Sunday, 26 November 2017

Is your lightning cable a bona fide one?

I’m sure you’ve seen a fake lightning cable before, and differentiating between fake and authentic seem pretty straightforward. Even Apple’s website shows you how to tell. 

But.. I’ve noticed that the fakes are looking increasingly like the authentic ones. So how can you tell?

The easy to tell ones

These are the basic ones. The lightning connector is not in a single metal casing. These are pretty straightforward to differentiate.

These are the basic ones. The lightning connector is not in a single metal casing. These are pretty straightforward to tell. 

Looking at the above picture, it seems pretty easy to tell eh? But nah, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I’m starting to see some with a single metal piece that almost seems authentic until you look very closely.

Not so easy to tell ones

There was once I bought an ‘authentic’ cable from someone on Carousell. The box looked identical to the ones in Apple stores, with the exception of the blue sticker on the corner, saying it’s original in Chinese. I then became a little skeptical about its authenticity. I then noticed that the connector became slightly warm when charging. The last thing that gave it away was the documentation(photos below). That’s when I knew it definitely wasn’t original. Luckily, I was able to get a refund. Below are some photos for comparison. 


Packaging looks identical with the exception of the blue sticker

See the subtle differences between the fake and the real? The real one is on the right.

USB connector looks pretty much the same. Apple's official guide doesn't seem really useful..


Notice anything odd? Box says 'Lighting to USB Cable', documentation says 'Lightning to 30-pin Adapter'.  Hmm... seems odd, ain't it?


There are still some differences in this case, mainly the lightning connector. The fake seems to have more jagged edges.

I then started seeing lightning cables that looked identical to the original ones. Out of curiosity I cut open the connector. What I found was not what other people’s teardown of the Lightning connector.

I then chanced upon this picture:

Chinese counterfeit lightning cable types?

On the top left, it seems like the original lightning connector. I was getting convinced that I found the original one. So I started purchasing a few of these to sell, thinking it was original. (which I later found out wasn't)

Looks very convincing.

Looks exactly the same!

Took the connector apart. Doesn't seem original to me. However the connector(area with the 8 pins) look exactly like the original one.

Not long after, I came across this tester on Taobao, a popular Chinese E commerce site. It was pretty expensive, costing almost S$200. 

It claims to be able to tell if a cable is authentic by just plugging it in. Since I wasn’t 100% sure what I got was original, I bought it just to be sure. 

What I found out with that device is shocking. Even though some can look exactly like the real deal, it registered as a fake on the device. 
Copycat means fake btw.

Look at the lightning connector. Looks like what you get from an iPhone box, but its fake

Cable that came in an iPhone box. Wires are showing so I placed a layer of heat shrink over the cable.
Foxconn packaging. Real? No. Fake. They even managed to program the cable serial number into the connector!


So, how can you tell if what you’ve got is authentic?

The conclusion I got from my experience is that you can only tell if you have the device I have. 
I'm sure not many of you reading this would be crazy enough to buy a device costing nearly 10x of a lightning cable in the Apple Store to figure this out. 
However, if you're in Singapore, you can hmu via Carousell and you can pay me a small fee to test some cables. 


After all, I have to recoup some of the costs of this device right? 😅


Else, what you can do, without the device, is to only look at the connector and make sure the corners are smooth and they look exactly like the original one.
To ensure your cable is an original one, purchase it from the Apple store or only buy MFi Certified cables from reputable brands like Targus and Belkin etc. Make sure the packaging has the MFi Certified logo, where it shows 'made for iPod, iPhone, iPad'.

This cable by Ugreen is MFi certified and the device shows it's original.

Lightning connector of the cable for your reference

This would hopefully help prevent you from getting scammed when someone, in a 3rd party repair store for example, tries to sell you a cable that looks exactly like an original one.

Using a fake cable bypasses some protection from the cable and could harm your device. Do check out this video by iPad Rehab I found, for a more detailed explanation.

You may also want to check out this video by mobilereviewseh on the topic of lightning cables.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Differentiating between fake and real Apple Power Adapters

I'm sure you've heard news of those fake apple chargers exploding right? After looking at the news it seems that it is pretty easy to differentiate between the fake and the real right? Well, nope. Those producing the fake power adapters are getting better at imitating the real ones and you have to take a closer look to check if it's real. 

This blog post is going to be a long one so if you're inpatient feel free to skip to the pictures. In this blog post I will talk about the improvements of the fake chargers, and some ways to check if yours is real. 
Ps: if you've got more suggestions or have any points that I've missed out feel free to comment bellow to let everyone know! 

