Are you using the right Lightning cables?

Lightning

No – not that sort of lightning

As a dyed-in-the-wool PC user, one of the things that has always set me against Apple computers and devices is the eye-watering price. Paying £79 for a Mac Magic Mouse 2, for instance, strikes me as needless conspicuous consumption. Actually, I did buy a Magic Mouse once, but it lasted far less time than a bog standard one for about £15.

Armed with that sort of prejudice (or tightness?), I confess that one of the things I used to buy happily from Poundland (along with sugar-free biscuits and toothpaste) was lightning cables for my iPhones and iPad. Who cares if they pack up after a year if they only cost a pound when the “real thing” costs £15-20? Who cares if connecting them sometimes causes the phone to remonstrate with the message “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPhone”?

Made for ipad logoI was in ignorance of something called “MFI”. “Wasn’t that a cheap furniture retailer that died a death decades ago?”, I hear you ask. No, this is a different MFI. Originally, it stood for “made for iPod”, but now means “made for iPhone or iPad”. It is Apple’s system of certification that lightning cables manufactured by third parties are approved by Apple as to their quality. This would seem to be a halfway house between buying the cheapest of the cheap and paying Apple prices for “the real thing”.

All this cropped up because, until very recently, I had been having growing problems charging my old iPhone 5. It wouldn’t start charging, or it would start but stop partway through. The problem seemed to be getting worse as time went on. This is only an old phone with only a couple of specific uses. so I didn’t think it was worth getting fixed. I accepted that it was probably tottering towards device heaven. Then the same thing started happening to my current iPhone 6S. Eventually it dawned on me to start wondering about the cables and I tried to work out which ones were reliable and which weren’t. That didn’t prove very conclusive. This one worked yesterday, so why isn’t it working today?

lightning cables

These MFI certified cables are definitely working so far

So, as a troubleshooting measure, I steeled myself for the pain of buying one single genuine Apple cable and I set off for Amazon. That was when I first noticed MFI certification. No doubt I had seen it before but it just hadn’t penetrated. Anyway, I made an executive decision to spend all of £10 on five cables with MFI certification.

Every one of those five cables has worked every time I have connected it to any of my three “i-devices”. That was a month or so ago, so I am now completely convinced that the problem all along was the rubbish cheap cables I had been buying.

No doubt you would now expect me just to summarise by saying “always buy MFI certified lightning cables”. Indeed, but what happens if the cables are fake and the certification is also fake? This is certainly a possibility.

Apple do have a website page explaining how to identify counterfeit or uncertified Lightning connector accessories, but you probably wouldn’t want to be squinting at this on your phone while fiddling with your micrometer and a suspect cable in Cables-u-like or wherever. But whatever fakes there may be out there, I can definitely say that the pack of cables I bought from Amazon are working just fine which means I can still play Scrabble in the bathroom without the risk of dropping my “proper” phone on the hard tiles (or is that just too much information?)

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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