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Hardware Hackers Reveal Apple's Charger Secrets

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the hard-charging dept.

Hardware Hacking 371

ptorrone writes "In this 7-minute video we explore the mysteries of Apple device charging. Usually, device makers need to sign a confidentially agreement with Apple if they want to say their charger 'works with iPhone / iPod,' and they're not allowed to talk about how the insides work. If you don't put these secret resistors on the data lines too, you get the dreaded Charging is not supported with this accessory. We demonstrate how anyone can make their own chargers that work with iPhone 4, 3Gs, etc."

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371 comments

Stupid chargers (-1, Troll)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126826)

Yay for 30-pin insanity! Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!

Oh, John Waters...how crazy you are.

Re:Stupid chargers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127968)

While trollish, the parent post does have a point. Is there a practical reason that the iPhone / iPod cannot be recharged and / or synced via a simple USB mico connector interface?

Re:Stupid chargers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33128108)

Perhaps Steve's RDF interferes with how they operate?

Re:Stupid chargers (5, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128264)

Is there a practical reason that the iPhone / iPod cannot be recharged and / or synced via a simple USB mico connector interface?

Yes... Profit!

Resistance is Futile (5, Funny)

Maarx (1794262) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126874)

Resistance is Futile

Re:Resistance is Futile (5, Funny)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127102)

Ohm, I see what you did there.

Re:Resistance is Futile (2, Funny)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127460)

shocking.

Re:Resistance is Futile (5, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127726)

I think I just thought of a great new website:

"Girls of Electronica" Dot. Com. Watch the ladies as they solder and desolder iPhones and other high-tech gadgets, while also being topless. See voltmeters probing things they were never meant to probe! Or vibrating air guns used in creative new fashion! Only $5 a month.

Re:Resistance is Futile (4, Funny)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127470)

Can someone please explain watt the hell they're talking about?

Re:Resistance is Futile (4, Funny)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127752)

The current direction of this discussion has the potential to give me a pun-migraine.

electron! Whew.

Re:Resistance is Futile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127940)

Sounds like you have caffeine withdrawl. You may want to try an Amp energy drink.

Re:Resistance is Futile (4, Funny)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128118)

Wye would you do that when I had just rectified the situation?? On a side note, I am trying to phase caffeine out of my daily routine.

Re:Resistance is Futile (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128032)

Can someone please explain watt the hell they're talking about?

I don't think you'd have the capacity to understand.

Re:Resistance is Futile (0, Offtopic)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127198)

I'm confused, this article summary isn't biased or uninformed like the last one [slashdot.org] (summary begins with "Despite all the hype about Apple's latest phone" even though the figures in the article don't include sales of the latest iPhone).

Where is the required quota of Apple hate so I can know how to respond to this?

Re:Resistance is Futile (0, Offtopic)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127368)

even though the figures in the article don't include sales of the latest iPhone

They didn't include sales of the latest Android phones, either.

Re:Resistance is Futile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127904)

Apple bastards. Trying to sell more plastic. The opposite of Green.

Re:Resistance is Futile (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128204)

Yes, Resistance is futile, but the voltage, on the other hand, has potential.

Good Lord! (2, Funny)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126968)

Is it wrong for me to get a bit hot under the collar, seeing a geek girl with such an impressive electronics workdesk?

Re:Good Lord! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127012)

Yes, it is wrong.

Re:Good Lord! (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127100)

No, I always feel particularly attracted to girls that have tech skills, too.

Re:Good Lord! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127474)

Maybe it was the way she moved her hands up and down the soldering iron and then flicked the tip. Just hope she does not go all Lorena Bobbitt with that thing.

Re:Good Lord! (2, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127136)

Whatever turns you on, dude. She's certainly well-geeky, but 'hot' she's not ;-)

Re:Good Lord! (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127176)

"She's certainly well-geeky, but 'hot' she's not ;-)"

Nonsense! She has all the characteristics of hotness:

Airway.
Breathing.
Circulation.

Re:Good Lord! (2, Funny)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127344)

lol...reminds me of that old joke:

Guy @ bar #1: "I'm into flagellation, necrophilia & bestiality"

Guy @ bar #2: "Sounds like you're flogging a dead horse..."

