Fucking Apple.

How did they manage to make the new Lightning connector even flakier and less reliable than the 30-pin?? These cables are bullshit.
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25 Responses:

  1. Jeff Warnica says:

    Silly question. The reality distortion field has a half-life of 2 years, and things are shutting down.

  2. Terran Osiris Rex says:

    I have experienced this. So far only OEM and Amazon cables have suited my needs.

  3. Jamie Zawinski says:

    Official Apple cables pull this shit too.

  4. Terran Osiris Rex says:

    No shit? Well that's problematic.

  5. Ted Mielczarek says:

    In case you were wondering, they done survive very long when exposed to a toddler mouth environment either.

  6. Mike says:

    My favorite part of apple cables is how they don't believe in strain relief, because it wouldn't look as good.

  7. freiheit says:

    It looks symmetrical. You'd think it's palindromic. It's not either.

    It really is an 8-pin cable, and there's a chip that flips the pins around internally.

    Then, on top of the chip that routes things to pins, they threw authentication into the cable via a chip, too.

    So, they made it flakier by putting chips into the cable instead of letting the cable just be wires and connectors and maybe a resistor or two.

    • gryazi says:

      I've spent the past day or two with brain-itch about the inexplicable pinout-shifting. Is there something explicable about it or is it just a case of 'we need DRM because we're Apple and active cables are going to be necessary to hit speeds in the future so we're making sure we're ready.'

      (At which point rising copper prices will probably make everyone swear fiber will kill it after all, until that eSATA moment when it ends up completely baked and then people realize they can't charge from it.)

      Maybe someday we could just use light to project our media onto our walls directly.

      • Julian Calaby says:

        I believe the whole "active cable" bullshit is so they can do fancy stuff like put an embedded ARM SoC into the far end of a cable and transmit video and audio H.264 compressed from the iDevice (I wish I was kidding) so they don't need as many pins or to actually have circuitry in their iDevices to handle things like audio and video output.

        Or maybe it's just so they can have their own cable and standards they can charge money for instead of just using standard stuff like MHL or Miracast or HDMI or whatever.

  8. Chris Adams says:

    It's not just you – my father-in-law has gone through a couple cables due to the grossly incompetent lack of strain relief. The last time he went to the Apple store for a replacement, the tech just gave him a couple cables (free!) so he wouldn't have to come back as often — they're painfully aware of the problem but apparently the support -> engineering feedback loop is broken.

  9. Scott says:

    I had terrible problems with my lightning connector but it turned out it was due to lint. Microscopic lint that stopped the cable from fully seating.

  10. Jay Sittler says:

    So far I haven't had reason to use anything but the cable that came with my iPhone... I'll let you know how the Monoprice ones I ordered work.

  11. Mike Marion says:

    Man, I must be the luckiest bastard ever. I had plenty of issues with the 30 pin connectors back in the day (including plenty of issues with hdd iPods and docks), but I've yet to have any issues with the lightning connectors at all.

    I've got a 30pin converter I use on an ipad all day at work, cable in car for phone while driving, another cable used on both with MBP, orig cable that came with iPad Air in bedroom for overnight charging and another 30pin converter cable on an ihome radio for iPhone overnight. Nary the slightest issue with heavy use and plenty of abuse as well.

    • Jan Ingvoldstad says:

      Although this is also merely anecdata, I have the same experiences as Mike here.

      But my SO has acquired a third-party cable, which has a more shallow connector, and that one doesn't connect so well so often, resulting in the above message (minus the certification bit).

      Basically, what the i4s did, was to create a connector you cannot use with any iPhone 5/5s case.

  12. Doctor Memory says:

    The lightning connector is great on paper. Small, reversible, rugged. But goddamn did they ever screw the pooch. No strain relief, and then to add insult to injury they're DRMed up the wazoo so you have to pay $20 for the privilege of a cable that's basically guaranteed to break.

    The good news, such as it is, is that Monoprice finally caved and paid the goddamn license fee. Of course doing so means that they're still ludicrously expensive, but at least they've got an $11.50 model that (a) hey that's less than Apple's $20 (FOR A GODDAMN CABLE) model, and (b) looks like it might be a bit better-designed?

