In an a teardown and analysis of Apple’s Lightning cable, which replaced the standard 30-pin dock connector cable on the iPhone 5, Chipworks found that a Texas Instruments chip is used inside the cable, likely serving as a security chip. The authentication chip found within the Lightning cable could have a big impact on Apple’s hardware ecosystem, which has included a robust number of third-party accessories, cables, connectors for use with iOS devices in the past. For consumers, this may mean that there won’t be as many accessories on the market as Apple may have to approve those accessories and bless them for use, thanks to the TI-made authenticator chip, but it will also mean that where there isn’t quantity there will be quality.
In the past, we had reported that there is an authentication chipset, but now we know it’s a TI-made chip. The chip bears the part number BQ2025 and is so far unpublished by Texas Instruments.
This could be indicative of Apple trying to regain control of the hardware accessories ecosystem behind its mobile products, and Apple probably not only wants to approve of what goes on the market, but the company may want to replicate the success that it has enjoyed with the App Store and bring some of that experience to the hardware game. With the App Store, Apple is the sole gatekeeper of all things that go on the iPhone from a software perspective, and by controlling the authenticator chip, Apple could become the sole gatekeeper of all accessories that interface with the iPhone, including chargers, juice packs, battery cases, and peripherals such as blood pressure monitors, diabetes testers, and other equipment that would need a direct wired connection to the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Apple’s moves may be spurred by past problems with cheap chargers and third-party dock connector plugs.
In tightening control of the hardware accessories ecosystem, Apple may try to work with accessories-makers to bring more quality product to market. Those who do not want to interface with Apple could still, theoretically, design accessories that connect to the iPhone via Bluetooth, like pulse monitors, workout sensors, and thermometers, for example.
It’s unclear still if Apple intends on creating a tight licensing program for devices that make use of this new port on the iPhone 5. For now, many of the popular iPhone accessories, like Mophie’s JuicePack battery cases, are left out of the market. For consumers, what we’re really seeing at this early stage are fewer accessories and an Apple-controlled pricing market for Lightning accessories. Hopefully, the tradeoff will be higher quality accessories that we can trust will always be compatible with Apple’s mobile products if Apple creates its mobile certification program to bless third-party accessories-makers with the rights to use this TI authenticator chip.
According to AppleInsider, the chipset offers just enough security and isn’t as complex as the security found within ink cartridges. This may be good news for hackers as it may be easy to crack the authentication system, which may lead to grey or black market iPhone accessories that have not received Apple’s blessings.
However, in the future, Apple may opt for more complex authentication chips.