"Charging not supported" my ass

Dear Lazyweb,

My iPhone's dock connector appears to have gotten gunked up, and because Jobs is a profit-chiseling cockmuncher, this means that it keeps going into "Charging is not supported with this accessory" mode (still able to sync, but won't charge). It works about 10% of the time when I plug it into my dock and about 70% of the time when I plug it into the cable directly.

I can't see any obvious gunk. I've tried canned air; nothing. I've tried cutting down a pencil eraser so that it fits in the hole and scraping; that may have helped a little, but not much. Any other suggestions?

Update: I still don't know what went wrong, but they gave me a new phone!

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25 Responses:

  1. scullin says:

    Non-conductive electrical contact cleaner, applied judiciously, has worked for this.

    • adolf says:

      Avoid regular contact cleaner. Some of the stuff is particularly nasty, and eats plastics at random. Some doesn't seem to work at all. And some does both. And in almost all cases, it evaporates so fast that it doesn't ever give you a chance to try to do any mechanical cleaning while it is on the contacts.

      Accordingly, I'm going to sound like a commercial for a second: Deoxit. Buy it from some place like Mouser, MCM, or Parts Express (or just fucking Google it). I've also seen small containers of it for sale at Radio Shack for way too much money, but it lasts a long, long time, so that might be an option.

      I use this stuff to clean switches on 30-year-old electronics. I fix frequent-use membrane keypads with it. I had a bunch of electronics underwater in a flood for two days, took them apart, cleaned the boards up, cleaned the contacts and switches with Deoxit (and sometimes a touch of Faderlube from the same company), and the switches work and feel better than they did new.

      Deoxit itself is also non-conductive.

      Accept no substitutes. It costs more than anyone wants it to, and it's worth every cent since it always fucking works. Give a connector one light, tenth-of-a-second squirt, plug/unplug it a few times, and it'll be fine.

      For a more mechanical degunking, fiberglass pencils are also available. They've got a retractable tuft of sharp, straight glass fibers, and are designed to be used to gently scrub cruft from nooks and crannies. I don't know how successful you'd be shoving such a thing down into a dock connector, however, but they're cheap enough (and useful enough for someone with, say, ancient video games or a grunge-covered nightclub) that you might just order one at the same time.

  2. boggyb says:

    How about a switch/contact cleaner spray? Don't forget to clean the dock/cable connector as well.

  3. vordark says:

    Alcohol and a wooden toothpick for an applicator/scrubber are the only things I've found that will de-gunk my various (and tiny) USB ports and cables without damaging them. It's time consuming, but it works.

  4. At one point, my iPhone 3G's dock connector became very full of denim pocket lint. It didn't *look* bad until I carefully inserted a paper clip and began excising it. Wow.

  5. Kevin Gunn says:

    Is the dock plugged in to the wall or a computer? It sounds to me like the phone is sensing incorrect voltages coming from the dock and refusing to charge. Could be the power supply unit and not the dock or phone. If it really is coming from dirty contacts on the phone I would be tempted to try cleaning them with a little isopropyl alcohol, but I don't know if you could do Bad Things by creating a short between neighboring connections. A small bit of sandpaper might do the trick.

    I just rebuilt my Time Capsule (the backup solution for my girls and our main home wifi point) because Apple chose aesthetics over ventilation and cheap capacitors (to shave a few cents off the cost of each unit).

  6. The iphone decides whether to charge or not based on a resistor across certain pins. I guess if grease / pocket lint / corrosion increases this resistance it could refuse to charge.

  7. autopope says:

    Beware Apple's moisture-contamination sensors inside the iPhone. Could invalidate your warranty if you're not careful.

    I'd check the power brick, the cable, and the phone's connector before diagnosing the exact cause of the problem. Have you tried a different cable? Have you confirmed that the Mac is putting out current over that USB port?

    • elusis says:

      Beware Apple's moisture-contamination sensors inside the iPhone. Could invalidate your warranty if you're not careful.

      Yes, this exactly.

      My solution would be make an appointment online to go to the Genius Bar and make it their problem to solve.

      • dr_memory says:

        My solution would be make an appointment online to go to the Genius Bar and make it their problem to solve.

