iPhone charging accessories

Q: I’ve read numerous accounts of people running into difficulties when charging their iPhones using aftermarket equipment (car chargers, docking stations, boom boxes) that has not specifically been certified as iPhone compatible. From the information I’ve come across, it seems that certain third party accessories can fry an iPhone’s battery. Is this an issue of pin placement on the dock connector, voltage output, or some other consideration? I’d appreciate it if someone could break this down, as I’ve found that even AppleCare tech support doesn’t have an answer, other than to only use pre-certified accessories.

– Max

A: With the popularity of the iPod, there is a huge variety of cheap and poorly-manufactured after-market accessories out there, and the most prominent among these are iPod charging accessories, since these are relatively easy devices to manufacture.

Naturally, these lower-end accessories can cause all sorts of difficulties with iPod and iPhone charging, and this is a problem that is further complicated by the fact that many of these accessories do not even have reasonable certifications from standard associations, particularly if they do not actually connect to an AC power source (USB cables do not need to be certified by a regulatory standards body, for example).

Properly manufactured accessories, whether they are specifically certified for the iPod/iPhone or not should not cause any serious problems. The charging circuitry itself in the iPod/iPhone Dock Connector is the same in both models, and there is no reason why a proper iPod charging accessory would not work to at least provide some power to the iPhone.

The only real distinction with the iPhone is that when on, it draws more power than even an iPod touch due to the cellular transceiver.

Accessories for charging the iPhone therefore need to provide slightly more power in order to actually charge the iPhone while it’s not in “Airplane Mode.” This is a particularly common deficiency with portable battery packs, since many of these will provide enough power to charge an iPod, but not necessarily an iPhone unless the device is put into Airplane Mode or powered off. These devices won’t actually damage the iPhone, but they may not provide an adequate current to actually charge it, so you will therefore almost certainly get better charging results from a charging accessory that is specifically made for the iPhone.

The bottom line is that the advice from Apple to use only properly certified accessories is essentially a good idea. While one doesn’t necessarily have to look for the “Made-for-iPod” or “Made-for-iPhone” logo, caution should be exercised when buying charging accessories from relatively unknown manufacturers or retailers.