Earlier this month, Apple filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com for selling counterfeit Apple products -- specifically, unapproved third-party Lightning cables and power adapters sourced from Mobile Star LLC -- on its website.
Apple purchased a number of third-party Apple-branded power products that were sold directly from, and fulfilled by, Amazon.com, and determined that almost 90 percent of those products were counterfeit. According to the complaint, these counterfeit power products pose an "immediate threat to consumer safety" because they have the potential to "overheat, catch fire, and deliver a deadly electric shock to consumers while in normal use."
But not all third-party Lightning cables and power adapters are fake or in danger of exploding -- after all, Apple does license third-party companies to make MFi-certified accessories.
Here are some tips for figuring out if that dirt-cheap Lightning cable you purchased on eBay is real or fake:
Is it MFi-certified?
Apple runs a licensing program that allows third-party companies to make Apple-approved accessories.
Because Apple charges royalty fees for each MFi (Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad)-certified accessory -- approximately $4 per connector, according to Apple Insider -- these accessories tend to be more expensive. If the cable you purchased was less than $4, it's probably not a licensed third-party accessory.
What does the connector look like?
A counterfeit Lightning cable is unlikely to explode, no matter how badly it's made. The most likely issue you'll run into with a fake Lightning cable is that it won't charge your device (or it will charge your device very slowly), but there's also a risk of it damaging your device in the bad charging process.
For this reason, Apple has an entire page dedicated to sussing out fake cables. The easiest way to see if a cable is fake at a glance is to check out the Lightning connector -- certified Lightning connectors are made of a single piece of smooth metal, and the white part has rounded corners.
The USB connector may also tell you whether a product is Apple-certified or counterfeit:
Where to get MFi-certified cables, on the cheap
Apple may have issues with many of the third-party products on Amazon.com, but Amazon actually sells its own MFi-certified AmazonBasics Lightning cables in multiple lengths. A 3-foot cable will set you back $6, while a 6-foot cable costs $8. Other MFi-certified companies include Belkin, Griffin, Moshi and Ventev Mobile.