On the one hand, I think it’s great that Apple will start taking steps to block the use of knock off cheap Lightning connector cables and chargers. There’s a chip built into each cable, communicating with the iPhone or iPad to verify authenticity. This chip can be cracked and cloned, but there are still varying reports of people getting shocked or even killed by knock offs.
Apple has started a trade in program, where customers can bring in knock off chargers and get an official Apple charger for $10. This is a very conscious move on Apple’s part getting ahead of a market which could be damaging their brand, and acknowledging a potential consumer health risk.
However, there’s a part of me which can’t help but point out that Apple’s use of non-standard connectors and cabling is what’s causing this cottage industry of building and selling knock off chargers. Buying the official Lightning connector cable by itself from Apple will set you back $30. Buying an Amazon branded Lightning cable will still run you $14. Total cost to get an official Apple cable and charger is around $50.
Buying a decent MicroUSB cable capable of charging and syncing any Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone? About $5, or at least usually less than a dollar a foot.
In part it was this kind of situation that the EU was hoping to avoid back in 2010 when they started working towards a universal device connector. Not just to halt the price gouging of every company coming up with proprietary connections, and the e-waste associated with one-off accessories, but also the health and safety issues associated with people trying to find deals. MicroUSB was eventually agreed upon, but Apple decided to continue with a proprietary dock connector. To appease the EU, Apple released a $20 Lightning connector to MicroUSB adapter, which will allow your iPhone to charge off of those aforementioned $5 cables. While within the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of developing a standard.
If you’re using a cheap “alternative” brand charger for your iDevices, I would highly recommend checking out Apples trade in offer. Saving a few bucks is hardly worth a fried iPhone.