn’t turn up anything, buy anything but Apple’s earbuds. Go get some AirPods—one of my favorite accessories I never thought I’d actually use, but now love. Get some wired earbuds with the little audio cable add-on that lets you access Siri, start/stop calls, and mess with your volume without taking your iPhone out of your pocket. Or just go buy a pair of high-end headphones. Don’t waste $20 on the most basic earbuds around.
A longer charging cable for your iPhone 12
- Should you get a longer charging cable? Sure!.
- Should you buy it from Apple? No, no, no.
I don’t have an iPhone 12, nor have reviews dropped as of this writing (the embargo lifts tomorrow), so I can’t tell you how long the included USB-C-to-Lightning cable is. Odds are good, though, that you’d probably benefit from something a bit longer, especially if you need to wrap a cable around some furniture to charge your iPhone exactly where you’re most likely to use it.
If, or when, you opt to buy a longer cable, avoid Apple’s store like the plague. A two-meter (6.5-foot) cable will set you back $29. You can find a cable that’s just as good and quite a bit cheaper from a number of other retailers—including Amazon itself, as well as sites like Monoprice (great prices if you’re buying a few). Don’t buy cables from Apple.