Review: id America CrossLink Universal Sync & Charge Cable
Surprisingly few accessories have combined Apple's new and old connectors, thanks to what we've heard was an early Apple directive to keep them separate. Nonetheless, id America's CrossLink Universal Sync & Charge Cable ($18) places an unlicensed Lightning plug, Dock Connector, and micro-USB connector on a common head at the end of a USB cable. This makes it compatible with almost every iDevice from the past few years. Clearly, the cable is geared towards those who frequently use multiple devices and/or multiple generations of devices. Unfortunately, some sacrifices were made to achieve the low price.
Even when measured from end to end, CrossLink is about five inches short of the advertised three-foot length. The cable comes in black, blue, green, pink, white, or yellow, and is flat from the connector housings through the central cord. While we liked the flat cabling, which is visually distinctive and prevents tangling, we noted that CrossLink only supports 2.1-Amp charging; consequently, users with third- or fourth-generation iPads won’t get full-speed charging. If you’re leaving these devices plugged in overnight, you probably won’t even notice, but for times when faster charging is necessary, it could be problematic.
CrossLink is definitely affordable given all of its connectors, but id America cut some corners to get the cost down. While the USB plug is fine, there are issues at the other end. We received two CrossLinks for review, and both arrived with dings and/or ink marks on all three connectors, and the “Lightning” and “micro USB” ink was already coming off. Neither of these issues affected the cables’ functionality, but they don’t look good.
Because of id America’s large Lightning plug housing and positioning, you won’t be able to plug CrossLink into any iPhone, iPad, or iPod case unless it has a substantially open bottom. The micro-USB connector presents similar issues for accessories that charge using the standard, depending on how they’re designed; recessed micro-USB ports may not be able to connect with this plug. Only the Dock Connector plug has a regular housing size, and should be compatible with most cases for devices with the older Apple connector.
Finally, there’s the issue of the unlicensed Lightning plug. While it generally worked fine for syncing and charging, connecting to an iOS 7 device does bring up a potential compatibility warning prompt, and there’s always the possibility that sync and charge functionality could be disabled in the future. This doesn’t appear to be a huge risk right now, but as it turns out, there’s a higher chance for physical issues, too. The plug on one of our review units broke off when we were trying to see whether two devices could be connected at once to CrossLink. This mightn’t be a normal usage scenario, but the ease with which it came off really undermines our confidence in CrossLink’s longevity.
If CrossLink hadn’t broken within a very brief period of testing, we would have been able to overlook some of its faults given the low pricing, and offered a higher rating. Future compatibility questions aside, $18 is a good price for the functionality offered here. Sadly, the cable walks past the “inexpensive” mark and has “cheap” issues that undermine not only its look and feel but also its durability. We’d like to see id America come back with a version of CrossLink that’s more stable, and a bit more refined. Until then, it earns a D rating.
Updated August 28, 2013: id America has sent us samples from its second run of Crosslink. Notably, these cables are longer—about 39.5 inches from end to end—and feature better, but still not great, screen printing. The company also claims the structural rigidity and quality of the ports has been improved, although it’s still using a non-licensed Lightning connector.