Now that Apple has started shipping the Lightning adapters, ChipWorks has torn it down to find out why those cheap knock offs will not work!
Their finding did conclude that the Lightning cable does have four chips embedded in it. Two of these chips are very simple with just a couple transistors, and the third is an NXP NX20P3. The fourth and most interesting of their findings is the Texas Instruments chip, that is not documented anywhere by TI (a big secret!).
It is actually very interesting that we may have found a security device in this cable. Previously, we have analyzed security devices regarding medical printer media (armbands), printer cartridges, flash drive memory, batteries, and smart cards, but this is the first secure cable we have seen. The security does not come close to the herculean approaches that are used in (for example) today’s printer cartridges, but resembles the level of effort that cartridge manufacturers used to implement in the olden days. This is likely a calculated decision by Apple to keep costs to a minimum knowing that their core customer base prefers to shop in Apple stores or for brand name peripherals. In these places, piracy is not a concern. In other words, at this time the security is “just enough.” With future generations of Apple and non-Apple products, we may begin to see even stronger security and control if the market forces merit it.
For the time being, it seems like a win for Apple. If you are looking to save money on the Lightning Dock connector, you’re going to have to wait. This will only slow down the 3rd party vendors from figuring it out, and being able to implement a chip in their designs.
If you are looking for a solution to use the new iPhone Lightning adapter in a Bose dock, please check out the previous article on that topic.