Is there a measurable difference between real and fake Apple cables?
Previously, we tried to find out if there’s a difference on iPhone 8’s fast charging feature depending on the charging port. Spoilers, it does. We then asked the next logical question: Does the charging cable also affect the charging rate of the iPhone 8?
Ultimately, we discovered that Apple Lightning cable quality actually matters!
If you're looking, here's the best cable we came across in our video: Anker Powerline Lightning Cable.
Are cheap iPhone cables just as good as the real thing?
Are the cheap gas station cables really a worthy purchase? How about those lightning cables that are a fraction of the cost of the Apple ones? Do you know what a MFI certified cable is? Does it matter?
The questions might look a lot. But fear not! We will tackle every nagging question we have presented above. If you are curious on the fast charge of the iPhone 8, click here!
If you are in a hurry or you are just against cable cruelty, here is a TL:DR for you. The Gas station and Mayshion cables are cheap cables but charge slowly, look poorly built and are actually poorly built. You are better off spending a little more money on a MFI certified cable than these cables.
Lightning Cable Charge Tests
For this little test of ours, we used the following charging cables:
- Mayshion 2.4 ($ 5.99)
- Anker Powerline ($ 10.99)
- A Braided AmazonBasics Cable ($ 12.99)
- An old AmazonBasics Cable ($ 12.99)
- Gas station cable ($ 10.00)
- An Awesome cable that we got years ago
- A very old and beat up iPhone 5 Apple cable.
- iPhone 6 or 7 Apple cable
All in all, we did 4 tests, we had USB-C to Lightning charge test, USB-C to Lightning cable test, Full Charge test and lastly, we just completely took apart four cables.
USB-C to Lightning Charge Tests
For the charge tests, the first round involved seeing how much power the iPhone 8 had from dead. We drained the iPhone while leaving it on with the game Morphite. After it has been fully drained, we would then plug it into the 1 Amp charger that came with the iPhone 8 and set a 30 minute timer. After that, we would record the charge and proceed to drain the battery again for the next cable.
The only two products that aren’t MFI certified were the ones that performed the poorest, the Gas station cable and the Mayshion cable. The Mayshion cable provided a charge of 23% while the Gas station cable didn’t even get you out of lower power mode in 30 mins. We thought the poor performing Mayshion cable could be explained by the 2-in-1 head that it has but the ThanoTech cable, which has the same feature, provided the same charge as every other MFI certified cable.
Every other cable filled the iPhone 8 approx. 27-28%. Personally, we were surprised that our old iPhone 5 cable performed as well as it did. So if you’re wondering if the age of the cable matters, it doesn’t.
USB-C to Lightning cable test
We did the same test with the ESR and Apple USB-C to lightning cable and the charge times were quite different. As we saw in the Fast Charge scam post we did in the past, we know that the full Apple setup provided our iPhone 8 Plus with almost 60% charge. The ESR cable provided the iPhone 8 Plus with 41% charge. Almost a 20% difference.
At the time of this post, we couldn’t find any other USB-C to Lightning cables on the Amazon store so bad news for all those thinking you can go with the cheaper option for the iPhone 8’s fast charge.
Full Charge Test
For the next round of lightning cable charge tests, we measured the charge every 10 mins from dead to full. We only went with a standard Apple cable, the gas station cable and the Mayshion cable.
There’s a big difference in terms of how long it will take to charge your iPhones with the different types of cables.
Over a span of one year, going with a certified cable is going to save you 300 hours of charging time. Surely that’s worth the extra 3 bucks? We think so.
How to check for FAKE Apple accessories
If you’re unsure if the product you want to buy is actually MFI certified, use Apple’s MFI tool see if the vendor and the product is listed in their database. This MFI program might be a bane to most manufacturers but its smart on Apple behalf because it ensures that certified products meet their usability requirements. Basically Apple wants to eliminate all the potential problems a comment like “My new iPhone sucks because it charges so slowly” would create.
For example, the ESR cable is not listed in the MFI database but the Anker PowerLine is. That makes sense for the ESR cable since it didn’t charge the iPhone as quickly and despite saying it is compatible with the MacBook on Amazon, the footnotes do indicate that cable is MFI approved since Apple hasn’t released the USB-PD standards yet.
7 differences between FAKE and REAL cables
So the next question we had was: What’s the physical difference between a non MFI cable and a MFI cable?
We remembered the time when the lightning cable first came out where Apple required an authentication chip to be installed on the connector. However, none of cables we tested resulted in the “this accessory isn’t supported” prompt that we saw a lot when reviewing battery cases for the iPhone 5’s.
There’s actually two parts to this last question. The first was us accidentally stumbling on an official Apple support article outlining how to spot fake MFI products. For lightning cables, there are seven tell-tale signs that Apple wants you to look at when it comes to detecting bad products. But take it with a grain of salt because even the Anker PowerLine cable, which is a certified MFI, didn’t fulfill every one of these criteria.
The first four deal with the USB head with the next three dealing with the lightning head which led to the most differences.
