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back to article Apple will swap fanbois' killer phoney phone chargers for legit adapters

Dodgy knockoff power adapters for iPhones, iPads and iPods can be swapped for an official charger in a new trade-in deal from Apple. The Cupertino giant is keen to get dangerous third-party power gear out of fanbois' hands after a woman in China was electrocuted when she tried to take a call on her iPhone while it was charging …

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Ground

There used to be a time where electric equipment with a metal case needed to have said case grounded.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ground

Do you really think cheap knock off chargers will comply with regulations? they don't even make safe baby milk powder over there, so if they don't care about babies then why would they care about iPhone users?

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Re: Ground

I've seen a cheap printer where the brown wire in the mains cable was connected to the metal parts of the chassis... Just as well it was PAT-tested before anyone tried to use it.

Proper double-insulation is safe, as is proper grounding. Both can be lethally badly-designed.

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Coat

Re: Ground (& regulations)

The knock-off manufacturers seem to think CE marking means Chinese Export

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Facepalm

Re: Ground

@AC 11:43 - >"Re: Ground. Do you really think cheap knock off chargers will comply with regulations?"

He was talking about the phone, not the charger. It's an iPhone - it's got a metal case. Get it? "Whoosh"!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ground

All phones are powered by a battery or an isolated power supply, which renders a grounded case pointless. There are no consumer regulations, nor best-design practices that would require an isolated metal case to be grounded.

There are, however, regulations that consumer power supplies, such as those found in chargers, fully isolate the primary mains from the low-voltage secondary even in the presence of high humidity and very high mains voltage.

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Re: Ground

The problem in these units is that the isolation between the 380V DC output of the switcher and the 5V USB socket is wishfull thinking. Putting it in a grounded metal case would do bugger-all to help

The real solution is for the world to use proper BS plugs so that there is room for a proper 6inch isolation gap, rather than these tiny little American things.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ground

It's actually not that bad. The general rule I've heard is 1mm air-gap per 1kV isolation, with a consumer product only needing about 1.5kV isolation to pass regulatory testing.

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FAIL

Re: Ground

alright, then how did the Chinese woman get electrocuted when picking up the phone?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ground

> alright, then how did the Chinese woman get electrocuted when picking up the phone?

The knockoff charger was not designed to any acceptable regulatory standards and bridged power from the mains side to the secondary side? If the charger was near the shower, high humidity could have contributed to the dielectric breakdown. This is why devices carrying the UL and/or CE mark are tested at extremely high mains voltages after being soaked in 90-95% relative humidity for 48 hours.

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A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

If their stuff weren't so damn expensive this problem wouldn't exist.

So I wonder when the day will come on which I can take in my cheap Android - that just could be somehow dangerous - that I chose to buy because i-things are overpriced - and swap it for The Real Thing for £100?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Sorry but it is a cultural problem of China to sort out. It's nothing to do with Apple's pricing.

When your country has a billion people and one baby per family policies you get the impression they don't really value human life. That has nothing to do with the cost of a product. There was a video posted of a child on the road in China and everyone was walking past and not doing anything to help. There's your problem.

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FAIL

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Fandroids seem to like to ignore the fact that directly competing Android phones cost about the same or more than the iPhone (the Galaxy S4 was more expensive than the iPhone 5 last time I looked). Just like PCs you can buy cheaper phones, but with a reduced specification and/or quality. They also like to ignore the fact that on contract (which is how most folks still get their phones) you can get the iPhone 4 for the same price as cheap Android phones (i.e. nothing to pay up front).

All you're saying here is "I'm too cheap to pay for a premium phone", not that the iPhone price is priced beyond most people's means or budget.

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Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Google Nexus 4 16GB - £279. iPhone 5 16GB £529.

Thanks for playing though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

I'd not be suprised if the same thing didn't happen in many other countries, though in the UK it would probably be "ah the parents around somewhere I don't want to have to deal with the shit if I pick it up and find whose it is and people are like 'are you stealing that baby' and nah fuck that."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

I don't really think you can compare the iPhone 5 to the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 is streets ahead, so is the HTC One, of the iPhone so there should be no reason for the iPhone to demand such a premium.

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Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Of course flagship androids cost more, theyre actually useful functional devices. But then again even £85 'landfill' androids can give iPhones a run for their money..

If I was going to chose a point of comparison to support the iPhone functionality to price would not be my choice... Kinda akin to invading sevastopol in speedos & sandals... Not the wisest possible choice possibly..?

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Pirate

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

It doesn't help that Apple have chosen to ignore the treaties it has signed that mandate the Micro USB as the charging port. A treaty it signed before the iPhone 4 was released, and long before the release of the lightning port (i.e. early or before the development lifecycle).

