iPhone Life magazine

Third-Party Pre-iPad4 Charger Cable Tests: At last Some Good Cables

As a developer for iOS, Android, and Windows who also teaches their programming, I have all the major iDevice models ever released. (But, naturally, I don't have the different storage / 3G / color configurations in one model.)

As I always carry many of these iDevices with me, I also need at least twice the number of cables. Let's also take into account that Apple's own cables have a tendency to break apart and the need increases even more. Just Google, “iPhone cable breaking apart”; and you'll find threads with pictures such as this and this

Regarding the second one, note that some people with more accumulated reputation in the Apple support forums tend to defend Apple in every way possible and put the blame entirely on end users. Even in cases like this, where it's definitely Apple that sometimes produces pretty low-quality cables and it's not the users that mishandled the given product.

Apple's original cables having always been pretty expensive (and, again, of sometimes really questionable quality), given that I sometimes need to purchase 10-15 cables a year, I've always tried finding cheaper alternatives to Apple's cables. At least when it comes to non-Lightning (old) cables – I don't really trust third-party, unofficial Lightning cables. They may work today – but who knows what happens tomorrow, after a firmware upgrade and possibly blocking these unofficial cables, making them entirely useless.

Unfortunately, many of the third-party cables you can find on eBay or DealExtreme.com are of pretty bad quality, at least electronically. Some of them don't even recharge the iDevices – the latter just state the cables can't charge them. These cables include for example some of the USB Charging Cable for iPhone 2G/3G (100CM-Length) that used to be sold with the SKU 24296 at DealExtreme.com. It's no longer on sale – probably because of the extremely bad quality of these cables? Note that I've devoted a section to these cables in my previous, related article (see Bullet 1 in UPDATE (07/08/2012)).

The only cheap but still pretty reliable third-party cable I could find was New 2in1 USB Charger Cable Cord For iPhone 3 4GS iPad iPod Samsung/HTC/Motorola, which, as opposed to 99 percent of cheap cables, is able to charge iPads with the maximal about 2.05 amperes. (This is the maximal charging current of the old charger shipped with all iPads before the iPad 4. The iPad 4 is coming with a 2.2A one.) However, it's VERY short.

On eBay, some weeks ago, I've found some relatively new cables, both 1-foot and 6-feet ones, both advertised as capable of charging (pre-iPad 4) iPads at full Amperage - that is, around 2 amperes (again, with the pre-iPad 4 chargers). Both cables are US $3.99 + postage; which is still pretty cheap. Postage is between $1...$3/cable, depending on the length and number of cables you order.

I've immediately ordered two one-foot and one six-feet at once. (For the record: HERE is the seller. Note that I in no way receive any kind of compensation from him for this article. Neither have I from the guys that sell the previously recommended twin cables. I'm pretty sure other sellers are also offering these cables. HERE and HERE are the two cables.)

After receiving the cables, I've very thoroughly tested them, both recharging current- and synchronization speed-wise.

The 6-ft cable



As was easy to predict for anyone knowing the inherent problems of recharging iPads using long charging cables, this cable cannot charge the iPads at 2 amperes. However, it's pretty close at around 1940 mA's, which is slightly higher than the average 1900 mA's of Apple's own, original, three-feet iPhone / iPad cables and only a bit lower than the charging current of the one-feet version of the same cable, charging around 2000 mA. Note that I've tested a bunch of Apple's own cables; the previous figure (1900 mA charging current) is the average. The minimum was around 1860 and the maximum  around 1940 mA. (Note that these figures are a bit different from those in my previous article. The reason for this is that I used another charger during the tests with somewhat reduced power output.)

The cable itself is considerably thicker than Apple's own (and thin) cables and also a bit thicker than that of the 1ft version. Nevertheless, it's still pretty flexible – much-much more so than, say, the very stiff cable of Apple's old HDMI adapter or, to a lesser degree, that of the old VGA adapter.

During my (very thorough) synchronization speed tests, it produced exactly the same results as Apple's own cables and the 1ft version. It transferred 5,541,579,932 bytes in five files in exactly 3m:10s on my late 2009 2.8 GHz C2D-based 17” MBP, transferring from the latest-and-greatest Vertex 4 256 GB SSD with all background tasks shut down, using the latest iTunes and OS X (Mountain Lion) versions. (I've measured all file transfer speeds twice with every single cable.)