        Seconded. Back up the phone first: there's every chance you'll walk out with a replacement.

  8. edouardp says:

    Toothbrush would be my suggestion - works for cleaning all sorts of things. Just scrub away madly for a couple of minutes and see if it helps.

    • I'll second rubbing alcohol + toothbrush. The alcohol is basically inert toward the metal and plastic, evaporates quickly, and you cant pretty much try this immediately. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, vodka works in a pinch. I always hesitate to use a cotton swab or wooden stick, there is a decent chance you'll just get pieces of those stuck in there (particularly the cotton strands can get snagged on the connector).

      The connector seems to sense the resistance between pins (or whether they are shorted together) to determine what's plugged in, like an old school dongle: http://www.allpinouts.org/index.php/Apple_iPod,_iPad_and_iPhone_dock

      Not an expert, but it seems plausible that either (1) one or two pins are dirty enough to present a higher resistance, making it appear as though it is plugged in through a different accessory that does not support charging, or (2) two pins are shorted, amounting to the same thing. Either way, cleaning aught to fix the problem. The discussion here seems to support the idea:


      If I had an iPhone I'd be tempted to experiment ... but this is what a bit of bored googling turned up.

      • recursive says:

        FYI: Always use 99% isopropyl alcohol. Never use the denatured ethanol crud. A lot of it has stuff that's nasty to plastics like acetone (the drugstore kind) or methanol (the hardware store kind).

  9. hallerlake says:

    personally I suggest thermite, but you may get further with rubbing alcohol and a chisel-point Q-tip

  10. hairyears says:

    My suggestion would be purchasing an HTC desire.

    Also: strapping Apple's Cupertino cultists into Vogon poetry-appreciation chairs and forcibly indoctrinating them into certifiability as Certified Windows CE Professionals, while their ponytails burn down to their scalps and their Segways are steamrollered in the parking lot.

    I have fallen out of love with the iPhone.

    • ctd says:

      The one disadvantage of this plan is that normal app usage might be interrupted when the device actually receives a telephone call.

      • dr_gluck_ says:

        Is Verizon's 4G not capable of simultaneous voice+data? I know their 3G was not which had been my complaint with their tech for now but I figured they might have overcome this in the 4G -but as I'm still on a company-provided crackberry I haven't actually bothered to check.

      • pikuorguk says:

        Android phones and iPhones are equally crap. They both suck in their own unique ways. I hate my iPod Touch's background notification system (interrupt my game of Angry Birds once more, I'll get all smashy on you) and Android just finds new ways to wind me up almost daily (What's that? You're receiving an incoming call? OK I'll tell you in five minutes time, I'm busy playing with the garbage collector).

        Clean the dock connector by leaving your iPhone in a jacket pocket. A standard wash cycle with fast spin should do it.

  11. mhoye says:

    I've had some success with the thin little pipecleaners they give kids for arts and crafts. You can think of it as "doing linux".

    If that works for you, buy a cover or plug from DealExtreme when you're done - they sell pretty reliable apple-compatible chargers, covers, etc for between a fifth and a tenth of what Apple charges.

  12. What model phone? Is this 4.1, 4.2 beta1 or 4.2 beta2? 4.2 beta1 has a known issue with accessory connections that might be contributing to this. If compressed air didn't work, I'd normally suggest bringing it to a genius bar, but if you're willing to let me debug it for a bit before doing that, file a radar and post the number here. I can get some more data from you after that.

    Hunch: sounds like a hardware problem - might be a flex issue. Did it drop recently?

    • jwz says:

      3gs. Never dropped. Well, not in the last six months anyway.

      • badpauly says:

        My 3GS on 4.1 is showing the same issue. 'official' 3rd-party device* is throwing up "charging not supported" errors 50% of the time. Think it might be a bug (and another reason why the Apple-Borg should be first against the wall).

        * Mophie battery-pack, only produces the errors when the pack is getting a charge from a charger, not when the pack is supplying a charge to the phone.

        • lanikei says:

          Interesting. This exact problem occurred with my Mophie last weekend. I've only used it a handful of times and thought maybe I was just making it up.