Re:Good Lord! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127980)

got nice tits

Re:Good Lord! (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127842)

>>>but 'hot' she's not

Come here sonny. I want to give a brief talk. I recently went to my 15th reunion, and you know those "hot" girls in my class? Well they ain't hot no more! In fact they were downright repulsive (sorry, but it was true). So might as well go for the brainy, geeky girl because that will last. The beauty won't.

If you want "hotness" that will last, go Playboy.
The 1995 centerfold will always be hot,
even if the model no longer is.

Re:Good Lord! (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128244)

"So might as well go for the brainy, geeky girl because that will last. The beauty won't."

++ for extreme truthiness!

 

Re:Good Lord! (1)

bkeahl (1688280) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127138)

But can she cook?

Re:Good Lord! (2, Funny)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127398)

Yep. But does she run Linux?

Re:Good Lord! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127496)

But does she run Linux?

Yes

Re:Good Lord! (3, Funny)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127228)

Want to cry into your underwear with nerdlust?

Read an article from http://badphysics.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com], spend a few futile minutes googling for more pictures and trying to internally reconcile her ravishing looks with such effortless eloquence and boundless intelligence, and then fall even deeper into self-loathing despair with the realization that even your hypothetical best version of yourself wouldn't be good enough for her.

Or, you know, don't. But you get my point. Hopefully, because I don't.

Re:Good Lord! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127464)

Want to cry into your underwear with nerdlust?

Hey, if I could cry into her underwear, I could get over the fact that she's too hot for me and console myself in other ways.

Maybe I could just hump her leg for a minute or two -- that's all I'd need. :-P

(*whew* Thank god for proofread before submit, almost forgot to check "anonymous" on this one. ;-)

Re:Good Lord! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127566)

Don't despair. A girl like that has no use for pretty boy jock types - at least not for anything other than one night stands where she doesn't have to put up with their inane conversation. But she will be at the center of a "circle" of guys all hanging on her every word at pretty much any geek event she might attend which can be annoying as hell.

Speak for yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127576)

Signed, Randall Munroe

Re:Good Lord! (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127676)

There is something off about that girl. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think she may be a mandroid.

Re:Good Lord! (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127702)

and then fall even deeper into self-loathing despair with the realization that even your hypothetical best version of yourself wouldn't be good enough for her.

Why? Does she prefer girls?

Re:Good Lord! (1, Insightful)

cgranade (702534) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128194)

Grow up. The author of that blog is a real, honest person. I don't think she likely appreciates that kind of treatment. Has it ever occurred to you that Sarah may actually find your comment? That there is a person behind that picture? That Sarah may not, in fact, be writing to entertain your "nerdlust," but because she has an interest in, say, science?

Re:Good Lord! (4, Informative)

nb caffeine (448698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127346)

Not only does she have a well stocked desk, she has her own company and sells some geeky stuff to us tinkerers: http://adafruit.com/ [adafruit.com] Her monochron pong playing clock was featured on /. a while back.

Re:Good Lord! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127608)

Is it wrong for me to get a bit hot under the collar, seeing a geek girl with such an impressive electronics workdesk?

not at all old chap

geekgasms all round

She explained things wuite well. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127624)

She did a great job explaining things in the video and her webpage (that is her's righ?) is very clear and even showed how she got the voltages - she didn't label them but there was a clear Ohm's Law calculation there for the voltage dividers.

Re:Good Lord! (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128158)

Its not "wrong" as in somehow morally objectionable.

However, feeling the need to discuss it on Slashdot, making comments that amount to "OMG, its a GIRL!", while still not immoral, are pathetic.

You must live in either a basement, or Saudi Arabia, and never see any real girls. Whichever it is, just get out more.

Shortcut to "success": Monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127064)

Those little resistors probably justify the 40$ price tag of all the iPhone accessories, right?

Should we have a... (2, Informative)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127110)

Right to repair [wikipedia.org] our own electronics though? (Or build interface devices)?

Re:Should we have a... (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127580)

Do you even have to ask? Yes, we should have a right to repair, and a right to build interface devices.

People often talk about how wasteful Americans are and the problems of a throw-away society. If people were more willing to repair their devices, especially complex electronic devices (most of which fail because of simple and repairable problems, like a broken lead), we would be better off. Aside from less electronics in landfills (let's face it, few people actually dispose of electronics properly), people would not be spending their money so quickly, and presumable that would mean fewer debt problems (or they might just spend it elsewhere).

