Flawed 3rd-party chargers reportedly culprit in Apple's China iPhone 6 investigation

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2016
Sources close to the investigation on Chinese iPhone 6 models failing with what appears to be a charged battery have told AppleInsider that the main cause of the problems appear to be not related to Apple engineering, but is directly related to the proliferation of low-quality third-party charging peripherals in the country.




According to a preliminary investigation relayed to AppleInsider, poor quality generic charging peripherals, particularly AC to DC converters, are damaging the phone's charge regulating circuitry over time. As a result of the damage, the battery is also not reporting the battery's charge status to the iOS correctly.

AppleInsider was told that "exactly 100 percent" of the phones that have been examined so far manifesting the problem were charged most of the time with non-Apple chargers. AC to DC charging adapters labeled like official Apple adapters can be purchased for as little as $0.50 from disreputable vendors in the country, and cabling is even cheaper.

As a result of the damage seemingly induced by the third-party gear, users are seeing erroneously high charge percentages, leading to the faulty conclusion that the phone is shutting off before being fully depleted. In actuality, the phone is shutting off from a lack of power as the battery is, in fact, drained.

Affected iPhones are powering down with 50 to 60 percent remaining on their battery, the China Consumers Association (CCA) said in a statement on Tuesday. The CCA claims that that "rather many" people have submitted reports of the flaw, all with the same manifestation.

The phones are failing when the battery is completely drained, which is also preventing the battery from charging. In most cases, the investigators are finding that a battery replacement only fixes the problem temporarily, as the charging circuitry is still damaged.

The only long-term fix for an iPhone 6 that has been damaged by low-quality charging peripherals is a motherboard replacement, or a third-party integrated charging circuit replacement.

The most recent reports from China are not the only problems that have been reported with poor-quality charging gear. Google Pixel team member Benson Leung has been reviewing USB-C cables on Amazon, and has discovered some problematic offerings that could potentially lead to damage of connected gear.

Additionally, engineer Ken Shirriff has examined the Apple iPhone charger in detail, and found a number of features engineered into the adapter not found in sub-par alternatives to protect connected devices from damage.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,162member
    Yep. We already knew this instinctively. Apple should modify their warranty to say use of an unapproved third party charger voids the warranty. Walk into any Walgreens and you’ll see a big pile of multi-colored, Chiclet style chargers and cables for $1.99 at the check out counter.
    edited November 2016 mike1Deelronstevehronnmagman1979viclauyycpscooter63watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 24
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    As predicted...

    Those chargers are horrible and could destroy your phone, why the fuck would people even chance those!
    mike1ronnmagman1979pscooter63watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 24
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,899member
    I read this a couple of years ago the last time knock-off chargers caused problems. This is about iPad chargers, bt if I remember correctly there was also a teardown of the 'cube' iPhone charger. http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pricey.html?m=1
  • Reply 4 of 24
    FatmanFatman Posts: 300member
    Chinese love their cheap knockoffs - the country is filled with counterfeit garbage. I'm sure their corrupt government will force Apple to repair those phones at no cost.
    ronnSpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 24
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,969member
    Nothing new here. I have experienced such unusual behavior not only with iPhone but other phones and tablets. One of my look alike cheap charger will charge iphone SE to 48% and soon as switched to Apple's OEM one, all good. I remember my iphone 4 got screwed using someone's usb charger.
  • Reply 6 of 24
    rwesrwes Posts: 169member
    Every time a friend says to me, "Why would I pay apple $20 for a charger when I can pick it up on Amazon for $5 and it does the same thing?", I literally cringe. Same thing with lightning cables.

    And then I try to educate them (http://www.righto.com/2012/10/a-dozen-usb-chargers-in-lab-apple-is.html?m=1) and then I just leave it alone. And then, they complain about how their battery doesn't hold a charge any more and how it's Apples fault (and yes, is some cases, it very well maybe).
    stevehmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 24
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,599member
    lkrupp said:
    Yep. We already knew this instinctively. Apple should modify their warranty to say use of an unapproved third party charger voids the warranty. Walk into any Walgreens and you’ll see a big pile of multi-colored, Chiclet style chargers and cables for $1.99 at the check out counter.