Now the fanbois will tell you "ah but Apple will sell you an adapter" - well that has two faults - one, you need to carry it, so why not just carry the original cable that came with the phone, and two, you still HAVE TO BUY IT for £15.

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Stop

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Oh look, this years latest and greatest Android models are, on paper at least, better than last years iPhone. That and a phone that is 3G only and sold at near cost (if you can lay your hands on one) by Google as a loss leader is a direct competitor? Think again on that one.

Try again, but using logic. The current model iPhone competes in the same range as the top end Android devices. Last years iphone competes in the mid range and the year before that in budget. In 3-6 months time no-doubt people will be looking at the specs of the S4 and HTC One and sneering at them compared to the latest and greatest at the time. Does that mean they are currently overpriced?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

This has nothing to do with the connector used on the device being charged. Whether it be Micro USB or Apple's proprietary connectors, the charger converts mains voltage to the isolated low-voltage sent to the device through the connector.

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WTF?

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Comment about the 3G only, fair enough, although I don't know anyone using 4G in the UK anyway.

Release Dates;

Nexus 4 Release Date = November 13th 2012

iPhone 5 Release Date = September 12th 2012

I've not heard of any Nexus 4 availability problems for months, I know that when I ordered mine in February it arrived 3 days later.

Eh?

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Silver badge

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

No technical difference but...

Since the apple part is more expensive, and even the licensed 3rd party are more expensive due to the apple tax on the connector they can charge more for a fake apple adaptor then the same unit with a micro usb. They always bootleg the expensive handbag, not the cheap one.

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h3
Bronze badge

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Build quality on the Nexus 4 is awful. Not bothered about how stuff looks really the internals are pretty good but it doesn't feel right to hold. (Or like it is robust).

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Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

>This has nothing to do with the connector used on the device being charged.

Yes it does.

If Apple stuck to the rules you could use any USB socket to charge them. But because they ignore the rules and use a proprietry convector your choice is a $100 iCharger from iApple or a $2 knock off

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

> I'd not be suprised if the same thing didn't happen in many other countries, though in the UK

Funny that you mention. Last time I had the displeasure of going through LHR (many years ago, thankfully) I came across a lone child standing on a pool of vomit. I must have been following the disembarkation of a convention for the blind, judging by all those people walking past with their gaze intently fixed in the distance.

Only costed about 30 seconds of my time until his teacher and all his classmates showed up (strangely enough, with a mop and a bucket). The little clever bugger was alright, aside from having ingested some dodgy food, but unless you stop and ask you will never know.

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Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Well my Ynos notebook lasted 2 years, my mac ppc powerbook is still working well after eight years.

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Re: A good opportunity to sell stock at cost and look big'n'caring

Actually, the connector isn't proprietary on the chargers. They may use a non-standard plug on the phone's end, but the other end of the cable is just standard USB. The charger, likewise, just has a standard USB plug, and even Apple's overpriced charger doesn't include a cable. It's just a simple AC to USB power converter.

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Silver badge

Won't this just encourage people to buy an ultra cheap knock-off charger just so they can trade it in for a heavy discount on a genuine Apple charger?

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Anonymous Coward

I was contemplating doing exactly this! :)

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Anonymous Coward

Cheap knock-offs seem to sell for around £6 (incl. postage?).

Apple's charger is £15 -- discounted to £6.50 (before vat?)

if you want to save a pound or two go for it. I have better things to do with my time.

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Cheap knock offs are cheap for a reason.

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Trollface

How true

You only have to look at Samsung gear

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FAIL

Re: How true

Doesn't make sense... cheap knock offs are usually worse!

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Why?

Apple has NEVER done anything for altruistic reasons.

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Re: Why?

Quite right Dave and why should they? They're a business, not an individual and businesses exist to make money for shareholders and (erm..ok...) pay taxes. Ok they should pay taxes.

But they aren't being altruistic now - this is business and brand protection. Anyone digging a little will be able to find that the problems are cheap knockoffs but many people are too lazy to dig or look beyond a headline.

And presumably they're trying to protect against expensive repair costs under warranty - assuming they can't prove if a non-genuine charger was used?

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Re: Why?

Tony,

My problem with your reply is that what happens after the offer expires on the 18th of October? There will still be dodgy chargers in use and for sale.

Of course we shouldn't forget that people have lost their lives but, I (being only slightly cynical) would almost expect Apple to be wagging a finger saying look what happens if you don't use genuine Apple products.

D.

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Re: Why?

