Belkin Lightning to USB Cable for iPhone 5 / 5S

I have ventured into brief reviews of technical stuff before, but it is not frequent on this blog. When I did LastPass, it was just because I thought more people should use a good, secure password manager rather than relying on the crap that comes with your average browser. Either way, I have over 20 years of experience in technology, and I like to branch out on this blog.

Nevertheless, I got an iPhone with a lightning connector recently, and I got a few extra cables for charging at my desk at work and in the car. So, I have the Apple cable that came with the phone, an Amazon Basics cable, and a Belkin cable that came with a two port car charger adapter. Presumably, after Apple issued the lockdown on Lightning cables, these licensed cables would have to meet a certain tolerance beyond what the previous generation might have been.

In the picture to the right, the cables are (from left to right) Amazon, Belkin, and Apple. The Apple cable is the gold standard for these cables. It is sleek, exceptionally well built, and feels like it can take quite a bit of abuse. Apple has a lot of skin in this game, so that's not too surprising. The Amazon cable (on the left) is bulkier and clearly made with less care, but the mold lines show that the hard plastic has been clamped together pretty solidly. The plastic is pretty much going to have to crack before the stress is too much for the cable connector. And then, there's the Belkin cable. It looks like a hard rubber, and that's kind of what it feels like. It doesn't have as much give as I had expected, but I owned it for ten days, used it for about four, and that tip snapped out cleanly.

A closer look at the connector reveals that the only thing holding it in was the metal bump that fits into a slot in the cable. The pins that make the connection inside don't have any residue of solder or even glue, so it shouldn't be surprising that the tip came out through an insignificant amount of normal use. Yes, that is a poorly built cable that was ill-conceived and not well designed.

To compound this issue, the cable was sold on Amazon by a reseller. So, my options (even as a prime member) were to either throw away the cable or pack the broken cable and working car charger up, pay for shipping, and send them back to Amazon for a refund. Neither option was particularly good.

Instead, I posted the picture to the left on my Twitter account with the following post:

How fantastic! has shown me the wonder of the connector!

The sarcasm was lost on @BelkinCares initially, but they then said they were "here to help" and got my contact information. After missing the call from their customer service, I called the number they left. The person on the other end spoke broken English and seemed confused about the whole thing. Eventually, she asked if I was looking for a replacement cable. I said, I guess - I was told they could "help" me. So, I was put on hold for a while. When she came back, I was told I would have to talk to a technician, so they could validate that I needed a replacement cable at all.

Stunned, I repeated what she had just said back to her. She affirmed the statement. So, I told her the whole process was more than it was worth to try to get a replacement cable. What I actually wanted was for them to stop building crappy cables. That's what I still want. It appears their confused customer support and careless cable manufacturing conspire to force me to buy more of the Amazon cables.

Belkin cable? Nope.


Postscript: My email to Belkin.

What should have happened: 
"We're sorry. Give us your address and we will send a replacement. We will include a return label so we can fix the manufacturing problem."

What actually happened:
"We need you to talk to a technician so they can validate that you need a new cable."

What is going to happen:
I don't need a replacement cable - they are cheap and plentiful, and I am not without resources. When I responded with my contact information, I specified that email worked better for me, but it seems like you can only pay attention to one thing at a time. 

There is a way that the cable should have been made, and this wasn't it. I suggest you:
  • Review your manufacturing tolerances
  • Include an adhesive at the point in the cable where the connector makes contact
  • Withdraw the current cables from the market
There is a way that this should have been handled, and this wasn't it. I suggest you:
  • Review your procedures for customer service calls
  • Review the way the ticketing system deals with twitter-sourced complaints
  • Have a bypass route for clearly defective product such that replacement is fast and efficient


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