1) Look at the Interlocks
Apple certified MFI cables are supposed to have trapezoidal, equally spaced interlocks from the edge. Looking at this picture here, the Gas Station cable definitely isn’t and the Anker cable is close but isn’t. The Mayshion cable is actually quite close.
2) Look at the contacts with the standard being gold
Every cable in this photo has gold contacts so onto the next criteria.
3) Look at the finish of the USB head
Between the four cables, the two that are MFI certified have a much smoother finish to the USB head. You’ll also see that the head of the gas station cable is actually bent whereas every other cable isn’t.
4) Look at surface of the insulator
Basically the back of the inside of the MFI USB head should be completely flat. The Anker PowerLine is not which is a bit odd. The only other one with a notch is our wonderful gas station cable.
5) Look at the head of the lightning cable
The real cable is suppose to be a single piece, smooth with rounded contacts. Fake ones are made from more than one piece, have a rough inconsistent finish and have squared contacts with an uneven surface.
If we look at the photos of the different cables closely, you can definitely see that the gas station cable is made from two pieces, the connection pieces are not the same size and the quality of the material in the connection head is quite poor.
The Mayshion cable looks a little better as the connection points are generally the same size but they aren’t smooth. The quality of the head is noticeably worse than the iPhone.
The Anker Powerline cable looks nearly identical to the Apple cable.
6) Look at the boot
Certified products are supposed to have a consistent boot size of 7.7mm by 12 mm so both the Mayshion and Gas station cable fail this test. But then wouldn’t the Thanotech cable, Awesome cable and old AmazonBasics cable fail this part of the MFI certification? We’re guessing that Apple has relaxed this part of the MFI certification.
7) Look at the color of the faceplate insert
Every cable we had was grey/metallic. According to Apple, fake ones that are white or black? But none of the cables showed a different color.
So the cable with the worse quality, the gas station cable is the poorest performer out of the group. The one with slightly better quality, the Mayshion cable performed better and the cables that look the closest like the Apple lightning connector, performed like an Apple lightning connector. That makes sense.
Remember the results from the speed test? The Mayshion provided 23% in 30 mins and the Gas Station cable did 19%. Mayshion had slightly better quality, so it was slightly better.
Is there anything else that's different?
Now that we figured out that each cable is different on their charging speed, we wanted to look a little closer for our second question of the physical difference between a certified MFI cable and non MFI cable,
For this test we took 4 cables and break them apart. The four cables are:
- Mayshion Cable
- Gas Station cable,
- Apple lightning cable
- Anker Powerline
Patient # 1: Gas Station Cable
Our first cable on the surgery table was the Gas Station cable. Sadly only 2 cuts along the side and we were able to pull the plastic off the head easily. In the process of taking the head apart, one of the chips actually came off the circuit board. The chip was applied so poorly that the protective plastic took it off.
Patient # 2 : Mayshion Cable
The Mayshion cable was a little tougher to deal with because of the aluminum outer cover. There was no way for our cheap knives and pliers code get through the outer shell so we had no choice but to Dremel the cover off.
Once the cover was off, the plastic came off just as easily as the gas station cable though the chips stayed on the circuit board instead of being pulled off by the protective plastic head.
CONCLUSION: The two non-MFI certified cables looked quite similar with two small chips on the lightning cable head. In the off-chance that the cables failed and sparked, these cables wouldnʼt do much in terms of fire protection.
Patient # 3: Apple cable
The Apple cable was painful to take apart. The outer boot is made from hard plastic so getting that off was a spectacle on itʼs own. The white boot then exposed a metal shell that was impregnable until we grinded a piece of the shell off with the Dremel.
Once we were able to pry the shell off, we found that the circuit board was covered in glue. This looks like the white covering of the cable also gets injected into the lightning cable head. We removed the glue again and found that there was another layer of glue on top the circuit board and no amount of prodding on our behalf could remove the glue.
Now at this point, we were going to call it a day because everything up until that point had take about 90 minutes to do. BUT we were curious, what did a non-Apple MFI cable look like?
Patient # 4 Anker Powerline
First we tried to strip the Anker Powerline down to it’s circuit board. Based on our 7 steps on checking whether a cable is a fake or not, Anker Powerline got some of them wrong so we werenʼt sure why the Powerline is certified MFI since the boot is much larger than the MFI specifications,
However after removing the white plastic, we found another metal shell covering the circuit board which was the same thing as the Apple cable. We were guessing it’s this boot that Appleʼs looking for during the MFI certification process.
Once again, we had to dremel the shell to remove it. Like the Apple Cable, we found a ton of glue over the circuit board. Luckily, there was another layer of glue on top of the circuit board so we were able to expose the circuit board. It turns out that a MFI certified cable seems to have a few more chips than the Non-MFI ones.
We canʼt speak to the chips so we have no idea what they do. But it seems to make sense that the MFI ones would have more.
Are the cheaper ones really a good deal?
As a final note to all of this, we want you to know that doing all these horrible things to the cables made us feel more comfortable using the MFI cables in our home. In the off chance that a cable fails, the gas station and Mayshion cables have fewer layers of protection than the Apple and Anker Powerline cables. Thereʼs only 1-2 layers on the cheap cables and 3-4 on the MFI certified cables.