Apple’s new Lightning port, currently shipping on the iPhone 5, utilizes the dynamic assignment of the pins to enable reversible use, or the ability to be plugged in regardless of which side is facing up. While this is an extremely useful feature – easier to plug in, lasts longer, less prone to pins breaking – it does have one major downside: it’s hard to produce.
And because it’s hard to produce, don’t expect the Chinese variants to be functional yet. Apple itself is having issues producing enough to satiate the awesome demand created by the iPhone 5 launch, according to AppleInsider. Since the Lightning spec hasn’t been released to the public yet, it’s unlikely that the cheaper cables for sale across the internet are actually functional: they are either a scam, or a lame attempt to reverse engineer the design, which would be extremely hard to do in such a short amount of time, and may be impossible given the parts and technology required to match the official cable. Peter from Double Helix Cables told AppleInsider that there is “basically no way those are functional cables,” so buyer beware: at least for now, these cheap cables are simply too good to be true.
Apple itself is having issues supplying enough cables, given the complexity: as of now, yield rates of the cables are low, given the amount of technology packed into a space up to 80% smaller than the previous 30-pin connector. Because of this, it is also notably more expensive to produce – but then again, money is one thing that Apple has plenty of. These issues will be ironed out as the supply chain is able to fix issues and improve yield rates, so hopefully the rollouts of the upcoming iPods will go more smoothly, though it’s possible that these constraints won’t be entirely lifted until after the taxing Holiday season has passed. On a related note, this is likely also the reason that the 30-pin dock adapters are being delayed until next month.