Apple Still Has A Problem With Lightning Cables

The launch of the "iPhone 5S" and "iPhone 5C" is apparently imminent. It's extremely unlikely that Apple will shift away from its lightning cable connection method — and that's something of a problem.

When Apple launched the iPhone 5 and introduced the Lightning Connector, it did so with a great deal of fanfare, and not a small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who'd invested heavily in 30-pin cables and docks. That was just under a year ago, and since then Lightning has become a part of the iPad and iPod Touch range as well. It's fair to assume that Lightning will be part of Apple's iOS connection strategy on an ongoing basis for some time to come.

The arguments have already been had about whether or not Apple should have switched away from 30 pin, or to MicroUSB, and I don't care to rehash those per se.

So what's the problem? The problem is price and quality.

In those twelve months, I estimate that I've been through around half a dozen Lightning cables, largely because I've been reluctant to pay the frankly silly $25 that Apple charges locally for a cable. Sure, you get one in the box with each device, but that doesn't cover office or mobile charging.

The alternative over the past year has been to buy knock-off cables, and while the early models were only fractionally cheaper, it's now quite feasible to pick up a third party Lightning cable for only a dollar or two.

The problem there is that way too many third party Lightning cables suck. I've had cables arrive DOA. I've had cables that only work when plugged in one way, which removes one of Lightning's biggest attraction points. I had one cable that plugged in and worked, but when I removed it, the lightning connector itself tore free from the cable, instantly killing it. That was a major pain, given that the device I wanted to charge was very nearly flat at the time.

So cheap and cheerful is a bit of a route towards a low quality experience — but the gulf is massive. When Apple launched Lightning cables, they sold for $25.

Today, they sell for $25. It's rather telling that you can get a 50cm Lightning cable for $25, or a 1m Lightning cable for the exact same $25. That's the sign of a healthy profit margin, right there.

I really don't get why Apple has priced Lightning this way for an entire year. Yes, when they're brand new you can recoup some of the R&D costs in higher priced cables, but now Lightning sits across the entire iOS ecosystem. Lightning is very much Apple's own baby, and it's not as though buying a Lightning cable is going to enable you to rush out and plug it into a Galaxy S4 or Lumia 925.

Buying a Lightning cable is an implicit buy into Apple's ecosystem. Buying a Lightning cable states that you're interested in staying within Apple's ecosystem. It's essentially saying that you're interested in giving Apple money for a wide range of products and services — so why slug the user upfront for the cost of the cable?

Yes, Apple's own Lightning cables are better made than the knockoff versions. But when I can buy up to a dozen of the knockoffs for the price of a single official cable, there's an incredibly strong incentive to do so, or to look at other alternatives that use less costly cables. Neither scenario is ideal for Apple; in the former I get annoyed because the cheap cables break, and in the latter, I look into Android, Windows Phone 8, Firefox or Blackberry.

It's probably wildly optimistic to hope that if there is a launch of a "cheaper" iPhone in September that we'll also see a drop in Lightning cable prices, isn't it?


Comments

    so why slug the user upfront for the cost of the cable?
    Cause if you are looking to buy a Lightning cable they own you!
    You chose to buy into the ecosystem, you choose to accept their pricing!

      It kind of seems like a stupid way to piss off your customer-base though. They either begrudgingly suck-it-up, or they turn to 3rd-party cables and then have a bad experience. It's not like Apple aren't already getting a significant profit-margin on the device itself.

      For those that are interested, I bought a ribbon-cable lightning cable off eBay that seems to be much better quality than those I've had before. They're all different fluro colours. I'm too lazy to look it up but it should be easy to find.

        People aren't going to dump their $700 Apple products (and other investments in the ecosystem over a $25 cable and they know it.

        I said at the time the Lightning adapter was announced that it was a chink in the wall that people could escape through cause all their old hardware would be useless, they'd only be losing their investment in apps rather than both hardware and apps.

          People ARE dumping their iPhones for Android phones though. Not their iPhone 5's but it's a 2 year cycle. So many people are abandoning iPhone 4 for Android phones. There are many factors that lead to churn, but why add to them at all when it's such a ridiculous profit-grab? Apple should be focused on an uncompromising user experience, and part of their current problem lies with cables and peripherals because of lightning.

