Could Apple unleash an update that breaks third-party unauthorized Lightning cables?
When Apple first announced that it would replace its old 30-pin connectors with the new, smaller Lightning standard, it took quite sometime for accessory makers to get on board. Accessory manufacturers had trouble producing Lightning-compatible products until cracking a unique authentication chip Apple is using in the new standard. Apple wouldn’t authorize official Lightning products until months later, when Apple briefed accessory makers at its MFi summit in November. Today, in a story from The New York Times, major Apple accessory maker Mophie outlined how Apple is keeping tighter control over companies making products for iOS devices with Lightning. It also warned Apple could potentially disable unauthorized Lightning products with a software update:
When a hardware maker signs up with Apple’s MFi Program, for companies that make accessories for Apple products, it orders a Lightning connector component from Apple to use in designing the accessory. The connectors have serial numbers for each accessory maker, and they contain authentication chips that communicate with the phones. When the company submits its accessory to Apple for testing, Apple can recognize the serial number.
The chip inside the Lightning connector can be reverse engineered — copied by another company — but it probably would not work as well as one that came from Apple, Mr. Howe said. Apple could also theoretically issue software updates that would disable Lightning products that did not use its chips, he said.“That’s one thing Apple is good at: controlling the user experience from end to end,” Mr. Howe said. “If you’re buying something in an Apple store, it’s gone through all this rigorous testing.”