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Beware of cheap USB to Lightning Cables

I needed a short USB to Lightning cable for my car stereo – there’s a USB port in the centre console and I don’t need a 1m cable tangling around the dashboard, so I tried a couple of 3rd party cables that I bought off eBay. They weren’t the absolute cheapest, but they were considerably cheaper than the 1m Genuine Apple cable, which is $25. I think these 20cm cables were around $5 each.

From an initial inspection, they both seemed to be well made – nylon braid over the cable, decent plugs at each end and built-in strain relief on each plug. Both of them were advertised as Made for iPhone (MFI) certified. Both of them had 5-star reviews.

The only problem is that they don’t work very well. Clearly at the price, they weren’t genuine MFI accessories.

They were both pretty cheap and I honestly can’t be bothered lodging a return with the vendor on eBay – which I’m guessing is part of their business model.
With the genuine Apple cable, I had zero problems with the car stereo recognising the iPhone and going into CarPlay mode.

With the third party cables, sometimes the phone wasn’t recognised at all, sometimes it just started and stopped charging over and over again, sometimes it was recognised and started playing music, but the screen on the headunit stayed black. Through trial and error, I worked out that the most reliable way to get my phone to connect was not plug in when the car was turned off, but turn the car on, wait until the SONY logo appeared on the headunit and then plug in. Still, this wasn’t 100% foolproof.

Tellingly, the installer who put the CarPlay unit in my car mentioned that he recommended using only genuine Apple cables as third party ones tended to be unreliable.

I went back to a genuine Apple cable and haven’t had any further problems. I’ve since ordered a $30 (with shipping from the USA) Anker cable that’s 30cm long and I expect this will work as well as the Apple one.

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