          PS - I've gone iPhohe to Android and now back to iPhone so I'm not a fan-boy either way. Just being realistic.

        Piss off iDevice owners... oh, Apple knows no bounds.

        I don't know if it is just me but as of today, my 3rd party lightning cables are no longer working. I can't charge, I cannot sync. I just get a message on my iPhone 5, "This cable or accessory is not certified..." and other pops up on top of that one, "This accessory may not be supported" - that one is new.

        Although, I think this might have something to do with my phone being at 99% charge. Still, very annoying!

      I was ticked too and don't hear many mentions of MacBook Air, that charger is a totally different beast! Is there an adapter for that? That being said, so far so good! iPad Air super long life and MacBook charges in no time! Could last longer though. All technology is like this... Records, tapes, to cd's. Ton of new equipment back then! VCR, DVD, Blue rays!! Way more $$ with previously mentioned but also great upgrades. If they come up with adapters for MacBook Air and iPhone/iPad Air they get an A++. I don't mind paying for something as long as I get an upgrade I guess. I'm happy I guess... I just never have a DAMN charger!! Being able to get Adobe, Microsoft office, work Remote Desktop, That was the nightmare!! Apple died with Jobs, I don't know if we ever would have access to the fore mentioned absolute necessities?? Most of my old chargers don't work very well anymore anyway and it's been a while. My last Ipad was number 1, still in mint with 2-11 yr olds destroying it?, Air could be more durable! More scratches already than iPad 1! For all the upgrades $25 for a charger is ok. Just sucks for the sound systems people bought... Have to go blue tooth!! And remember to bring the other damn chargers!

      I am pissed off to the point that I will not buy any Apple I pads or phones till they change the cords to something better when I go for my upgrade I will be going back to Samsung . I have 4 iPhone and 2 iPads in my house ( wife and kids ) all the apple cords went this is crap phones where 4 months old and one by one all the cords went ! Now my phone is a year old and I am on cord number 3 at 25 each no more Apple phone or pads in my house ! They screwed up on this so back to Samsung !

    Phone worth over $700, and your complaining about $25. Maybe I should complain about wasting my time reading such a stupid article?

      Sure, you can complain. Here, have the money back I charged you for the article.

      Oh. Yeah. That.

        BURRRRRRNNN!!!

        Your reply didnt actually make sense. It was a cheap retort, nothin more. Garth is spending Time reading your 'article' (more like a rant) not Money. Judging by the rest of the the responses to your article, and your replies, you'll forever be in the market for 99c cables - as no doubt you'll soon be without a job.

        Congratulations you just won +10 internet

      *you're

      Quite. It's a $25 item for crying out loud! Who are you? Scrooge?!?

      Look when I spend $700 for a apple phone I don't need to spend $25 more for a charger cord that only last 4 to 6 months . That crap! If Apple is not changing this cord back to Samsung

    meh.....i thought this article was about an actual problem.

      And considering how much Apple's earning from these cables, I'm pretty sure they don't see any problems either

    So you're complaining about third party cables? Ones that apple have no control over, and have actively tried to stamp out (see their "recall"/swap scheme for third party chargers)?

    If you get "dozens" of cheap, crappy cables for the same price, don't complain when they last a twelfth of the time.

      Indeed. How is the crappiness of 3rd party cables Apple's problem? How much incl. postage did your half-dozen broken cables cost? Just like console controllers, sometimes it's worth buying 1st party gear...

    Alex this is the stupidest thing Ive read in awhile. Your complaint is you're to cheap to buy the proper cable & your knock off are crap ergo it's apples fault that you are a cheap bastard ? Seriously ? Are you a troll or a retard either way congrats this has to be a new low in the crappy standard that gizmodo has become. bravo sir. you suck

      Thankyou for your constructive feedback. I shall treasure it for everything it's worth.

      The point I'm making -- that you're all ignoring -- is that Apple is making itself a problem via the gulf in cable pricing -- and it's a problem that makes alternate platforms more attractive. Arguably, that's the last thing Apple should be doing right now.

      But go on, heap on abuse, why not. I'm sure it make somebody feel big, or important, or tingly "down there" or something.

        The same argument can be made with micro usb cables.... if you order a bunch of cheap ones off of ebay and they don't work, you aren't going to get annoyed at HTC or Samsung.

