Why is the original iPhone charging cable easy to break?

Since iPhone 5, the iPhone has been replaced with a Lightning interface. Compared with the previous 30pin interface, Lightning is smaller in size and also supports blind insertion.

At that time, Android devices or most other smart devices were still popularizing the Micro-USB interface, which lags behind Apple's Lightning interface in terms of form and user experience.

▲ Picture from: Sarah Kobos

Nearly ten years later, Android has been upgraded to a USB-C interface, while the iPhone is still Lightning. It must be said that the former has "surpassed" in terms of form, performance and experience.

9 years after its birth, in the face of the unchanged Lightning interface, with the emergence of the new iPhone, especially after the iPad Pro recently switched to USB-C for scalability, the discussion about abolishing the Lightning interface has become more and more heated.

Lightning data cable that is not very durable

Aside from scalability and charging performance, Lightning actually has a more widespread and fatal problem for our ordinary consumers, that is, Apple's original Lightning data cable is too easy to "crack" and break, and its durability is worrying.

In fact, in addition to the Lightning data cable of the iPhone, the same is true of the MagSafe cable on the old MacBook series.

To be fair, for consumer electronics products, 9 years can be said to be a long history. Whether in Apple’s official forums or other consumer electronics enthusiast groups, there are quite a few discussions about the "durability" of Lightning cables. Many, not only have tutorials such as "How to Use the Lightning Data Cable Correctly" appear, but even hardening the Lightning data cable has become a "traffic password". There are endless videos in this area, and the traffic is also high.

In an e-commerce company, there are nearly 2,300 negative information on the Apple Lightning data cable product page, and the score is only one star. In these comments, they have almost the same complaint, "The Lightning data cable is too durable."

▲ Cracked Lightning data cable and corroded metal contacts. Picture from: Macrumors

Consumer electronics enthusiast Tim Ventura has made corresponding statistics in his blog. He has a total of 3 iPhones, 2 iPads, and 2 iMacs. They mainly rely on the Lightning data cable for charging or data transmission, so the frequency of use is not low. , The life of each Lightning charging cable is about 3~6 months. Either the foreskin is cracked or the internal wires are disconnected, causing it to fail to work normally.

Investigating the reason, Tim believes that the main reason is that the ends of the Lightning cable are not properly reinforced, which leads to the lack of durability of the cable.

▲ Black gold finger. Picture from: ZDNet

In addition to the problem that the cable is not durable, the "gold finger" contacts on the Lightning cable are also more susceptible to corrosion and blackening. Also in the Apple support community, many users have encountered this problem. As a result, Apple responded that exposure of the contacts of the Lightning data cable to a humid environment may cause the contacts to be corroded. Try to keep the Lightning plug and interface dry to avoid contact with liquid.

It is easy to crack and the contacts are easy to turn black. This is the durability problem faced by the Lightning data line, which also causes many Lightning data lines to have poor contact or fail to work.

Is it so "fragile" just for business?

"Durability has never been the advantage of iPhone and iPad data cables." When browsing many Lightning data cable-related reports, this is the one with the highest number of likes in the comment area.

Tim Ventura, who used a small sample to estimate the life of the Lightning data cable, was the first to focus on the small business of accessories when looking for the reasons why Lightning is so fragile.

According to his estimates, if the number of iPhones in use in the United States is 189 million, and only one Lightning data cable is replaced every year, this will probably generate 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in revenue for Apple. This figure is still very shocking.

If you look at the world and take Newzoo's statistics as a reference, the shipment of the entire iPhone series in the past ten years was 1.163 billion, of which about 728 million are still in service. Even if only a quarter of the Lightning data cable is replaced, it is still a lot of income.

▲ Lightning data line ecology. Picture from: Sarah Kobos

In fact, regardless of the durability of the Lightning data cable, the idea of ​​"Apple sticking to the Lightning interface" also exists in many people's minds. After all, the accessory market has a considerable magnitude and profit margin, not only Apple itself, but also many third parties. Of accessories manufacturers are active in the market.

▲ Picture from: Slashgear

From the perspective of USB-C, the Lightning interface is obviously a bit outdated, it does not support high-power charging power, and the transmission speed is also limited to USB 2.0. However, from Apple’s perspective, any cables and interfaces may be just a "transition". Therefore, after the birth of the iPhone 5 Lightning interface, Apple did not actively modify or update the new interface of the iPhone, but waited for complete wireless and Nonporous.

