Spotting the signs of a fake Apple Lightning cable

By , Apr 8, 2016

iOS Lightning Cable to USB

Whenever you buy a new iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, it’ll come with a Lightning to USB cable that you will use to charge and sync your device. On the other hand, you have to be careful when you buy these cables separately, especially online, because you could end up with a counterfeit cable.

A counterfeit is a cable that tries to look just like Apple’s OEM Lightning to USB cable, even though it isn’t. Using these cables could have an adverse effect on your device, so we’ll show you how to spot the differences between a counterfeit and genuine Lightning to USB cable in this piece.

Why not to use a non-Apple Lightning cable

In just about every scenario, an Apple-branded Lightning cable is the best way to go. A Lightning cable doesn’t have to be counterfeit to be unsafe. Simply having an uncertified Lightning cable can be unsafe or ineffective to use for charging or syncing your iOS devices.

Some of the adverse side effects to using a non-Apple branded Lightning cable are:

  • Damage to the device’s battery
  • Electrical fire
  • Frayed or damaged cable due to lower quality standards
  • Cable may be more flimsy and could break inside your device
  • Cable may overheat, resulting in damage or burns
  • Fitment issues could result
  • Inability to sync your device with your computer
  • And more…

Please note, there are some MFi (Made for iPhone) certified third-party Lightning cables out there, but there are also some third-party companies that go as far as to lie and say on the packaging that the cables are certified for Apple’s devices. This is why you need to be wary.

Spotting fake or uncertified cables

So how can you tell if a Lightning cable is actually genuine or certified? Apple says there are a number of things you can look for to spot a counterfeit or uncertified Lightning cable. We’ll go over those below:

Check the packaging and cable itself

Lots of Apple cable look-a-likes are white and thin, just like the OEM versions. Ebay and Amazon are full of counterfeits, and it can be hard to tell the difference!

Apple goes great lengths to provide its customers with high-quality packaging. Typically, when you find a package deal of about 5-10 cables for less than $20, you’re not getting OEM Apple Lightning cables; you’re getting knock-offs.

Unless the Lightning cable is made by Apple, third-party Lightning accessories will have the MFi logo on them if they’re certified. That logo looks like this:


Keep in mind, some companies mis-use this logo and print them on the boxes even if the cables are not MFi certified! Because of this, you need to look carefully at the cable itself.

Apple notes that the official cable should say, “Designed by Apple in California” followed by, any of the following: “Assembled in China,” “Assembed in Vietnam,” or “Indústria Brasileira” and then followed by a 12-digit serial number. What’s more is the text is usually found on the rubberized wire about 7 inches away from the USB end of the cable.

Examples below:

Apple OEM Cable Signs 1

Apple also says that a certified third-party Lightning cable will typically have its company branding printed or etched into the Lightning end of the cable.

Check the Lightning connector for signs of being fake

Another thing to look at is the Lightning end of the cable. You should look carefully at it to identify whether the cable is OEM or counterfeit. OEM cables are always high quality and made of premium materials, as are MFi certified Lightning cables. Third-party knock-offs or counterfeit cables are going to have skimpy build quality and show signs of poor craftsmanship.

Apple says some of the things to look for are:

  • Make sure the Lightning connector is a one-piece design
  • Make sure the Lightning connector has a smooth finish
  • Make sure the contacts on the Lightning connector are rounded and smooth
  • Check for consistency in the white plastic boot’s width
  • Make sure the face plate insert is gray or metallic

Examples below:

How to tell if a Lightning Cable is counterfeit or OEM

As you can see, third-party cables that are either counterfeit or uncertified are going to show signs of lesser quality, such as having a multi-piece Lightning connector design that could break off, rough or uneven surfaces that could wear down your Lightning port faster, poorer quality Lightning boot and face plate.

Check the USB connector for signs of being fake

In a counterfeit Lightning to USB cable, not only will the Lightning end show signs of being poor quality, but so might the USB end. Among some of the several things Apple says you should check for are:

  • Make sure the USB shell interlocks are trapezoidal instead of square
  • Make sure the USB shell interlocks are equally spaced from the connector’s edges
  • Ensure that the USB contacts are gold-plated
  • Ensure that the USB shell is smooth and flat rather than grainy or rough
  • Avoid cables where the USB shell has any indentations or divots
  • Make sure the USB insulator inside of the shell is flat and not notched or indented

Here are some examples:

Counterfeit versus OEM Apple Lightning to USB cables

Wrapping up

Not all third-party Lightning to USB sync cables are bad for use, but if they’re not MFi certified, then they’re not made to strict manufacturing standards like Apple’s are, and quality may suffer along with performance.

