Your Fancy New iPhone 5 Power Cord Comes With A Mystery Chip Inside

Senior Contributor
09.25.12 17 Comments

Nerds being nerds, everything about the iPhone 5 has been torn apart like a frog in a biology class that suddenly goes horribly wrong and turns into a re-enactment of ancient torture methods. High school was rough, man.

Anyway, the point is, these prized devices have been ruthlessly dissected. Even the power cord was taken apart.

And it’s a good thing too, because one of these field-stripping nerds came across something incredibly weird inside the iPhone 5 power cord, tied to the new Lightning connector.

It’s a chip, and it’s not a cheap one either. Nobody knows why it’s there or what it does, but there are only a few things it could be doing, and none of them are that great.

There’s a strong possibility here, as Gizmodo points out, that it’s designed to keep Chinese companies from turning out knock-off Lightning cables:

Positioned between the cord’s USB contact and the power pin on the Lightning plug, the chip seems to be the key to keeping Lighting cables and adapters proprietary. These kind of authentication chips aren’t uncommon in more sophisticated accessories, but this is the first time one has shown up in something as basic as a charging cable, smack in the middle of the power line.

One thing that is clear is that this cord won’t work without this chip, so, intentionally or not, it is rendering most third-party peripherals useless.

I’ve ranted about Apple’s incredibly stupid and backwards arguments for keeping up a proprietary connector before, and frankly, this is a compelling reason, right here, for dumping the iPhone completely. I’m skeptical that Apple is just straight up trying to control the entire peripheral market, let alone that they’d do this without signposting it in detail. They’re evil, not stupid. But nonetheless, they’ve now got another PR mess on their hands.

No matter what it is, there’s no excuse for this. The Apple faithful are insisting that Lightning somehow fulfills a need that micro-USB can’t, mostly to do with data, which would make sense if this were 1995 and WiFi and Bluetooth were fantasy technologies. Which they aren’t, since we live in the twenty-first century.

It’s looking more and more like Apple is the only company living in the past. Hopefully the iPhone 6 caves to the inevitable, but until then, I might recommend getting a good Android.

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