All in all, if you need a comparatively long cable and the somewhat (not much!) increased iPad recharging speed and cable thickness aren't an issue, you can safely purchase this cable – it's well worth the price.

The 1-ft cable

(Note that, as has been mentioned, I've ordered two of these cables. I've tested both.)



These cables are excellent when it comes to recharging the iPad: they use a charge current which is about 100 mA higher than Apple's own cables. That is, if you need the quickest possible iPad recharging and the one-foot length isn't a problem, you can safely get this cable. As has also been mentioned, another advantage of these cables, compared to the 6-ft version, is the somewhat reduced cable thickness.

As with the 6-ft variant (see above), it doesn't seem to have problems with file transfer either: just like the 6-ft cable and Apple's own cables, it transferred the  5,541,579,932 bytes in 3 minutes and 10 seconds to the test iPad 3.

What about iPhones?

You only need high-quality, high-Amperage cables when recharging iPads. It's pretty futile to use a high-Amperage iPad charger to recharge iPhone or iPod touch models.

The latter iDevices can only be charged with 1 Amper, which even (most of) the worst third-party cables can provide. For example, the considerably cheaper, 9-ft cables HERE, which are not only cheaper and longer, but also thinner and more flexible.

What about the durability?

Having only recently received them, it's too early to say anything about the durability of these cables. I'll surely report back if they turn out to be a lemon. Hope they prove to be better and more durable than some Apple cables.

Previous, related article

Longer / non-Apple cables and charging the iPad

What about Lightning Adapters?

The tool I use for properly measuring the recharge current, BatteryDetective (Cydia info page) is, as of the current version (1.4), still incompatible with the iPad 4. Therefore, I couldn't test how the currently available Lightning-HDMI and Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (0.2 m) adapters fare with devices rechargeable with high currents. (You may remember that I've also tested the charger pass-thru of the old, pre-Lightning HDMI adapter and found it being capable of about 1.9 Amps.) The app is compatible with the iPhone 5, but, of course, as it's “just” an iPhone, it can't be charged with more than one Amps and, therefore, can't be used to properly assess the high-current behavior of these adapters. As the developer of  BatteryDetective is promising a new, heavily enhanced version soon, I'll return to the question very soon.

Unfortunately, other Cydia battery tools like iBattery or MyBattery can't display the recharge current at all.

UPDATE (Jun/7/2013): after finding the short (one-foot) variant excellent, I've ordered an additional five of them. To test them all (and find whether there's any variance between different batches ordered over the time), I've repeated the tests. This time, I've also used the now-standard (all iPads come with this new type of adapter) 2.4A (12W) iPad charger as well, in addition to the two 2A Apple chargers. (All chargers are original Apple ones. Again, you do NOT want to purchase aftermarket, cheap Chinese 2A chargers. They are all trash.)

All the 1-foot cables behaved as they should. They all charged my test iPad 3 between 2270...2350 mA. The longer brother of these cables charged somewhat slower, with around 2200 mA.

The old micro USB + 30-pin cable behaved somewhat worse with around 2200 mA Amperage. So did Apple's all standard cables coming with past (30-pin) iPads: they charged the iPad 3 with between 2120 and 2230 mA.

The old, cheap, 3m cable was, as with the case of the 2A chargers, able to charge the iPad3 with 1300 mA.

The two 30-pin HDMI adapters, connected to the 2.4A charger with the best (short, 1-foot) cable, behaved exactly the same as with the 2A case (old measurements HERE): the second-generation charged the iPad with around 2280 mA, the first-generation with around 2230 mA.

Now, for the bad news. The longer version of these cables has turned out not to be unreliable when connecting my iPad 1 to my late 2009 17” MBP: sometimes the device just wouldn't be detected by the computer. No such problems with other cables (including the one-feet ones). This problem seems to be specific to this particular iPad 1 (or iPad 1's in general?) because all my other devices work just fine with the same cable. Nevertheless, keep in mind that, should you encounter invisibility problems with the 2m cable, you need to fall back to another cable.

Want to master your iPhone and iPad? Sign up here to get our tip of the day delivered right to your inbox.
Topics:
Email icon
Want more? Get our weekly newsletter:

Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.