Cables that are made to lesser standards have been known to cause damage to the device’s battery, and even to cause fires in some extreme cases. With that in mind, isn’t it worth it to make sure you’re getting a quality charging and syncing cable for your iOS device?

If you’ve ever come across a counterfeit Lightning to USB cable, did you keep using it? Share your experiences in the comments!

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  • Dillan

    I don’t know if the trapezoidal interlocks on the usb part apply to MFI cables, that might just be an apple cable thing. Then again, maybe I just have a really convincing liar.

  • leart

    how to spot a fake apple accessories?
    just inspect carefully the product… if it has any kind of imperfection from factoring, is fake… apples products are cured in a level that a fake cant do it..

  • Jackson Grong

    You need to be stupid to spend 50€ (at least in Croatia) for a simple charging cable.
    No way, even for my 6S.

    • ex2bot

      Makes sense. The Apple brand cables are ~$20 in in the US so it’s not so painful. I’ve been burned by the cheap ones a few times. Even the Belkin car chargers I got are a bit flaky.

  • Marie-Louise Overgaard

    I once bought a third party charger, it was cheaper and I was far away from the closest Apple Store and had left my own cable at home. Suffice to say the damn thing went up in smoke while plugged in, I saw a big blue flash and then it smelled like burnt plastic.

    Since then I have only used official Apple or MFI cables, I know they are more expensive, but it is not worth the risk for me to use cheap cables.

  • slamfest

    I have a Apple Certified Monoprice cable (which have been very good) and it fails on the USB signs (USB shell has an indent and insulator has notches). So it is counterfeit?

    • I can’t say for sure, but I will say I’ve seen companies put the MFi logo on boxes of products that aren’t actually certified.

      • sarstube

        Monoprice is Mfi certified. Those descriptions and pics from apple are about how to spot apple counterfeits, they don’t apply to Mfi. Each company who legally receives a Mfi license will have a different appearance than apple, but they also don’t try to appear to be made by apple. The safest way to trust a Mfi is buy from a trusted source. If you don’t know the company who made the Mfi or the place selling it, avoid it.

      • ex2bot

        Right. This article talks mostly about spotting counterfeits, but then confusingly mentions MFI cables in between.

  • Jamessmooth

    What a great article Anthony. Very detailed and with pictures too! 🙂

  • nonchalont

    Good info. I use knock off cables but they work great. They charge, but I know oem cables charge faster. They are definitely better quality.

  • Gary le

    My tips:
    -Buy from reputable stores
    -If you need to buy one online asap, then If package does not have MFI logo or no packaging then don’t buy. Having the packaging makes it harder for them to replicate the real thing.
    -If it has MFI BUT package looks like it has off colors, black/white only, paper box with no official seals or just looks fishy ( or like crap) then dont buy.
    -Same for chargers.

    -feel free to edit my lists (I bet it will be changed lol)

  • Trevor

    Amazing! (ly wrong, that is.) This article is nothing but spreading FUD. The fact that a Lightning cable is third-party does NOT mean that it is made to lesser standards. It does NOT mean that it will cause damage to the device’s battery or even fire in some extreme cases. It does NOT mean that the cable is unsafe or ineffective.

    Just because _some_ third-party cables are made poorly does not mean that you must buy Apple cables–that is ridiculous. It’s like saying that if you don’t buy a car manufactured by Ford, you will be buying an unsafe car. Sure, there are junky Yugos and Diahatsus in the world, and they aren’t Fords. But there are also Mercedes, and Ferraris, and Hondas, and Mazdas. The existence of the Yugo (which is not a Ford) does not mean that you must only buy Fords. But that is the same bad logic which this article uses to try to convince people to only buy Apple Lightning cables.

    There are cables made by third parties that are much higher quality than Apple Lightning cables, made to higher standards, and with additional features. So nobody should believe this article at all–it’s the worst kind of FUD, made by a well-meaning but completely ignorant person.