Authentication chips discovered in teardown of Apple's new Lightning connector

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A user has torn apart Apple's new Lightning cable and shared details on the iPhone 5 connector with AppleInsider, including a warning as to why customers should not buy third-party Lightning connectors for the time being.

Lightning


Peter from Double Helix Cables took apart the Lightning connector and found inside what appear to be authentication chips. He found a chip located between the V+ contact of the USB and the power pin on the new Lightning plug.

The presumed inclusion of authentication chips in Lightning connectors plays a part in the higher cost of the new cables. Earlier Friday, AppleInsider shared details from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who said the new Lightning connector has a cost of $3.50, which is a 775 percent increase compared to the legacy 30-pin dock connector.

While the Lightning cable reportedly costs Apple $3.50 to make, some third-party resellers on sites like Alibaba.com are already offering Lightning connectors at much cheaper prices. Given the apparent use of authentication chips and Apple's cost in making the cables, Peter cautioned that customers should avoid third-party Lightning connectors for the time being.

"There is basically no way those are functional cables," he told AppleInsider in an e-mail on Friday. "You can't just build a Lightning cable by making something with the same shape and connectivity, and my teardown proves that. The chip has to be there, and it is directly in the signal path of the V+ wire."

Lightning


He also said that users will not be able to build without their own Lightning cables, "at least not without a precise dissection of an Apple-branded Lightning cable." He characterized the connector as "very fragile" once the metal protective shield has been removed, though it is "extremely tough" when the cable is intact.

Peter did manage to customize his own Lightning cable by shortening it, adding sleeving, and putting his own custom USB plug and logo branding heatshrink, something he said he did "just for fun." Below, he's shared what is the first-ever "custom" Lightning cable:

Lightning


For more, check out the custom cables available at Double Helix Cables.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73


    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    Lightning


     


    New, from Monster, the DX500304 Apple Lighting Cable, 5": $129.99*!


     


    *10" DX500305 available in November for $159.99


     


    EDIT: Oh, gosh, I was joking. The guy's actually selling this for $80… 

  • Reply 2 of 73
    Will Lightning eventually work with Thunderbolt or USB3?

    Do I need it? No. Do I want it? Yes. Do I know why? Kinda.
  • Reply 3 of 73
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,664member
    A simple charging adapter shouldn't need a chip.

    My guess is lightning is "Thunderbolt Lite" and the chip is a converter.
  • Reply 4 of 73


    It's great to see Apple integrating technologies that help protect consumers from the risks of using unauthorised accessories with their valuable iDevices. I'm very excited by the vast potential of lightning.

  • Reply 5 of 73

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    New, from Monster, the DX500304 Apple Lighting Cable, 5": $129.99*!


     


    *10" DX500305 available in November for $159.99


     


    EDIT: Oh, gosh, I was joking. The guy's actually selling this for $80… 





    That's because it has a chip in it and you have to pay Apple to build a power cable now.

  • Reply 6 of 73


    Originally Posted by realwarder View Post

    That's because it has a chip in it and you have to pay Apple to build a power cable now.


     


    Wow, you people actually believe these lies, don't you?

  • Reply 7 of 73

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    Wow, you people actually believe these lies, don't you?



     


    I guess so when AI publishes them :)  Perhaps the article is incorrect?

  • Reply 8 of 73


    Originally Posted by realwarder View Post

    I guess so when AI publishes them :)  Perhaps the article is incorrect?




    Yes, that's certainly the part to which I was referring. Keep it up. image

  • Reply 9 of 73

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by elliots11 View Post



    Will Lightning eventually work with Thunderbolt or USB3?

    Do I need it? No. Do I want it? Yes. Do I know why? Kinda.


    I like the conversation you're having with yourself and your conclusion! Funny! :)

  • Reply 10 of 73
    The cheap cables do have a functional purpose! They allow you to charge your device. They donot transfer data so you cannot sync or connect to your car stereo.

    But they do let you recharge your iphone using your PC at your desk at work without spending big money.
  • Reply 11 of 73


    To me, on the face of it, the Lightening cable is a great improvement over the 30 pin connector which was larger, could only be put in one way, etc. If the chip in the cable is designed to stop third party crap being made, so  be it. All you have to do is walk around Best Buy and most of what they sell is cheap, plasticky, crap products!


     


    I will only buy Apple electronics and SW. I don't begrudge Apple for making money. It means I will enjoy superior SW and Hardware from Apple.