    US law does not allow this, the only way to void a warranty, Apple would have to prove the third party device is the actual cause of the failure which is not all that easy. It is like the car companies tell you putting third party brake pads or gasoline or oil voids the warranty of the car, legally they are not allowed. In this case it is most likely not the actual charger but the cable and the chip in the cable. I use all kinds third party charges without an issue, the only time I have seen an issue is with third part cables. Amaizon sells their own branded cable and I have never seen any issue with them but they are certified. But other cheap cable have all kinds of issues like not fully charging the phone.

    A device which is dumb like a charger which just provide powers should not be the issue, there is more to this than the power source.

    edited November 2016 mike1skew
  • Reply 8 of 24
    stompystompy Posts: 336member
    maestro64 said:

    A device which is dumb like a charger which just provide powers should not be the issue, there is more to this than the power source.

    I think you're on to something, if people would just use knockoff iPhones with knockoff adapters, the complete package would be flawless. After all, "The problem is the fake products today are of better quality and better price than the real ones." Jack Ma, Alibaba investor day.
    </s>

    For non-sarcastic explanation of why I'm jumping on the phrase "device which is dumb like a charger", see the well researched article that  Mike1 linked above: http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pricey.html?m=1

    Do good 3rd party adapters exist? Yes. Do bad ones exist? Yes.
    edited November 2016 Deelronronnmike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    This came on the heels of exploding batteries in Samsung's Note 7, followed by that company's insistence that phones it sold in China were not affected. The Chinese consumer protection agency specifically asked Apple to investigate the batteries of problem iPhone 6 units, to make certain they are functioning properly. Apple was not given other official orders, however -- i.e., no claim was made that Apple was selling flawed iPhones that it refused to fix or replace.
    edited November 2016
  • Reply 10 of 24
    stevehsteveh Posts: 480member
    maestro64 said:

    A device which is dumb like a charger which just provide powers should not be the issue, there is more to this than the power source.

    Chargers are no longer necessarily dumb devices. At least, not properly designed chargers.

    They should be talking to the device's charging systems, and reacting properly, like dropping from normal charge current to a trickle charge level, or off, as the battery comes up to full charge.

    At the very least, the device being charged at the very worst should be able to control the charger in self defense.
    ronnmike1baconstangRayz2016
  • Reply 11 of 24
    I do buy third party chargers at times, but only those made by reputable, well-known brands, not the no-name generics.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 24
    steveh said:
    maestro64 said:

    A device which is dumb like a charger which just provide powers should not be the issue, there is more to this than the power source.

    Chargers are no longer necessarily dumb devices. At least, not properly designed chargers.

    They should be talking to the device's charging systems, and reacting properly, like dropping from normal charge current to a trickle charge level, or off, as the battery comes up to full charge.

    At the very least, the device being charged at the very worst should be able to control the charger in self defense.
    The device being charged is the one that controls the current. It is the duty of the charger to supply the correct voltage. A system that requires the charger to reduce the current in response to the battery state means the charger would need direct feedback from the battery or obtain a signal from the device as to the battery condition -- this would require a more complicated setup in connectors, wiring, and charger. An iPhone is fully capable of regulating the current to the battery being charged.

    The problem with these bad 3rd party devices is that their voltage goes out of allowable limits. I don't know the specifics but it is possible that they have a large AC component. Voltage too high or too low could be a problem too.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    lkrupp said:
    Yep. We already knew this instinctively. Apple should modify their warranty to say use of an unapproved third party charger voids the warranty. Walk into any Walgreens and you’ll see a big pile of multi-colored, Chiclet style chargers and cables for $1.99 at the check out counter.

    I see the same thing here, everywhere. Really cool-looking cables, nicer than what comes with an iPhone, yet how much can they be trusted?

