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I discovered today that there are a lot of non-Apple low-cost iPhone (and iPad) chargers. The cost is very low, so I'm questioning about the quality of such chargers. Are they safe or can they damage the iPhone? It is better to buy Apple components or can we safely buy third-party components?

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Your question presumes Apple chargers don't have quality problems, but here's an example of their recall in 2008 of iPhone chargers: apple.com/support/usbadapter/exchangeprogram –  Todd Oct 5 '12 at 23:11
    
That recall is exactly why I trust Apple so much. There were anecdotal reports that if you smashed the adapter while it was in the wall, you could sometimes pull off one of the metal plugs. Rather than chance it, Apple spent a lot of money equipping every store with hundreds of replacements, spread the word and fixed that design in weeks time. I don't know of a single accident that happened where someone actually got hurt or property was damaged. –  bmike Oct 12 '12 at 15:31
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@Todd The difference there is that there actually was a recall and Apple made good on the matter. Moreover, any and all damages that may have resulted would also be covered under warranty. Buying from some no-name outfit wouldn't even see a recall let alone restitution for any damages occurred as a result of using a faulty product. –  cksum Oct 12 '12 at 15:32
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I have seen first hand more than 50 third party chargers (mostly for computers) that have melted and some even started fires. There are some very unsafe chargers out there, so please take care if you have one that gets too hot or makes you uncomfortable. –  bmike Oct 12 '12 at 15:32
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Most of the third party iPhone ones are mostly safe most of the time. However there isn't a good way to tell which ones aren't. Here is a teardown of an Apple one and a clone.

I say most of the time since some of the safety issues are only problems if there are faults. But in a poorly designed one, faults can cause fire and/or shock. Also poorly designed ones can get hot, which might be a problem in an enclosed space.

I personally would avoid anything that claims to be from Apple but is priced lower than theirs. That demonstrates the seller is willing to lie, so they are questionable to begin with. A reputable seller wouldn't try to pretend they are selling Apple chargers.

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Those links are awesome and show exactly what words cannot. The parts may be inexpensive, but how the charger is put together means a lot. There are some good reputable companies making good products which is good for everyone. –  bmike Oct 12 '12 at 16:34
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Your mileage may vary. Most 3rd-party accessories use inferior parts or less rigorous quality assurance. They may work, they may not.

Paying the extra $10 for the official Apple charger is probably worth it, when weighed against the risk of buying a new iPhone.

Plus, any issues with official accessories will be covered by the warranty.

Basically, it's hit or miss. Use at your own risk.

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Are all third party chargers safe? No - not even close.

Are all third party chargers unsafe? Same answer.

If you use a charger somewhere where it won't start a fire and you can afford to replace a damaged phone / iPad if it comes to that then I'd say it's worth it to take into account your familiarity with electronics and perhaps decide to get a third party product you feel is made well enough.

Sadly, you can't trust UL and other stickers, since counterfeiters have no problem placing those safety logos on product that clearly haven't gone through testing. Don't be overly scared of every adapter, but also caveat emptor.

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