Third-party chargers, Lightning cables reportedly damage iPhone power management IC

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2015
An iOS device repair company in the UK reports third-party charging accessories are causing damage to a critical power management component in Apple's iPhone 5, rendering the handset inoperable.


An iPhone 5 logic board with U2 power management IC circled in blue. | Source: mendmyi


After seeing a rash of iPhone 5 handsets come in with battery charging issues, repair firm mendmyi was able to isolate the problem to unofficial USB adapters and USB-to-Lightning cables, the company reported on its blog earlier this week.

The theory is third-party charging accessories do not properly regulate electrical current flowing into the handset, which either burns out or renders inoperable a power distribution IC labeled "U2." Located just beneath Apple's A6 SoC on the iPhone's logic board, the IC routes power to the battery and integrated charging controller, the sleep/wake button and controls certain USB functions.

Users affected by the issue may see iPhone battery levels remain at one percent while charging, unexpected shutdowns and partial or complete failure to power up when connected to a power source.

It is unclear if the problem is limited to the iPhone 5, but in theory cheap third-party products like USB adapters could potentially damage the sensitive circuitry of any iPhone model as they may not be built to acceptable tolerances and are thus unable to properly regulate voltage and current. As evidenced by Apple's recent recall of European market 5-watt power adapters, even the world's largest tech company runs into problems with manufacturing power regulating accessories.

Apple previously issued a warning to Chinese iPhone users last July asking that they use only official power adapters like those supplied with the device. The notice was issued after two people were electrocuted, one fatally, by iPhones connected to "counterfeit" adapters.

According to mendmyi, damaged U2 ICs can be replaced and the company charges 66 pounds, or roughly $112, for the service.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    Makes sense to me, my third-party iP5 charger from radio shack was worthless and my phone has all kinds of problems keeping a charge for a long time now.
  • Reply 2 of 70
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.

  • Reply 3 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.


    Exactly my thought. Most folks who have cars that require premium gasoline know better than putting in regular, this is the same issue.

  • Reply 4 of 70
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,341member
    External devices do not regulate or limit current. They can limit voltage. Current limiting is a function of the receiving device of a charging current.

    Unless, of course, the device is so poorly designed that it requires impedance-matched devices to work properly without damage. Hence, apple's warning about incompatible devices.
  • Reply 5 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.




    Guilty as charge and learned my lesson.

  • Reply 6 of 70
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post



    External devices do not regulate or limit current. They can limit voltage. Current limiting is a function of the receiving device of a charging current.

     

    Nope, chargers should limit current, just like any sort of CV/CC power supply does. Some non-Apple devices which charge at 1 A rely on this. They draw as much current as they can until the charger delivers ~4.6 V. I think the GoPro is an example. If you don't have current limiting, the charger will catch on fire if there's a short.

     

    You should also be able to rely on authorized MFi chargers, who are supposed to follow Apple's spec. It's the fake or no-name junk chargers that are a big question.

  • Reply 7 of 70
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,728member
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.




    Even worse... idiots complain that Apple's chargers are the same as the $3 chargers they buy from some seedy Chinese vendor on eBay (with free shipping!) and when it electrocutes/kills them, or fries their phone... who do they blame?? Not the crappy vendor, but Apple.



    "How dare Apple make their chargers so expensive, that I had no choice but to buy a $3 charger on eBay from some village in an eastern Chinese province?!"  Apple even offered to trade people's crappy chargers with a genuine Apple charger, even they the didn't have to do one single thing!



    There's a reason the chargers cost more.  You go cheap, you get what you pay for.

  • Reply 8 of 70
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.


    The problem is that iPhone (and other devices) are often used in situations where an Apple AC charger can't work or AC power isn't readily available.

     

    The most common place would be in motor vehicles, and Apple does not sell their own car charger. They are all third-party accessories.

     

    Sometimes USB is required for data or audio transfer (whether it be a hub, stereo amplifier, etc.) and an Apple AC charger cannot be used in place.

     

    Because of these multiple scenarios, Apple really needs to make the charging circuitry more flexible and robust within reasonable limits. It is simply unrealistic to expect every iPhone user to only use an Apple AC charger in every situation. There will always be a handful of terrible dirt-cheap chargers that will destroy devices, but one should be confident in using the device with a decent third-party accessory.

     

    I happen to stick with spendy Apple chargers and cables, but in vehicles, I rely on several third-party accessories because there is no Apple car charger.

     

    Perhaps Apple could write iOS to reject bad power sources when detected, however that won't result in a happier user experience even if it protects the hardware.

  • Reply 9 of 70
    rivertriprivertrip Posts: 123member

    Apple can't prevent self ingition in a poorly designed charger, but it can control what happens inside the iPhone. Charge regulation for lithium ion batteries always is handled by the devices that contain the batteries.