        I get that Androids are more universal but if you're a user with no existing cables you'd still need to go out and buy them.

        Your argument really does boil down to the knock offs not working as intended because if they did, you'd be satisfied with your $1 cables :)

          No, that's not the point I'm making at all. The thing with microUSB cables is that they're universally inexpensive; there's little gulf in the pricing there and you can take them to and from devices without penalty. That's attractive for a phone buyer.

          Apple's got its own lock-in on both Lightning cables and... ah, why am I bothering... Read the damn article!

            You say that as if everyone has a plethora of micro usb cables laying around being unused... or that the official micro usb store in Australia sells cables at a reasonable rate.

            I'm not trying to give you shtick but if the knock off lightning cables worked as advertised would you be annoyed?

            I was in exactly this predicament for the past couple of months... I weened off of an iphone 5 onto a HTC one and even though in reality I had a couple more micro usb cables, the snug fit/multi directional fit/quick charging time of the iphone was much better than the pro of just having a universal cable.

            ergo: I get what you're saying.... life would be easier if it was universal... but hey lightning works, and it works well... if only the knock offs worked for you then all would be said and done :)

              Too much reading into my annoyance. The cheap cables suck -- and this i know, and acknowledge. But it's not as though Apple operates in a smartphone vacuum, and quite why they've chosen a "the market will bear it" pricing strategy baffles me. It can't be helping to actually sell phones.

                I complained (further up) about this article to begin with also but now I get your point. So the grievance is the profit margin that apple make on the official apple product lightning cables....when you read the article it just sounds more like the grievance is regarding how cheap cables are cheap and nasty.

                But yes I do agree with you that the pricing of the cable is probably above where it "could" be....but then again, what company that is run for profit prices an item they have a guaranteed load of buyers for at a price that it "could" or "should" be?

                  Don't you know this is the internet - you aren't allowed to change your opinion or agree with anyone! Thumbs up for coming back to offer constructive input.

                  Its basically saying Apple is gouging customers for a proprietary cable they forced into use because they are jerks. Which is pretty apt. If there are only going to officially be 1st party cables then the prices should come down to a reasonable level over time because not doing so is just a dick move to grab at even more money.

                I don't think they'll have a hard time selling their phones, I mean even you use one...

                The article title is also misleading, apple don't have a problem with lightning cables do they? It should read "Alex still has a problem with lightning cables".

                  proved you were wrong. Iphone is now 12% world wide and 40% in the U.S. steep decline in ownership.

            I'm with you Alex.

            I think the point that most are missing (and you are trying to get across), is if you buy an Apple product and want a charge or sync cable, at home, work, or even one for upstairs and down stairs at home (in a split level), you need to buy another cable, and that means an ass hurtingly bad $25 every time if you go genuine. I doubt that most people will cart their one sacred cable around with them to and from work.

            I admit I have multiple android phones, and I am a fan. But I see Alex's point in spending a large mass of money in 30-pin tech to throw it all out now, because Apple want more sales for Peripherals or licensing for tech. I think Apple should have atleast lowered the price by now on the cables.

              I'd say it's more about technology moving on as opposed to screwing customers over.
              The connector has to change at some stage, the original iphone came out in 2007 and there's been ONE cable change in that time... I'd say that's pretty acceptable.

              They've moved ipads onto lightning as well so it's not like they're doing some jerk tactic with different cables for different products, it's a universal change.

              I'm starting to sound like a fanboy when trust me I'm not.... I just think people like to point the finger at apple because they're apple. If this was Canon/Nikon/Nokia or Samsung I doubt this would be an issue.

                I suppose you are right, I have only had Apple product (the 3GS), so I wasn't sure how long the connector has been used. I still guess Apple can cut some slack and lower the prices of the cables.

                I guess it still isn't as bad as how I view Intel with its constant socket changes. I had a motherboard die just over a year, and I couldn't get a replacement because Intel had changed CPU form factors.

                  Yeah it's kind of the vibe I keep going for... this sort of stuff happens all over the place but as soon as apple or microsoft (xbox one specifically) does it everyone jumps on the hate train (not you specifically... but look at the comments haha).

