Why You Should Use Apple MFI Certified Lightning Cables

Fake lightning cables can damage your phone, laptop, and other electronics

Apple MFI Certified Lightning cables aren't cheap, and affordable alternatives are all over the place. The temptation to save some money by using uncertified Lightning cables is very real, but the potentially disastrous consequences far outweigh the amount of money you stand to save.

Fake Lightning cables aren't built to the same exacting standards, so they are more likely to fail, and they can even damage your devices. Thanks to the devious work of some hackers, it's even possible to hijack your device with the right non-MFI Lightning cable.

A damaged Lightning cable plugged into an iPhone.
Poravute / iStock / Getty 

According to Apple, you may notice the following issues if you use a counterfeit Lightning cable:

  • Your iOS device could suffer damage
  • The cable may become damaged more easily than you expect
  • The cable connector could fall or break off, get hot, or not fit correctly
  • You may find that you cannot charge or sync your device

What Is MFI, and Why Is It Important?

Apple launched their Made for iPod (MFI) certification program in 2005 to make sure that all accessories and chargers would work correctly with the original dock connector. This program has expanded over the years, and it's currently used to make sure that Lightning cables meet Apple's exacting standards, without cutting any corners or hiding any malicious hardware inside.

MFI stands for Made for iPhone now instead of Made for iPod, but exclusively using MFI certified Lightning cables will protect your iPhone, iPod, and even computer from potential damage.

Are All Uncertified Lightning Cables Bad?

The fact is that it's completely possible for a manufacturer to make a uncertified Lightning cable that's just as good as a certified cable. There is a cost associated with the testing processes, and manufacturers have to pay a royalty to Apple to advertise their products as MFI certified. Due to that cost, some manufacturers opt out of the program.

The problem is that it's extremely difficult, or even impossible, to pick a good Lightning cable out from a pile of bad Lightning cables without the MFI certification. A cable may look great on the outside, but be poorly built, or even hide malicious hardware that could hijack your device.

You can rely on reviews or word of mouth to identify high quality uncertified cables, but you have to ask yourself if the money you save is worth the chance of damaging your devices.

A damaged Lightning cable that may catch fire.
rozdemir / iStock / Getty 

How a Lightning Cable Without MFI Certification Can Hurt You

Poorly built Lightning cables can cause a number of problems, and cables built by people who have bad intentions open up an entirely new world of issues. Here are the top six issues you're likely to encounter with Lightning cables that aren't MFI certified.

  • Uncertain construction: If a manufacturer is already cutting some corners, in refusing to perform MFI certification, they may cut other corners. That can lead to the use of low quality materials and sloppy construction practices. That's why so many fake Lightning cables feel cheaply made and tend to fail more easily.
  • Charging and syncing issues: Early failure is just the tip of the iceberg. Due to lower standards, fake Lightning cables often exhibit issues when charging and syncing devices. Your device may charge slowly, or it may not charge or sync at all.
  • Potential for catastrophic failure: Some fake lightning cables just stop working, and that's it, but others suffer catastrophic failures. When this happens, the cable can catch fire or even electrocute you.
  • Device damage: Beyond failing or catching on fire, the real danger with fake Lightning cables is the potential to damage your devices. An improperly constructed Lightning cable may charge poorly or overheat, or even provide too much current, shortening the life of your iPhone battery or even destroying the chip that regulates charging.
  • Possibility of hijacking: The latest danger to emerge with fake Lightning cables is that hackers have managed to sneak hardware into seemingly normal cables that can open your device up to hijacking.

Can a Lightning Cable Really Hijack Your Device?

It might seem far fetched, but hackers have actually managed to manufacture Lightning cables that contain hardware that they can use to hijack your device. The most well known example involves a Lightning cable that looks and works normally, but also creates a wireless hotspot that a hacker can use to connect directly to your device without your knowledge.

Poorly-constructed fake Lightning cables are far more common than cables that are capable of hijacking devices, but this is still a real thing that has been demonstrated to exist with the potential for mass production.

How to Stay Safe With MFI Certified Lightning Cables

You don't have to buy directly from Apple to stay safe from fake Lightning cables, but you do need to look for the MFI certification. If you're worried that you won't be able to tell the difference, Apple can help you identify counterfeit or uncertified Lightning cables.

Made for iPod (MFi) logos.
Wikimedia Commons

Certified cables will typically have a badge that says Made for iPhone, or Made for iPhone | iPad | iPod. There are a few different versions of the badge that have been used over the years, but they all use the Made for iPhone or Made for iPad wording.

Additionally, legitimate Lightning cables all feature some small print on the cable that looks like this:

Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China xxxxxxxxxxxx
Designed by Apple in California Assembled in Vietnam xxxxxxxxxxxx
Designed by Apple in California Industria Brasileira xxxxxxxxxxxx

This text indicates where the cable was designed, where it was manufactured, and then reproduces the 12 digit serial number of the cable. If you don't see text to this effect on a cable that you just took out of the original packaging, then it's probably a counterfeit.

There are other ways to tell whether or not a Lightning cable is fake, but some fakes look quite real and take a trained eye to identify. If you are at all suspicious, avoid using the cable until you have consulted with a professional. Since fake Lightning cables can damage your expensive devices, it's better to not take that chance.