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Don’t Buy Third-Party iPhone 5 Lightning Cables Yet



While Apple doesn’t have any extra Lightning cables to sell for the moment, it’s probably not a good idea to buy third-party cables instead thanks to a chip inside the new connector.

According to Apple Insider, Apple’s Lightning cables contain what looks like authentication chips inside the tiny housing. Those chips are likely the cause for the high price, and could make unauthorized third-party cables unusable.

The authentication chips means third party cables with the chips simply won’t work with the new iPhone 5. The chips lie between the USB power pin and the V+ wire. To the average user that means without the chip, no power will flow from the USB port into the device plugged into the cable.

Lightning cable authentication chips

There’s a good chance that Apple won’t let other companies produce Lightning cables with the required chips. Or, more likely, Apple wants to control who can and can’t make third-party Lightning cables.

These chips could even be the reason why we don’t have any Lightning accessories yet. Apple doesn’t like to share its plans with third-party manufacturers so they likely weren’t able to make accessories before Apple announced the iPhone 5 and the Lightning cable.

We don’t know if these same chips are inside the Lightning to 30-pin dock connector adapters, but if they are, that could mean the cheap third-party alternatives we saw recently won’t work. For the sake of those that did buy them, we hope the chips aren’t there. Either way, this is a good reason to avoid any third-party accessories that aren’t supported by Apple.



  1. Shawn Aronson

    09/21/2012 at 2:58 pm

    That doesn’t explain how you can just get a 30 pin adapter though. Does the adapter disable the chip or does the chip only work if it tries to connect to another lightning connector from a device that has the lightning port built in.

  2. Mr. Secret

    09/22/2012 at 5:53 am

    There’s probably also a chip in the adapter making it not required in the 30 pin cable.

  3. Al Cranston

    09/24/2012 at 3:52 am

    Seems like a USB bus adapter IC. Lightning is a very high speed bus, not USB, which is quite limited.

    Think Thunderbolt for non-Intel chipsets (Thunderbolt is closely tied to x86). If you want to convert the Lightning bus to some other standard like USB or HDMI or Ethernet or 30 pin dock, you need an IC to do that conversion.

    Get an EE as an editor!

    • Kanwal

      09/26/2012 at 3:29 am

      Does ANY of the bandwidth or specs of lightning matter at all if the end is still USB and thus limited to USB only specifications? The bandwidth and stuff doesn’t matter at all, the only thing that changes here is that apple gets control on accessories.

      • arvi

        10/16/2012 at 11:35 pm

        Mr. Kanwal,

        USB data transfer bandwidth depends most on the device not on the PC port. Mostly, bottlenecking resides in the USB adapter IC inside the devices like iphone and other USB devices.

        Quoting your comment “Does ANY of the bandwidth or specs of lightning matter at all if the end is still USB ..” Yes they matter, USB specs (we’re talking at least USB 2.0HS – minimum specs on PCs and Mac nowadays) has quite speedy transfer based on max speed the standard can deliver. So the better the cable and the USB IC of a phone/storage device, the faster the transfer is.

      • arvi

        10/16/2012 at 11:56 pm

        ..and oh yes, i agree with you that apple has a very unfair and nasty way of controlling consumer and competition among other cable manufacturers. They should be sued if they want to restrict the use of apple only lightning cable.

        • Austin G

          12/08/2012 at 6:36 pm

          You can’t sue them for putting an authentication chip in, they didn’t force you to buy an Iphone, its only good business.

          • Daryl

            02/04/2013 at 1:55 pm

            It is business, but it isn’t good business. Good business thrives on competition and innovation.

        • spookiewon

          03/01/2013 at 10:46 pm

          Have you looked at Sony lately? They are the kings of locking you to their accessories for their products.

    • ThatGuyWho IS SmarterThanYou

      10/23/2012 at 10:01 am

      “Thunderbolt is closely tied to x86” – what a load of BS, thunderbolt is primarily found on I-series processors. I-Series processor are (almost, if not) all x64 based. You need to stop basing your ASSUMPTIONS on processor architecture.

      • Michael Davidson

        11/05/2012 at 12:50 pm

        x64 processors are an extension of x86, thus they are truly called x86_64.

  4. Mfun

    10/20/2012 at 4:57 pm

    I think the chip (at least one of the functions) converts digital to audio signals since the new cable only handles digital audio whereas the 30 pin could do both. If they didn’t put this D/A chip in, many of the older iPhone speakers wouldn’t work.

  5. Willie

    10/28/2012 at 1:20 pm

    Goodbye apple, hello galaxy note 2. Apple want to control everything, an everybody that uses there products.

  6. Hiram Morales

    11/09/2012 at 9:46 am

    I purchased the iphone lightning adapter so I could use my three docking stations to listen to music and so I can use my car charger so far no compatability issues what soever and it sounds great on the beatbox

  7. m0dest2

    11/22/2012 at 8:38 pm

    Idiots, I knew that this is impossible and CRC is not “authentication” or “DRM.” CRC is a simple checksum. It makes sure that data doesn’t get corrupted during transfer.

    A chip is simply necessary to make a reversible cable with adaptive pins. Please stop perpetuating this “authentication chip” ********. Apple is clever enough to know that a hypothetical “secret chip” would never prevent third party manufacturers from producing copies.

    • spookiewon

      03/01/2013 at 10:49 pm

      Since when do these people care about the truth?

  8. pswatts0122178

    01/09/2013 at 11:03 pm

    im glad i have and android any android cable will work

    • spookiewon

      03/01/2013 at 10:43 pm

      Don’t assume this is default with Android. Most Android manufacturers have used the occasional non-standard port. Samsung used the same 30-pin as Apple used for all iDevices for years in several Galaxy devices, but used a different pinout than Apple did. Apple has used the 30 pin for 10+ years. One Apple cable for all iDevices (except Shuffle). As a result, I have DOZENS of these unused in a bag. The lightning connector will be no different. I love that Apple is consistent and will keep a connector from device to device for many years. and Lightning is awesome! It has no up and down so you can’t get it wrong. Brilliant.

  9. Norm

    01/17/2013 at 8:36 am

    I’ve purchased 6 lightning cables from Amazon for around $5 each and they work just fine. I have one in the car, two at the office, and I use the others at home on various chargers. No problems. My issue: my old speaker docks no longer work so I’m forced to use the aux ports. I’ve tried various bluetooth adapters resulting in minor losses in fidelity. My feeling is that in the long run this is a good move for . We will eventually reap the benefits of this new technology and soon forget this inconvenience. Soon we will be asking, “what the hell am I going to do with these old iDevice cables?”

    • spookiewon

      03/01/2013 at 10:36 pm

      Me too. I have purchased four lightning connectors from various Amazon vendors for my iPad mini. Every one is just fine. If you look closely the Apple cable is a bit better made, and I could easily identify which one is the original Apple cable, but all of them WORK equally well.

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