                  On the upside with your intel issues there's some sweet new haswell chips out now... looking at a small upgrade myself :)
                  (doesn't help you now... but that's how I justify upgrades sometimes... or ebay second hand parts haha)

                Actually, the 30-pin dock connector has been around since 2003:
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Dock_Connector#iPod_dock_connector

                so... yeah I reckon changing it wasn't the worst idea. I just wish they'd gone with microUSB because that is the standard. Hell, Apple could still have sold expensive cables (with MHL) if they wanted to, but for whatever reasons (probably a few different ones) they went with Lightning ... which uses USB, instead of Thunderbolt! Seriously, Apple?? The EU requires Apple to include microUSB as a charging standard and they're STILL persisting with Lightning.

                This non-adherence to standards is the real problem. We'll see just how much it matters as time goes on.

                I agree with you and think that people who whinge about the change in cable are delirious, I mean how many times did nokia change their connectors, first the fat one then the skinny one and then the usb and then the micro usb. Apple have done pretty ok, I think the issue is that the new cords are SO expensive (comparatively) and that there's a gap between official, well working apple cables and then just rubbish piece of crap cables, there's no middle, hey it might stuff up once in a while but it's more functional than not and doesn't cost more than a meal.

                  Thankyou person-guest haha.

                  Also, there's no reason lightning won't be around for 5+ years.... so I've always said from the beginning to give apple a chance. If they magically change their cable in 2-3 years then that's kind of annoying but if they get 5+ years out of it people can hardly complain about that.

            Sorry, but that's just not true. Samsung sells its official microUSB cable for $20:
            http://www.samsung.com/au/consumer/mobile-phone/mobile-phone/accessories/APCBU10BBECSTD?subsubtype=other-multimedia

            Whereas you can get cheap microUSB cables for maybe $2. The price disparity is comparable,

            The reason this is not a problem is, as others have said, that you don't stop using an iPhone because the Yum-Cha cable you got stops working. You either roll the dice again or grab an official cable from JB in your lunch hour.

        Ok ok ill give you some abuse. You mother was not a very good player of tennis. Did that work?

          You unconscionable swine! I shall see you at dawn, pistols drawn!

            Which is impressive given that our mother could not give a damn about her tennis skills or anyone else's perception of them.

              So you're not willing to act as my second, then?

                Oh, I'll be the second. I will equip myself with many cigar cases.

        My problem with the lightning cable isn't the price. It's that it is so poorly made! Yes, third party cables suck, but the $25 Apple cables also suck! And yes, Apple will replace them for me each time they go kaput, but it's just annoying to have a cable that is so unreliable. I've had my iPhone 5 for less than 18 months and am on my 3rd cable. In frustration I bought a fake, to get me through because the Apple store is a long drive away. But that hardly works. I ONLY went to the cheap fake because the real thing is so bad.

    If you still can't realize it: It's a huge glowing sign of DISRESPECT to customers.
    I'll be laughing loud again if this time Apple replace lightning connecter with some new one, and every lemming will be forced to buy new cables and adapters again.

      Yes. Coz changing your cable once since 2007 (maybe earlier with some iPods?) is disrespecting your customer.

      Take a look at your phone. Now go do a search of how many different cables in the last 5 years that manufacturer has changed theirs. You deserve to be disrespected.

        MiniUSB, then microUSB. Both standards used by a dozen different products I might have owned at any given time from webcams to MP3 players and phones.

    Apple also charge $25 for the old ipod style cable and that's been around forever.

    Lets face it, the real reason the author is annoyed is because the dodgy cables he's getting his hands on aren't doing their job.... that's hardly apples fault.

      Apple also charge $25 for the old ipod style cable and that's been around forever.

      doesn't make it right

        Of course not, I'm just saying that it's nothing new.

        It's nothing personal. It's just business. As they say.

        A seller will always sell at the highest price a consumer will buy. High school economics. No company is really out there to make you feel good, only think it. Every business is there to make money. As much as they can.

          How dare you comment on here with your rational thinking.... this is the internet dammit :)

      I was going to say the same thing. It's not ideal, but it is hardly new. The complaint seems to weigh heavily on the third party cables sucking...if they worked then it'd be almost irrelevant what Apple charged. Crap third party cables isn't really Apples issue and I can't imagine more than the smallest number of people are basing any buying decisions on the cost of the cable.

      If anything the fact that 90% of the docks in stores still use 30 pin style connectors is a much larger issue.