    Alternatively if you're feeling brave there's at least one chinese OEM that's showing their head on amazon with a $4 model. Reviews suggest flakiness, but you could buy five of the things for the cost of one of Apple's and just throw them out as needed?

    (Probably none of this counts as helpful. I'm just saying: I feel your pain.)

    • ardgedee says:

      The Monoprice cables are good for the price, but the cable is chunkier and less flexible. Kind of unwieldy if you use your iPhone while plugged in.

      The Apple cables do have strain relief. The white gusset that looks like a bit of shrink wrap. All strain relief is supposed to do is prevent the cable from kinking over a sharp corner, and this seems to do that well enough. I've certainly dealt with cables that had more massive strain reliefs; the cable just kinks at the far end of the strain relief instead.

      For people who are really uptight about the strain relief thing, get a Lightning -> mini-USB adaptor (Apple-branded for $20, Amazon-branded for $18, Chinese counterfeits at 3/$5). Then you can use your iPhone with the optimally-designed USB cable of your choice: The adaptor is small enough that the adaptor -> mini-USB plug body over all length isn't much longer than a standard Lightning plug body.

      • Owen Shepherd says:

        No no no no...

        Strain relief is about (A) stopping the cable's bend radius minimum from being breached where the cable leaves the connector shell, and (B) stopping strain on the cable from breaking any joints inside (In particular, (A) is also about stopping differential strain on the joints)

        The "white gusset" thing is crap. It doesn't bend. It isn't doing its' job (in particular, job (A)).

        Notice how on every competently designed cable, there is a perforated flexible plastic "spring" encompassing the sheaf where the cable leaves the connector shell? That is somewhat flexible, to prevent the cable from horrible bend stress, but not as flexible as the cable?

        Apple's cables should all have that. That they don't is bullshit.

        We will also ignore the fact that Apple's cables are all made from some bulshit not hard wearing rubber that dissolves on contact with something I haven't yet worked out in spite of the fact that it has already cost me one £50 sodding power adaptor.

        • gryazi says:

          I was resisting the urge to dork more on this but now I don't know why I bothered, or just - eh, screw it, trivia that is actually useful in guessing how rapidly a cable is going to fail is useful.

          TL;DR: Make sure the "strain relief" on your regular reliable-looking cable is actually doing anything because modern manufacturing has made an art of making things look the same while functioning less.

          ...

          Take a close look at those perforated plastic springs, then remember the last time you fixed a headphone cable with Radio Shack parts in the 90s. On a lot of cables the spring is... a slip-over 'bend radius enforcer' but not so much of a 'strain relief' as far as clamping the cable to keep you from yanking on the solder joints inside the connector. (If you remember those old headphone jacks and VGA connectors, they usually had a metal clamp inside to do that, while these days maybe there's something, if you're lucky there's at least a knot in the cable hopefully being caught by something inside the halves of the molded piece, but surprisingly often there's nothing because you paid $0.84 for it and also those 'molded' halves pop apart to reveal the whole thing was filled with air because it's cheaper that way now.)

          In other words the "normal useful expected fact of life" out in the commodity world is no longer reliable because they usually don't bother melting that thing onto the cable sheath anymore. Which when they did you'd invariably end up cursing at it someday for making the cable hard to repair or repurpose anyway. So everything sucks, but I guess look closely for evidence of the meltage/shrink-on-age if you want a normal cable that lasts like a normal cable.

          The ones that have yet to fall apart on me look like this kind (first GIS result), and the "sleeve" relief is actually a pretty big nearly-hard bit of plastic (sort of like the stuff they mold regular connectors out of) that probably has some decent grip on the insulation. Apple's own official stuff sometimes has used a tiny sleeve of what literally appears to be shrinkwrap that's apparently slipperier and/or softer than certain flavors of knockoff crap.