Context 

Basically, the best way to ensure yours is original is to purchase from Apple retail stores. But let's say you want to have a few at home and a few at the office, the cost of buying retail adds up really quickly. So you want to buy from someone else who sells it more cheaply and many sellers claim what they are selling is original. The problem is that the fakes are getting so good that even some sellers might not even know if they're really selling the original ones. I myself am selling the power adapters too and to make sure that I'm selling original adapters so I've done some research myself and these below are what I have found out: 

So what has changed?

If you've come across a fake one in the past you'd have realized that the USB port is inverted and that was a good indicator of the authenticity of the adapter. Well, not anymore. All of the fakes have the USB port oriented correctly already so many would assume that a power adapter is authentic if the USB port is oriented correctly. 

They counterfeiters have also become more daring and they copy the exact wordings of an original charger and it would be really hard to tell even if you were scrutinizing it. 

Lastly, weights has also been added to the fake chargers to make them feel like the original ones on the hand, so you can't use weight to determine its authenticity anymore. 

Taking a look at the insides

To know how to differentiate between fake and real, I decided to take apart all different the adapters I could get my hands on. They are divided into different grades: A, AA, 仿(meaning copy) and lastly 原壳(original outer shell). Of course I also took apart an original one for reference. 

This is the 仿(copy) adapter. It has a metal weight on the 3 pin side, where 2 wires connects to the pcb. 



This is the A adapter. Again, a metal weight on the 3 pin side and 2 wires connect to the pcb.


This is the AA adapter. It's weight is under the pcb, in the shell. The 3 pin side connects to the pcb via metal contact when assembled. 


This is the 原壳(original shell) adapter. Did not find any metal weights but the blob of silicone could contribute to the weight. 3 pin side same as the original one but uses spring on the pcb for contact. I guess this is the best out of all the fakes? 


Lastly this is the original adapter. Was so hard to open I had to Dremel it open resulting in the horrible condition of the outer shell. Very sure there isn't any weights on the original one. 3 pin side has an additional white tape. Connects to the pcb with a special connector.

How to differentiate between fake and real?

After examining the adapters in detail I came up with some ways that I think can help you differentiate between the fake and the real.(as of time of writing)

Firstly you can check the sidewalls of the USB port. Original ones all have a little area where u can see white at the back(see the pictures).  Fake ones tend to have either a black background or have a larger visible white background. Hopefully the attached pictures can allow you to understand what I mean. 
Authentic one has a small white part covering about half of the height of the USB port but the original shell one covers about 3/4 of the height

The sidewall of the AA one is black while original one is white

Cutout for sidewalls of USB port in A charger is different from original

Cutout for copy charger is similar to that of the A charger






































Basically, just lookout for chargers that have the exact same USB sidewall cutouts as the original one. If its different, its probably a fake.


Secondly, you can check the pins of the 3 pin plug. Most fakes don't have a consistent line between the metal and plastic part. Again, look at the pictures.




Thirdly, you can check for irregularities in the printing at the back. Some fakes have misaligned printings, whereby the printing is off center. If you look closely enough, most fakes have a slightly different font from the original one and the shade of printing is darker. However, the printing for the 原壳(original case) one is exactly the same as the original one so beware. This method is reliable against most fakes. 
Font of words are different 

Apple logo is off centre for A charger

Font is different 

Original shell charger looks exactly as the same but still fails the above 2 tests



Fourthly, you can check the current it can deliver. You can use something like a USB load resistor combined with a USB tester to check the voltage. Original/good fakes will be able to sustain 5V under 1A load. The 仿(copy) version's output voltage dropped to 3+V under 1A. Horrible adapter. I also tried to put 2A load on the adapters (it's only designed for 1A load, do so with caution) and realized that 2/3 original apple adapters stayed on with 3+V output while all the fakes and one of my original one turned off. The original one that was has "Emerson Network Power" written on it(its original, probably came with the iPhone 4)turned off but the one with "Salcomp(Shenzhen) Co.,Ltd" and "Artesyn" written stayed on. Your results may vary and original chargers can also turn off when you put a 2A load so this might not be a very good way to check for its authenticity. 

Lastly, you could also check the charger's weight. Original ones weigh between 42 to 48 grams. However the weight of most of the fakes also fall in that range so you could only be certain yours is fake if it weighs 30 over grams or less(one of my fakes weigh 30+ grams).

Conclusion 


I hope you've found this post useful. If you have any suggestions on other ways to differentiate between the fake and original power adapters do comment below :)