    Micro usb cables are actually also shit. They are universal true, but in my experience the little tabs that hold them it always get less and less effective to the point where I'm ninja balancing the cable and phone to charge it.

      I wonder if this is really a universal problem though? I mean I've used all sorts of micro-USB cables from all sorts of different places and I can't remember ever even having one of them fail. Certainly have never seen, nor heard, of your stated problem before.

        Order some off of ebay and you'll see them fail.
        It's hit and miss on where you get them... surprisingly just like lightning cables.

        If you buy a belkin cable of any kind I guarantee you it will work (well... belkin will).
        If you buy a cable from ebay/chinatown markets then you're rolling the dice.

          Fair enough, although you can still get 'em cheap as from many places that aren't eBay. Not to mention they come with so many things I've hardly ever needed to actually buy one individually :P

            Yeah I mainly find this with portable hdd's. When you use quality cables (i.e. the ones that come with the drive or some other genuine product) they work fine. When you shove some generic cable in there they have trouble connecting to some devices/usb ports.

          I got all my MicroUSB from Ebay and have only ever had one fail (actually it works but seems to be sized a little wrong so it fall out easily). Cost $1 not $25.

          Why Apple don't think it's a problem? Because people don't think about the cables, docks etc until after they have purchased the iPhone/iPad.

          Cars are still getting bigger (a LOT of SUVs), but folks complain about the petrol after, same mentality I guess.

    If you want Apple you're going to have to pay for it. Apple have a VERY tight grip on prices across the board, because if you have an Apple device there as sure as hell going to make as much money out of you as they can. In the end, you knew what you were getting into buying an iPhone, even if everyone complains Apple won't care as long as sheeple keep paying.

    Doesn't it tell your all you need to know about apple?!? Don't buy their devices, a dwindling market share is the only way they will change their ways.
    It's a sad state of affairs when a company can differentiate itself by charging a higher price for something, and its consumers blindly defend their actions.
    'oh you're just too cheap to buy a genuine charger' NO you're a dumbass for paying $25 for a $2 cable. If Apple had any respect for their customer base they would have gone with microUSB. THE SPIKEY SIDE FACES DOWN, ITS NOT THAT HARD!

      And you really believe that any company out there that can get away with selling a cable for $25 won't out of the goodness of their hearts? It's not Apple, it's business. There's no such thing as a moral profit margin. Well, none that any company believes in.

    I think he is implying that it is Apple's fault. If the cables were reasonably priced he wouldn't have to source them elsewhere and Apple is crazy to do it because they can lose customers who have already invested heavily to enter the Apple ecosystem and rewards that investment with ridiculous pricing on products that should cost a lot less than what they charge. I agree with Alex.

      I doubt apple are losing existing customers over a $25 cable.

      It's mainly just a case of everyone having ipod cables stacked up over the years and now that the connector has changed noone has extra lightning cables handy.

      Fast forward 2+ years and this will have had more time for people to own newer ipad/iphone/ipod devices which all use lightning and people will magically have them lying around.

    @alexkidman, in respect of this article, you're seriously an idiot.

    Samsung official USB-MicroUSB cable - $19.95
    http://www.samsung.com/au/consumer/mobile-phone/mobile-phone/accessories/APCBU10BBECSTD?subsubtype=other-multimedia

    HTC official USB-MicroUSB cable - $19.95
    https://www.htcaccessories.com.au/DC_M400.aspx

    If anything, these companies are the ones ripping people off because the MicroUSB design doesn't include any of the niftyness of the Apple lightning cable for almost the same price - ie direction independent insertion and the magnetic latching system which ensures minimal wear and tear on the port.

    Maybe if I raise the Coalition NBN vs Labour NBN as an analogy you will understand why you don't have a point here?

      Hahahaha............the thing is people with Android devices have a lot more choice. My e-reader, phone, camera and GPS unit all use Micro-USB. Have never bought one. Name another device other than the iPad or iPhone that use Lightning?

      You sir, are the idiot.

        You either didn't understand what you replied to or you think it's ok for Samsung and HTC to charge $20 for a cable but not apple coz you don't have to buy one.

        You idiot, are the idiot.

        If you had purchased a number of recent Apple products then you would be in the exact same boat with the lightning connector.

