updated 02:50 pm EDT, Tue October 2, 2012
Chinese companies attempting to clone technology
Apple's new Lightning connector format uses an authenticator chip to block unauthorized accessories, CNN Money says it has learned. The part is mentioned by one source said to have "knowledge of Apple's manufacturing," as well the owner of Double Helix Cables, who tore apart the new connector shortly after the iPhone 5 launch and discovered a chip in the path of the Lightning's power wire. The positioning of the chip is said to make Lightning "much more complex" than Apple's older 30-pin format.
"Chinese manufacturers are currently working to clone this new connector -- but they cannot do it with the same ease and low cost as before, I don't think," says the Double Helix owner. "Unlicensed knockoffs are going to happen eventually, but now there is even more of a reason to just use Apple's cable -- the circuitry is much more complex now and so there is a lot more to go wrong," he adds. There are numerous unlicensed 30-pin cables and accessories for sale online, often at a fraction of the cost of what Apple charges. Some attempts at cloned Lightning accessories are on sites like Amazon and eBay, but are listed as presale items or unavailable.
The Double Helix owner speculates that cloned Lightning connectors will cost between $3 and $8 wholesale, whereas 30-pin dock cables are currently worth about 30 cents. Those prices would still be well below Apple's, which start at $19 for a simple Lightning-to-USB cable.