  • Reply 10 of 70

    If you need a car charger, don't go for the cheapest one. Get one that says "Made for iPhone", something licensed. Or get a charger with a USB port and use an Apple-made Lightning cable. That's what I do with my iPhone 4 at the moment...inelegant but it works. My old 30-pin 12V cable only works with the iDevices that supported charging with the FireWire pins.

  • Reply 11 of 70
    I used a Mophie Juice Pack Air and am convinced it caused the same issues described. I had the battery replaced by Apple a couple of days ago.
  • Reply 12 of 70
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     

    The most common place would be in motor vehicles, and Apple does not sell their own car charger. They are all third-party accessories.


     

    A 12 VDC-5 VDC converter (basically a voltage regulator) is much easier to design than one that runs on wall power and has less (but still some) safety concerns.

  • Reply 13 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The theory is third-party charging accessories do not properly regulate electrical current flowing into the handset, which either burns out or renders inoperable a power distribution IC labeled "U2." 

     

    U2 burns out? Maybe from the heavy recreational drug use? :smokey:

  • Reply 14 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.


     

    I do for wall chargers, but Apple doesn't make a USB charger adapter for 12V DC in vehicles. There are also times when you travel places that offer USB charge stations, like airports terminals. I guess at least carry your own genuine Apple Lightning cable.

  • Reply 15 of 70
    starbird73starbird73 Posts: 538member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    People buy a top of the line phone, then cheap out on the power brick? Come on. Stick with Apple.


     

    Not always a case of a cheap power brick...

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     

    The problem is that iPhone (and other devices) are often used in situations where an Apple AC charger can't work or AC power isn't readily available.

     

    The most common place would be in motor vehicles, and Apple does not sell their own car charger. They are all third-party accessories.

     

    Sometimes USB is required for data or audio transfer (whether it be a hub, stereo amplifier, etc.) and an Apple AC charger cannot be used in place.

     

    Because of these multiple scenarios, Apple really needs to make the charging circuitry more flexible and robust within reasonable limits. It is simply unrealistic to expect every iPhone user to only use an Apple AC charger in every situation. There will always be a handful of terrible dirt-cheap chargers that will destroy devices, but one should be confident in using the device with a decent third-party accessory.

     

    I happen to stick with spendy Apple chargers and cables, but in vehicles, I rely on several third-party accessories because there is no Apple car charger.

     

    Perhaps Apple could write iOS to reject bad power sources when detected, however that won't result in a happier user experience even if it protects the hardware.


     

    Exactly. And it isn't just something that you can choose.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     

    If you need a car charger, don't go for the cheapest one. Get one that says "Made for iPhone", something licensed. Or get a charger with a USB port and use an Apple-made Lightning cable. That's what I do with my iPhone 4 at the moment...inelegant but it works. My old 30-pin 12V cable only works with the iDevices that supported charging with the FireWire pins.


    I have always only used Apple cables on my iPhone 5. Only have. But my cars have a USB port built in. No real way around that. 

     

    And why is it not an issue for iPod touch users? They don't come with a power brick.

  • Reply 16 of 70
    ksecksec Posts: 1,567member
    Not wanting to spark a flame war, but do Android phone have the same problem? Because this issues with iPhone 5 is well known. Or it happens iPhone 5 power management IC is easier to burn out.
  • Reply 17 of 70
    ajbdtc826ajbdtc826 Posts: 190member
    Maybe charging $20 for a proprietary cable was a bad idea? I've bought $5 cables that work just as well but die after about a year. For the amount of I-things that I have, I simply can't justify buying that many adapters. Especially when inductive charging is being released this year. (Spoiler alert)

    Lemme save 90% of you some time and sa-y whoops, I forgot this is "appleinsider" where you get ignorantly flamed if you don't start with "all hail Apple". For the rest with a brain that provide real feedback from unbiased consumerism, I saved you the trouble and posted what you were thinking.
  • Reply 18 of 70

    Somebody thinks the universe of their own opinion.

  • Reply 19 of 70
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by starbird73 View Post

     

    And why is it not an issue for iPod touch users? They don't come with a power brick.


    Yes, the iPod touch's immunity to this problem is rather odd, isn't it?

     

    Also, Apple changed the power management IC in the 5s. Perhaps they realized that the iPhone 5 part wasn't that good.

     

    I own a iPhone 5s and previously a 4S. It appears that the second iteration of every iPhone generation (basically the "S" model) has better/more reliable internals. We have seen this with CPUs (SoCs), camera modules, antenna design, and now power management ICs.

     

    Curious.

  • Reply 20 of 70
    "starbird73"

    . But my cars have a USB port built in. No real way around that. 
    [/quote]
    I've used Apple licensed car chargers since they came out in several cars for lots of hours and miles and never had a problem. Some "save $ sites' offer cheaper and have a few buds who bought there and had bad times. Pay your money or take your chances.
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