Power Play: iPhone 5S (with case) doesn't work with some existing power connectors

Today I purchased my iPhone 5S, crossing off one of the minor items on my bucket list. It seems trivial, but one of the things I've always wanted to do is join a launch day line for something exciting. I was lucky to score a black iPhone 5S to replace my 4S (trading it in towards the purchase, I should add). Before the big day, I had already decided to snag one of the new red leather iPhone 5S cases as sort of a bold fashion statement. I didn't need to purchase any additional power cables, since it comes with a USB to Lightning cable in the box. In addition, I already have a ton of 30-pin cables so I thought an investment in a 30-pin to Lightning adapter was wise, rather than repurchasing all new cables. As it turns out, this decision had some mixed results.

Apple's existing 30-pin to Lightning adapter does not work at all when you use their new case, despite Apple's boasting about how it adds little bulk to the iPhone's already sleek design. While this may be the case (pardon the pun) from an aesthetics perspective, it adds enough additional depth to the outside of the Lightning connector slot to prevent the pins from securely touching one another, breaking any hope of charging or data transfers.


If you follow the lines with your eyes, you'll see the distinct depth difference caused by the case. Keep in mind that these images aren't precisely to scale, however, based on the above comparison, I think the depth difference is quite obvious.

Secondly, don't expect every new iPhone 5S case to fit the connector slots with the fit and finish you expect from an Apple product. Since my wife wanted the blue case to use with her existing iPhone 5, I purchased it in the hopes that it would fit exactly according to the compatibility section of the product's store page, however the real-world experience isn't exactly what you might expect. At first, I thought it was the difference between the two phones, believing that Apple had slightly moved the layout of the ports on the phone. However, upon closer inspection, I determined that this was due to the case itself and not caused by any physical difference in the phones. For the record, the iPhone 5 and 5S are completely physically identical with regard to the port designs and layouts.

IMG 7362

IMG 7363

This is demonstrated in the photos here (the red case is my iPhone 5S). The first photo is of the Lightning connector slot. Notice how the case exactly fits around the slot on all sides. The second photo shows the same for the audio port for earbuds/headphones. Compare the photos of the red case to those of the blue.



(Just to alleviate any confusion, all of the closeups of the iPhones and cases were taken straight on and not at an angle. The shadows you see are due to the position of the lighting overhead.)

Notice how on the Lightning connector and audio port the fit isn't as exacting of a fit? This causes a compatibility issue with all of the third party cables that I currently own. To test the theory of the phones vs. the case as the issue, I switched the cases on the phones and the same thing happened on the brand new 5S. The ports were slightly off. This means that it's a defect in manufacturing of the case rather than the phone. Now this could be because of the leather product they're working with, which may cause irregularities with some product coming off the assembly line, or it may be a completely one-off defect. My money is on a one-off, as I can't imagine Apple allowing mass produced cases for their spanking new iPhone line to be this much off.


Either way I would caution anyone looking to purchase a new Apple leather case for their 5 or 5S to test it in the store in the presence of a salesperson before taking it home. Perhaps take a third-party charger or dock cable to ensure it's 100% compatible before you decide to leave with it. I'm not sure how Apple's return or restocking policy applies to their own accessories, so it's best to ask before you commit your money. After all, you're putting $40 on the line, which is no small feat for anyone choosing to watch their budget.

At the end of the day (literally), I'm happy with the purchase of my iPhone 5S and the new leather case. Fanboys can rest at ease as my goal isn't to attack Apple, but rather have it serve as a caveat emptor for the casual buyer who tries to invest wisely their money into quality products or the Apple connoisseur who has come to expect a quality fit-and-finish from their Apple devices.