  • Reply 12 of 73


    No, you won't be able to charge your iPhone with the fake cables.  The whole point of the teardown I did was to show that the chip is in the path of the V+ (main power wire) of the USB.  The chip is in the way of the signal, there's no direct connection.  I'm guessing the iPhone5 won't charge unless it is in communication with that chip.  People will have to buy the 3rd party cables (and I'm talking about 3rd party cables that come straight from Alibaba, bought en masse and resold at a profit on amazon, and so on - not brands like Griffin or Monster that are going to pay up to get apple certified) to find out for sure whether these cables are paperweights or not.

  • Reply 13 of 73


    A chip in the voltage path could also be a simple voltage regulator and/or overvoltage/static protection.


     


    I'll ignore the "part cost $3.50 therefore the cable costs $3.50 to make" fallacy as that's a long lost battle. Yes, folks, the $3.50 cost of the part is the TOTAL cost. The other parts (wire, insulation, mystery chip) fall for free from the sky, and get assembled together by magic elves in the Everfree Forest and delivered to your local Apple store by pastel colored ponies.


     


    Is there a part number visible?

  • Reply 14 of 73
    What makes anyone think these are "Authentication chips" ?

    Lightning is a new interface, not USB. It's much more likely these chips adapt Lightning to USB. We'll know more when people get specs on the protocol, whether that be from Apple or by reverse-engineering it themselves.

    (The same incorrect rumor spread everywhere when people took apart the first Thunderbolt cables, which also have chips. Turns out the chips, you know, do something other than authenticate themselves as from Apple.)
  • Reply 15 of 73
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Wow! $3.50 to make, and they charge $19.00 for it. That's an 80% profit. And they include one for FREE with every new iPhone! Sooooo generous, even if that's a stupid business practice (I have to BUY an HDMI cable with a new AV product without which I can't use it).

    So, based on this markup, the $29 dock connector adapter costs about $5.50 to make. Oh wait, Apple would never do that for such an important transitional device. There must be like a $15 chip in there to justify this price and prevent them from including one with the phone.

    As for the lack of availability ... I'm reminded of the original Macintosh launch, where the 128K Mac needed two floppy drives to be functional, but Apple did not have the $500 external floppy drive available until almost 5 months after the launch, by which time the frustration consumers felt (in part) caused sales of the revolutionary $2500 computer to stall ...
  • Reply 16 of 73


    Another thing to consider.  The grey market cables here:


     


    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Lightning-to-USB-Cable-for-iPhone-5-iPod-Touch-5th-iPod-Nano-7th-10000-pcs-per/641167126.html


     


    While they are suspiciously cheap, it's entirely possible that this is the factory Apple hired to make them (or they're sourcing them from the real factory), and that they're being sold under the table.  It is much more likely however, that they are just lookalikes that are non functional.

  • Reply 17 of 73
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    It's a shame AI is posting this wild ass guess work! The chip may or may not authenticate the connection but one thing I'm convinced of is that the chip has to work in conjunction with the ports ability to dynamically configure itself. That means the"I" device has to talk to the device connected to configure itself properly.

    The bigger shame hear is that Apple let's all of this crap get generated in the publics mind when they could easily just tell people what the ports capability and behavior is. They really are doing themselves and the user community a big disservice keeping the details of the port bottled up. We don't need an in depth explanation just reasonable details to clear up in the publics mind what the port is capable of.
  • Reply 18 of 73


    The chip does not look like any sort of garden variety voltage regulator that I've ever seen.  I'm not a chips expert though, so I don't know.  When I got down through the epoxy to it, it was very shiny, metallic silicon, highly polished.  The text was tiny but legible through my macro lens.  It reads 


     


    MX20P?


    HP8M5


    11D222


    B0


     


    That's my interpretation of my photo anyway.  


     


    It makes sense that the dock adapter costs more.  It has a DAC chip in it to provide analog audio output through the 30 pin connection.  

  • Reply 19 of 73
    Similar hysterics ensued over previous iOS cables "authentication chips," but the reality is that this is a multipurpose cable, so the devices on both ends have to agree on what signals to send for it to work.

    This is not the first cable with a chip in it, nor is it particularly expensive.
  • Reply 20 of 73
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,474member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post



    Wow! $3.50 to make, and they charge $19.00 for it. That's an 80% profit....


     


    That is a 543% profit....


     


    19.00 / 3.50 = 5.42857...

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