        Alex was specifically complaining about how big the price gap is between knock off and official Apple Lightning cables, and how because he doesn't feel inclined to shell out the full price of the official product, he is having to deal with crap quality knock offs.

        The cheap MicroUSB cable are also garbage. The official MicroUSB cables from the corresponding phone manufacturer are in the exact same pricing bracket as an official Lightning cable, but without the innovative design it brings.

        So your options (Lightning or not): Buy a $25 cable, buy a $5 cable or buy a $2.50 cable.

        SHOCKING TWIST AHEAD, DON'T READ ON IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE SHOCKING SHOCK THAT IS ABOUT TO SHOCK YOU... LAST WARNING: you may find that the $5 cable only lasts 1/5th as long as the $25 cable, and the $2.50 cable may only last 1/10th as long. DAMN SON ALERT THE MEDIA

    i love how you can plug them in upside-down! that feature alone is priceless! and i like how they are white. Most micro-usb cables are black and are hard to find in the dark. Plus they do get a lot of use. I am always charging my phone at every opportunity.

    Last edited 28/08/13 3:00 pm

    Alex, I'm sorry, but you're buying into a closed ecosystem that was designed to lock you into their products and pay the premiums for their services/products. You knew this from the start you were buying into a closed ecosystem, that is how Apple has operated for YEARS.

    I don't think this article really needed to exist. Please in future, if you're buying into a locked ecosystem, be prepared for it.

    Lets hope the announcements on 10 Sept also include some reduced pricing on lighting and thunderbolt cables. The whole issue of people being electrocuted by iPhones would not be an issue if Apple made cables and charges cheap enough that you didn't have to use 3rd party ones.

    Okay, I hate to break in with a constructive suggestion (no really) but here's something that would be helpful to Alex and to others (including me): let us know if you you have a bought a 3rd party lightning cable which didn't suck, and name the retailer. If we can identify good retailers, the problem will be solved.

    (never bought a lightning cable from a 3rd party retailer, but I have bought a bunch of 30 pin cables without problems: are lightning cables harder to make or something?)

      what the hell is this? who the hell do you think you are? DO NOT offer a constructive comment with a suggestion that is both sensible and reasonable! Shame shame shame! More abuse, less sense!

      (meanwhile, yes, any good 3rd party options that are cheaper than the official product???)

    "Yes, Apple’s own Lightning cables are better made than the knockoff versions."

    I disagree. The genuine cables that came with my iPhones and iPads have been at very best on-par with cheap knock offs. A few of my cheap knock off cables I got at the same time as the genuine ones are actually still going strong whilst the genuine cables all failed within 2 months.

    My solution was to Instead of buying multiple expensive cables from Apple was to instead purchase the equally overpriced, Apple Lightning to USB adapter (by the way which I understand Apple is compelled to supply with every iPhone sold in the EU).

    The upside of doing this is that I can have any number of spare cables in various lengths at multiple locations, but most importantly these cables are not that stupid dirt (and thief) attracting look-at-me Apple white.

    Last edited 28/08/13 3:39 pm

    I heard the workers in the 3rd party lightning cable factories have stopped working due not wanting to be associated with the poor quality of the product. They're calling it 'the lightning dispute'.

    Last edited 28/08/13 4:29 pm

    I read somewhere that micro USB cables can carry 9 Watts but the lightening can carry 12 Watts.

    http://techpinions.com/why-apple-couldnt-go-to-micro-usb-charging/10212

      The author of that article was looking at the wrong specification. USB has a separate spec for charging ports, and specifically CDPs (charging downstream ports). The CDP specification allows devices to pull up to 5A of current at 5V, or 25W. The firmware also intelligently controls voltage if the device tries to pull more current than available.

    Make sure to let us know when you change to a phone that accepts micro-usb, Alex.

    i read that lightning cables are terrible dinner guests and even worse hosts.

    Have an iPhone 5 (work supplied). It came with a cable that stays in the car. It charges my phone when I want it charged. My wife has an iPad with the same type of cable. It stays in the house, it charges both the ipad and the phone as required. What's the problem again?? Or is it just another chance at Apple bashing? Get a life people...scheeech. They are just tools to do a job.

    Knockoff lightning cables might be rubbish, but the knockoff adapters work just fine. $1 off eBay.

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