    If you can't stop the manufacturers, I think retailers should be held responsible for selling the junk.
  • Reply 14 of 24
    One thing to note is that vendors in the U.S. are also selling knockoff chargers as GENUINE Apple products. And it's not just third-party sellers at Amazon. Some of the "sold by Amazon" ones were fake. This may have been fixed now that Apple has sued some people - I don't know. But it was commonplace a couple of years back.
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 24
    Oy vey.
  • Reply 16 of 24
    lukeilukei Posts: 332member
    I absolutely agree on cheap charger issue, it's not a debate that they cause damage. 

    However cable wise Apple need to sort their mess out. I only use (expensive) Anker cables because I get fed up with the lightning plug failing due to the poor design, cable fraying where it joins plug. It's awful. 
  • Reply 17 of 24
    Fatman said:
    Chinese love their cheap knockoffs - the country is filled with counterfeit garbage. I'm sure their corrupt government will force Apple to repair those phones at no cost.
    I registered the account only for claim this: I am a customer who bought iPhone 6s on official website on 30 Sep 2015. And I always use OFFICIAL charger and cable ALL THE TIME. This is not the problem of the 3rd party charger.    I always use the phone between 0 - 35 degree.    Lots of customers have the same problem, also in Australia. We are now combined together and try to solve the problem. 

    BTW, watch your tongue, have you ever noticed all the Apple products are assembled in China when you look at the back of your product? Please be polite and show the basic respect to you and yourself. We try to figure out the problem and it is not necessary to have a discrimination. 
    GeorgeBMacdasanman69
  • Reply 18 of 24
    lukei said:
    I absolutely agree on cheap charger issue, it's not a debate that they cause damage. 

    However cable wise Apple need to sort their mess out. I only use (expensive) Anker cables because I get fed up with the lightning plug failing due to the poor design, cable fraying where it joins plug. It's awful. 
    I registered the account only for claim this: I am a customer who bought iPhone 6s on official website on 30 Sep 2015. And I always use OFFICIAL charger and cable ALL THE TIME. This is not the problem of the 3rd party charger.    I always use the phone between 0 - 35 degree.    Lots of customers have the same problem, also in Australia. We are now combined together and try to solve the problem. 

  • Reply 19 of 24

    linkman said:
    steveh said:
    maestro64 said:

    A device which is dumb like a charger which just provide powers should not be the issue, there is more to this than the power source.

    Chargers are no longer necessarily dumb devices. At least, not properly designed chargers.

    They should be talking to the device's charging systems, and reacting properly, like dropping from normal charge current to a trickle charge level, or off, as the battery comes up to full charge.

    At the very least, the device being charged at the very worst should be able to control the charger in self defense.
    The device being charged is the one that controls the current. It is the duty of the charger to supply the correct voltage. A system that requires the charger to reduce the current in response to the battery state means the charger would need direct feedback from the battery or obtain a signal from the device as to the battery condition -- this would require a more complicated setup in connectors, wiring, and charger. An iPhone is fully capable of regulating the current to the battery being charged.

    The problem with these bad 3rd party devices is that their voltage goes out of allowable limits. I don't know the specifics but it is possible that they have a large AC component. Voltage too high or too low could be a problem too.
    I registered the account only for claim this: I am a customer who bought iPhone 6s on official website on 30 Sep 2015. And I always use OFFICIAL charger and cable ALL THE TIME. This is not the problem of the 3rd party charger.    I always use the phone between 0 - 35 degree.    Lots of customers have the same problem, also in Australia. We are now combined together and try to solve the problem. 


  • Reply 20 of 24

    Any medical professional is familiar with the truism that "Correlation does not prove causation".  It sounds like Apple needs to learn that phrase too...

    Apple has not proven causation here.  They merely stated that all the phones they looked at had damaged charging circuits.  They then assumed two things:

    1)  The phones were charged with non-standard chargers.
    2)  The non-standard chargers caused the damage.

    Those may or may not be correct assumptions.   Neither we nor Apple will know if they were correct until actually diagnoses the problem.

    Also:  Connecting an IPhone to a car radio with a lightening connector is using a non-standard charger.  How does Apple expect its users to use their phones (including Car Play) while driving without that?

    Come on Apple!   Time to do a bit better.  Users don't care about your excuses.   They only care about their phones working without any obvious misuse.

    skew
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