And why shouldn't they, as always in life you get what you pay for. And I was told as a child that you don't touch anything that is electrical with wet hands

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Re: Why? @TonyJ

"Quite right Dave and why should they? They're a business, not an individual and businesses exist to make money for shareholders ..." and therein lies the problem with the world we live in. Companies are expected, and indeed required, to act unethically and selfishly, instead of having consideration for the society in which they operate. They attract the most predatory psycho/sociopaths into positions of power and then not only reward them for being bastards, actively encourage others to act the same. Some countries then give them the same legal standing as individuals (USA, I'm looking at you, you silly country), and expect everything to be alright.

What a mess ...

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Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

This has precisely nothing to do with knock offs. Bet you money on it. As has been said previously Apple wouldn't know altruism if it tripped over it.

What probably happened is the poor girl picked up her phone with wet hands and got a nice dose of mains electric, straight from the kosher Apple charger. Increased conductivity due to the presence of water was enough to kill her. The chances of Apple admitting any wrong doing are about the same as a cop being charged with murder so they gave the family a fat wad of cash in apology for the murder of their daughter, quietly re designed the charger that killed her and avoided a product recall by doing everyone a ' favour' by replacing theirs while still charging cost price..

Its like watching a bad episode of Columbo.

And would it kill you to stop with the bloody air hostess crap, even if the daily fail can't show any respect it doesn't mean you have to be the same el reg. This is someones daughter, friend, sister you are talking about who died tragically, there was more to her life than the ability not to punch the nth sex obsessed businessman in the face after a long day...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

A properly designed consumer AC power supply has no electrical connection between the primary (mains) side and the secondary (low-voltage) side of the power supply, which is verified during UL and CE regulatory testing. For example, UL requires toy transforms to pass voltage-withstand testing of about 1.5kVAC for 1 minute after the device has been subject to 90-95% relative humidity for 48 hours.

What probably happened is that the knockoff charger was designed without the proper air-gaps between traces and components, or the transformer provided inadequate isolation between the primary and secondary windings. I would not be surprised if the designer chose to create a non-isolated power supply just to save on component cost.

Apple is most likely offering the trade-in because these knockoffs are designed to look like official Apple product, and therefore hurting Apple's reputation.

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Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

I wouldnt be so sure if I was you. Apple have been very quiet about this, too quiet for them to be being entirely honest. Yes there is something to what you say but I wonder the effect of the output of a properly working charger applied to wet hair - and right into the poor girls brain? You are also assuming the suppliers are following Apples designs to the letter, wouldnt surprise me if corners have been cut. Unlike other companies they rely on outside suppliers exclusively, funny how you dont hear of Nokias exploding or killing..

People have been cutting Apple far too much slack - and this wonderful 'gesture' is just to try and retain their free ride for product specification and product quality. Someone should do an FOI or similar request on this and other cases. And as for Obama's actions over a private court case?! Apple will continue to sell overpriced crap, unsafe products and legally string up their customers as long as they're allowed to. Want to get any recompense for your daughter being slaughtered by our product - fine, but you'll be letting us whitewash it, yes?

If any other company had repeated deaths, serious injuries, and other issues associated with their product - like Chrysler, VW or Renault-Nissan for example - all hell would break loose and thats not even including the legal gagging involved in obtaining your legal rights! Yet people defend Apple with more vim and vigour than they did the fiddling fathers...

Just think on this before you rail at my Apple unfriendliness... How the hell would you feel if it was your sister who'd died like this? And how would you feel if to get any recompense you had to sign a contract to let them lie about it?

Apple need to change their practices, stop with the legal gagging orders and be honest about their problems and mistakes. If they don't they will be kaput.

Apple, show us proof of what you say happened, be honest for once in your existence... It'll do you good in the long run.

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Silver badge

Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

Where's your call for Samsung to do the same? Or do you assume the reports of the GS4 setting an apartment on fire were fabricated, just because?

Regardless of whether a real or fake Apple charger was used, anyone dumb enough to use a phone plugged into a charger while taking a bath deserves their fate. Natural selection at work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

I am an electrical engineer who has designed high-power AC power supplies that have gone through UL and CE certification. I have no bias for or against Apple, but do care about hardware design.

> ... but I wonder the effect of the output of a properly working charger applied to wet hair...

There is none. An isolated power supply, by definition, cannot pass mains voltage or current to the secondary side of the transformer. UL and CE verify current leakage and voltage isolation at very high humidity on every design that carries their respect marks. Take a look at UL 697 for an example safety standard. At worst, water getting into the phone will cause low-voltage shorts within the device, probably destroying transistors within the various integrated circuits.

> You are also assuming the suppliers are following Apples designs to the letter, wouldnt surprise me if corners have been cut.