          ...and I almost sorta suspect part of the craptastrophe of the insulation is because it turns out the trace of lead in the old-fashioned insulation we all knew and loved was really important to the physical properties, but no actual proof of that. (I was sort of expecting the knockoff cords to get shitty fast for using the same stuff, but apparently I don't screw with them any more often than, like, the aluminum keyboard cables that I haven't managed to have wear out anywhere yet.)

  13. Alan Bailward says:

    Not to be an ass, but that message generally (ie: 99% of the time) only happens when you're not using apple cables. I know I'm a fanboy, but if you use cheap knockoff cables you'll get that, while I've never gotten it or had issues with apple cables. Yes, it sucks you can't buy $2 cables from china on ebay, and yes, apple rips you the f off with $29 cables. But those cables work and don't give errors like this in my experience.

    • jwz says:

      I'm so happy for "your experience", but it is not reality.

      I've gotten that message with the cable that came in the box with the phone. Sometimes it goes away when you wiggle it. Sometimes it goes away when you turn the cable upside down.

      These cables and/or connectors are bullshit by design.

  14. gryazi says:

    It's not actually all that better in the normal world (although it sounds like once again Apple really Won(TM) at pulling defeat from the jaws of victory with the specific design):

    I literally went a year thinking my Android phone was a piece of crap (not that it isn't) or being a basement-dwelling furry (within a couple blocks of a tower) was enough to kill the battery in less than 6 hours.

    Turns out two or three of the MicroUSB cables I had been using went to crap at once, yet not to crap enough that the phone wouldn't indicate that it was happily charging (though perhaps I should've paid more attention to the rate)... By the point of that discovery the battery had begun bulging (over-discharge is the dangerous part with lithiums, kids!) enough to pop the case back. New cables, new battery, and everything's been fine for a year.

    And of course they claimed MicroUSB with its pocket-ripping ground tines was supposed to be more reliable than MiniUSB, which - I didn't believe it, but apparently I just don't unplug things enough, because this year a sufficient number of the MiniUSB devices in my life have developed flaky connectors. Which is great to listen to on a bus-powered physical spinny whrrRRrrrRrRRRrvvv CLUNK vrrrWRRrrRRRR hard drive.

    And none of these allow regular physical contact drop-in "dock" charging for phones or cameras or what-have-you so they can suddenly rediscover that in ten years. (On the other hand, maybe the only reason docks suddenly disappeared after the 90s was because Sufficient Patents now exist that need to expire before it's sensible to try to offer one again? Somehow cordless phones still manage it where cellphones don't, though.)

    FWIW the MicroUSB cables that went to crap were all the normal "robust"-looking molded black plastic kinds, while the ones that have survived thus far are the colorful knockoffs with the Apple-style soft round cable and polycarbonate-looking connectors. I'm guessing the regular molded plastic allows too much flex for RoHS solders while the hard plastic plus 'shrinkwrap'-looking strain relief actually provides better mechanical isolation.

    ...but how the USB consortium invented a design that can fool a device into reporting "Yeah it's totally charging!" while apparently pushing a trickle or nothing, I have no clue, I'm impressed. Probably all the turtles are to blame.

    • someguy says:

      I get what you're saying, but I just don't really care so much when I can get MicroUSB cables for 84 cents or less.

      That's what happens when you don't put (@^% DRM chips inside your CABLES.

      For the price of one Lightning cable you can stock up on a dozen MicroUSBs, switch them out whenever, no big deal.

      • gryazi says:

        After more than a decade of sort of living alongside the Apple universe "it's not all that different but it's almost always more expensive" pretty much sums it up.

        Probably some of that makes up for the slow and timid lurch of their R&D these days (not that I can entirely blame them when it'll be another two decades before the rest of the world will let them shake the 'another Newton will kill us!' mentality) ... once you get a lot of people invested in the "Goddamnit I am paying $$$$ for $" problem suddenly you get a lot of "for that price, at least it could.." tips to roll into the next iteration.

        Blah blah blah that seemed like an insightful thought until it didn't, I'll stop here before I get to wondering what Tim Cook really likes.

    • Darby says:

      They wanted to email Tim Cook so much!

      • gryazi says:

        Man, you're that guy who stalks my secret porn account.

        What's the difference between a light bulb?