More headache for Apple and MFi partners as multiple clones of Lightning design emerge

Apple has replaced its decade-old 30-pin connector with a brand new 9-pin Lightning plug in its latest round of iPhone and iPod refreshes last month. Per teardown, the new Lightning I/O has also brought with it an authentication chip that along with tightened ‘MFi’ terms is meant to prevent third parties from making unapproved accessories.

Adding insult to injury, it’s also been suggested that cracked chips which bypass its authentication functions are now available. Today, BGR posted images of several claimed third party authentication chips for Lightning USB cables.

Of course, the chips are not officially approved by Apple and present an ample opportunity for shady Chinese firms to manufacture Lightning cables, adapters and other accessories that should easily work with Lightning-equipped iOS devices while costing far less than Apple’s overpriced alternatives….

BGR editor Jonathan S. Geller notes has more on this:

We are told there are now multiple versions of these unofficial Lightning authentication chips and connectors floating around China, and while that may be good news for those looking for lower priced accessories and chargers, it doesn’t look good for Apple’s MFI partners who are licensing the technology and making legitimate accessories.

Apple is expected early next month to lay down the law to its developers on producing Lightning connectors. One thing is certain: Lightning pins will be strictly controlled by Apple and only approved developers will have access to them, with production quantities of the pin once their product is determined to have met its standards and specifications.

It’s remarkable that a company of Apple’s size is willing to go the distance to keep unauthorized makers from selling Lightning-branded warez. On the other hand, anything can be hacked and bypassed and you’d think these companies would have learned their lesson by now.

I’m all for vertical integration and miniaturization, even if it means leaving behind legacy technologies like the old 30-pin connector. But I’m also all for transparency and hate it when huge corporations take advantage of consumers.

I’m not saying Apple originally designed Lightning I/O to screw folks and make us all pay a premium on Lightning to 30-pin cables, but it’s hard to justify spending forty bucks on a friggin’ cable – even with a chip inside it.

In the greater scheme of things, Apple has indirectly screwed MFI partners because they paid the licensing fees to make legit accessories and now witness important authentication technologies that protect the Lightning ecosystem being cracked.

What’s your take?

Is Lightning going to prove a huge blunder on Apple’s part?