Regulatory certification is done with test conditions that far exceed what should be possible in reality, which means suppliers could be quite lax in meeting their specifications and still produce safe products. If Apple or a supplier changed the specification of a component after the final product had been certified, they would be liable for any and all damage caused. I am quite sure there are lawyers already dismantling Apple chargers trying to prove just that.

> Unlike other companies they rely on outside suppliers exclusively...

Almost all companies get their capacitors, inductors, resistors, transformers, switching power supplies, and printed circuit boards from another company. Very few even assemble their own product these days. The bottom line is that all companies basically get their raw components from the same pool of suppliers.

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Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

Great idea.. Which I fully support. The sole solitary reason I mentioned apple was, oddly enough, because it was an Apple device and ancillaries that killed the poor girl.

If you don't make your own product in your own factory then you cannot attest to its ultimate quality.

More to the point, I still have and still use all of the stock chargers that came with my phones.. Have never ever had to replace one. But then I won't buy Apple & I won't touch Samsung. A coincidence, you decide..

I'm unimpressed with Apple over this.. Alot of companies would have replaced the kit for free and taken the hit (at least until they wrote it off against the next tax period). Its called customer (remember those) relations. Instead they are if you believe manufacturing estimates theyre using a tragic death to make 30% on the nose... Not cool Apple.

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Stop

Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

@Jemma: "... straight from the kosher Apple charger..." Except it wasn't. It was a third party charger, not an Apple charger.

No one hates big US company's more than the Chinese, so if there was a way to stick this to Apple they would have. But the Chinese hate Chinese fraudsters that make junk that kills other Chinese more than anything else.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah right, and my saddlebacks run on Avgas...

> If you don't make your own product in your own factory then you cannot attest to its ultimate quality.

Compared to Apple, I work for small companies, but even we regularly perform on-site audits of all of our major vendors and contract manufacturers. My previous employer of nine years even won a Motorola quality award for consistently providing quality product to them. Managing quality in the supply chain is quite doable, even when sourcing components from half-way around the world.

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"discounted price of $10"

$10 is what the things should be selling for normally. If Apple didn't grossly overprice their products, people wouldn't look for lower cost alternatives. Equivalent 5w usb chargers can be found at online retailers for just a few dollars shipped, here in the US. By comparison, Apple's official charger at their online store will set you back $23, including shipping. It's possible that their chargers receive a bit better testing than the off-brands, but they still undoubtedly cost little more than a dollar or two to manufacture. The rest is just markup for the logo printed on them.

This likely has little to do with the charger being "authentic" or not, anyway. According to the family, she apparently got out of the bath to answer a call. Most likely, her hair was still wet, and water ran down the cord and to the outlet, bypassing the charger entirely. Or she may have been plugging it in with wet hands. Whatever the case, Apple is doing little more than turning focus to the supposedly-off-brand charger, in an effort to sell more of their overpriced peripherals. Make people doubt the safety of their existing chargers, and offer a "discount" to trade them in for an official replacement, and they can turn this into a way to profit from the situation.

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Silver badge

I saw a blog where an engineer who designs DC power supplies for a living took apart Apple's charger and guessed it would cost $5-$7 to make, and stated it was better designed and built than several other chargers for other contemporary phones (which he didn't identify, presumably to avoid the wrath of haters) which though perfectly safe, had issues with the quality of their power output - apparently if your touchscreen is a bit funky when plugged in, you know your charger outputs crappy power.

He also checked several different type of Apple charger clones and found they all had various issues with either safety or the quality of the power output, and were all worse than the other chargers, as well as the Apple charger. Part of the reason for the cost of the Apple charger is its size, chargers are typically larger and it requires compromises in safety, power quality or cost to make them the size of Apple's. Obviously we know the cloners won't compromise on the latter...

If you want to fault Apple for anything, it should be for making their official charger too small for vanity's sake - if it was a bit bigger it'd be easier for the cheap copies to be properly designed. Not guaranteed, of course, but at least they could obey UL and EU rules for the distance between traces required to isolate the high voltage and low voltage components, and use enough of and the right components to produce clean power at the desired voltage.

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Anonymous Coward

Size of Apple chargers

A 2 pin Chinese Star phone charger with usb out is twice the size of an Apple charger.

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Silver badge

Re: Size of Apple chargers

The clone I have, and all the ones I've seen, are the same size. You can only tell them apart because the text is a bit different "Designed by Abble", "Designed by California", "Designed by <some hex string>"

I guess they don't want to say Apple to avoid getting sued, though I'm sure there must also some that are identical on the outside floating around - they're probably sold to unsuspecting buyers as the real thing at nearly the price of the real thing.

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