When it comes to official offerings, there’s only one Apple charging cable for the majority of iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices — the ubiquitous white and gray Dock Connector to USB Cable. The same general cord is included for free with every iPod, iPhone, and iPad except the iPod shuffle, retails for a whopping $19 when purchased separately, and is only available in one length: roughly three feet. Numerous companies have replicated this cable over the years with varying degrees of success. Some have just cloned the design, while others have added their own unique touches, such as different connector shapes, cable lengths, colors, or retracting mechanisms. Two noteworthy examples of accessories that are somewhat different from the straight-out clones are Scosche’s FlipSync II Charge & Sync Cable for iPod + iPhone ($20) and CableJive’s xlSync Extra Long Sync Cable for iPhone, iPod, and iPad ($13). The first is particularly compact, while the second is extra long; they both are designed to fill niches that Apple’s cord doesn’t.
Of the two, FlipSync II is certainly the most different from the traditional cable. Rather than a straight cord, it’s a keychain-ready solution. The USB and Dock Connector plugs are at opposite ends of a black plastic core, into which they both connect, and when unfurled the cable is a very short 5” long, a size that’s just right for use with laptops and front-mounted computer USB ports, but not ones on the backs of monitors or machines. A removable sticker on the back shows the the USB end must be inserted before the Dock Connector can click into place. An opening in the plastic on the same side as the USB plug allows the accessory to connect to a keychain, although no ring is included. Scosche is clear about the fact that FlipSync II doesn’t carry a full 2.1-Amp charge, so while it can be used with either generation of the iPad, the tablet will fill at about half the speed as it would with Apple’s cable.
It’s worth mentioning that FlipSync II is the sequel to an earlier product called FlipSync, which included Apple’s Dock Connector plus mini- and micro-USB connectors as alternatives, so it could be used with a wider variety of devices. FlipSync II looks a little nicer than its predecessor, but doesn’t do as much, and sells for the same price. A newer and slightly more expensive version called ClipSync uses a carabiner clip for easier connection to a keychain or bag, and improves further aesthetically on the same theme as its older brothers.
By comparison, xlSync is much closer in appearance to the cable that comes packaged with Apple’s devices. In fact, aside from the coloring of the plastic ends looking just slightly different—a little less pure white—and the rubber cord not feeling quite as smooth, the white model is almost indistinguishable from the original. A few things do give it away, however: there’s a CableJive logo in place of the Dock Connector symbol, a black version is available, and, most notably, the cable is considerably extended in length. It comes in at 6.5” long, more than twice the length of Apple’s cable.
CableJive explicitly claims that xlSync will “charge iPad and iPad 2 at the same rate as the cable included with the device.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as fast. We set up two iPad 2s with the same settings, drained to similar battery levels, plugged each into Apple’s 10W USB Power Adapters, and set them next to each other on a power strip. After an hour, the tablet connected to Apple’s cable had gained 28% battery life, while CableJive’s only rose 17%—a rate that’s about 39% lower. Another test showed a consistently slower charge from empty, with a difference of as much as 20% at one point. Other extra-long cables such as Grifin’s XL 3 Meter USB to Dock Cable require a significantly thicker cable to carry the proper 2.1-Amp charge, and sell for higher prices, so this isn’t totally surprising; it’s just disappointing.
As is obvious above, the two options above have their benefits, but they’re also handicapped a little as iPad charging solutions, and not for everyone. While FlipSync II may be convenient for some people, it costs just as much as Apple’s cable even though it is shorter and not fully iPad-ready; it’s worthy of a limited recommendation to road warriors who really need “anywhere” access to a limited Dock Connector cable without having to carry Apple’s free one in a bag or pocket. xlSync, on the other hand, costs 65% of what Apple’s original cable does, is significantly longer, and looks similar, but doesn’t work quite as well with iPads as with iPods and iPhones. It too is worthy of a limited recommendation—the price is aggressive and there are situations in which it will be useful, but it doesn’t live fully up to the marketing. We urge CableJive to be accurate in its marketing. Consider it only if you need the extra length and don’t expect ideal performance with an iPad.
Company and Price
Compatible: Dock Connecting iPods, iPhones, iPads