The accessory business that has spawned from this may not be Apple's intention.

About design, about environmental protection

Compared with the old 30pin interface, the new Lightning has been changed in design, on the one hand it is aesthetics, on the other hand it is the material. And it is these two changes that have caused frequent problems with the "new" Lightning data cable.

▲ The old 30pin cable has reinforcement. Picture from: Apple Explained

The 30pin interface frequently used on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s before will have certain enhancements in the cables and connectors, so it is rare to see a "large-scale" discussion of cable durability before 2006.

For the new Lightning cable, in order to be beautiful, the Apple design team replaced it with a thinner plastic sleeve, which is more concise and beautiful overall. However, Apple's development team found that such a change would cause a higher failure rate, but in the end it failed to stop the trend of compromising to a better design.

▲ Picture from: Apple Explained

In addition, the replacement of materials is also Apple's "environmental protection" concept. At that time, Jobs proposed the A Greener Apple (green apple) plan, hoping to remove all harmful substances from Apple products. The PVC material that appeared in the charging cable before is one of the harmful substances. With its existence, the cable will be harder and more durable. Under the implementation of this concept, the Lightning data cable becomes softer, and the durability is naturally reduced.

▲ Picture from: Apple Explained

As for the shortcomings of Lightning charging heads becoming black and prone to corrosion, they can actually be summarized in the "design". Compared with USB-C, the contacts of the Lightning cable are exposed, and they are more susceptible to corrosion by liquids such as sweat and moisture, resulting in blackening and corrosion.

Apple's solution

In fact, Apple is already working to solve the problem that the original Lightning data cable keeps emerging.

First of all, regarding the corrosion of metal contacts, Apple upgraded the traditional gold-plating process to rhodium-ruthenium process. The appearance changed from the previous "gold finger" to "silver finger", and the specific model was also changed from C91 to C94. Compared with the traditional gold plating process, the rhodium ruthenium process is more inert, thus improving the corrosion resistance of the Lightning data line connector.

▲ Left: C94, right: C91

It is worth noting that although the color of the connector is silver, its cost is higher than the traditional gold plating process. Both rhodium and ruthenium are rare metal elements and belong to the platinum group of metals. They have strong corrosion resistance and are almost difficult to react with acids.

In addition, with regard to the problem of cables that are prone to cracking, Apple’s new iMac updated this year also gave an answer, that is, the use of "braided cables".

In terms of details, it is more concise than the traditional Lightning cable, and it is more in line with the demands of Apple's design department, that is, there is no transition at the connector, but it can still meet the demand for "durability.

The new original braided cord is included with the iMac, and it is very likely to be promoted to large-scale consumer-oriented products such as iPad and iPhone, and it may be the same as the colorful iMac. It will be included with the color of the iPhone. Cables of the same color.

The new original Lightning data cable almost balances the factors of durability, design and environmental protection. After 9 years, Apple has finally solved the long-existing problems of the original Lightning data cable, although it is late.

The "return" of practicality

Starting from the MacBook Pro with a full USB-C interface in 2016, Apple has advanced into the "future" in design. Looking back from now on, the USB-C form interface does have good scalability, but with this trend, another wave of accessories for USB-C docking stations has been set off.

Apple has enough appeal and confidence to lead the popularity of USB-C. Indeed, in the next few years, the USB-C interface has indeed become the configuration of many Windows laptops.

However, until now, we have not yet entered the USB-C era. Many devices still require USB-A, HDMI and SD card slots, and complaints about the MacBook Pro interface being too single have never stopped.

Prior to the release of drawings, the next generation of MacBook Pro is very likely to increase the richness of the interface, re-introduction of HDMI and SD card slots, thereby reducing the user's dependence on the USB-C docking station, returning to "practical."

The same may be true of Lightning data cable changes. Prior to this, Apple tended to be "wireless", focusing on how to complete the "wireless" design, but from the current MagSafe effect and AirPower's difficult production, the wirelessization that Apple expects may have a long way to go. Go, the future and the future. In the future, the iPhone may still be inseparable from the Lightning data cable and interface. The return to "practical" at this time may be the revision of product ideas in recent years, with practicality first, rather than design dominating.

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