Of course, we will never see anyone other than a few activists pushing this sort of mentality -- corporations have enjoyed ever larger profits because people are unwilling and unable to repair their own equipment (or to find a local repairman to do it for them).

Re:Should we have a... (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127982)

Sorry to distract you from the "profit is evil" theme, but the reason consumer electronics can't be repaired in America is due to the fantastically high cost of labor there. But don't listen to me, read here [albanyvideoservice.com]:

Do we repair DVD players?
Yes and no. We recognize the fact that DVD players, like most electronics, were expensive when new. Now that the format has been on the market for over a decade, the cost of players has dropped radically. Most models are less than fifty dollars with all of the features one would dream of in a player. Repairs on DVD players are only economical a small fraction of the time. We recommend Albany merchants such as Target and Radio Shack as being good places to consider the purchase of a new DVD player.

The source is a video repair shop in flyover territory which charges $60/hour for labor. Here in China, I can get my DVD player repaired for $3-10 because the cost of labor is so low. Indeed, one of the delights of living here is you can actually get things repaired. I'm just so used to automatically buying a new electric razor, rice cooker, electric lamp, (etc) when mine breaks. Here, I can actually get it fixed! In America, don't even bother phoning the repair shop as they'll just tell you that the cost of a new unit is less than the cost of their labor.

Don't let that put you off of blaming stupid Americans who are unwilling and unable to repair their own equipment and of course blaming those eeeeevil profit-makers. The only people who see the world the right way are a small group of activists, for example yourself!

Re:Should we have a... (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127672)

with company's like apple lobbying i dont think thats gonna happen until, the next DMCA exemption 3 years from now

Not surprising (4, Informative)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127134)

Lots of companies do this. APC puts a RS-232 serial port on a UPS but wait! They move the pins around so you need a special cable. Cisco used to have a product called the Gigastack that used a standard 6-pin Firewire cable, but no! Pins 1&2 were shorted in the "special" cables Cisco provided.

Re:Not surprising (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127590)

Huh? I have never needed a "special" serial cable for any of our APC SmartUPS. And we do use the serial interface - USB is too easy to accidentally yank out.

Re:Not surprising (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127740)

Maybe you aren't using Powerchute, because if you were you would definitely need an APC cable. In fact, the smart features require a different cable from the "dumb" Back-Ups.

all the ebay crap works (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127154)

i've bought iphone charging cables on ebay for $2 each including shipping and they all seem to work. via the USB and in my car. sometimes i've pulled it out a bit by accident and i get the error. put the cable all the way back in and it works.

Re:all the ebay crap works (1)

cygnwolf (601176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127476)

I've seen a lot of the off brand chargers have been reported to brick your pod though. I know I looked for an alternative to the $40 dock for my g2 shuffle for a long time. Found a lot, but never any where someone had anything good to say about them. This explains a lot of t hat.

Re:all the ebay crap works (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127524)

Yeah. They work fine for a while. Part of what you're paying for is engineering. It's easy to provide something that looks like 5 volts to a simple multimeter.

But you plug a cheap cigarette lighter USB charger in, and put a scope on it. Then do things like crank the engine, turn your AC blower on/off, etc, and see what happens.

Good quality chargers typically have extra components to filter out the sort of nasty, very fast spikes (often 30 v or more) that come over a car's 12v (13 to 14 really) lines. Some of the knock-offs are good. Other's aren't. Don't be surprised if you open it, and find 4 resistors and an old 7805 regulator inside. At that point you're relying on luck, not engineering, to protect your precious iPhone.

just make a standard USB charging brick (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127188)

200 Ohm resistor between the D+ and D-.

Recent iPods and Phones/Touches will use it to charge at 500mA or more. And it'll be compatible with a lot more non-Apple devices than this device is.

See "Battery Charging v1.1 spec and adopters agreement" on this page:

http://www.usb.org/developers/devclass_docs

Or search for "USB-IF charging".

Place your bets (1, Interesting)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127212)

How long will it be before the take down notice arrives?
Someone download the plans, and put them up on a torrent site quick.

Re:Place your bets (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128006)

Reading the article, it appears that the purpose of the resistors is NOT to lock out manufacturers, but to inform the ipod of the amount of current to draw from the charger. They found different manufacturers using different values of resistors. From the looks of it, one resistor sets the amount, and the other resister serves as a "checksum of sorts, complementing the other resistor correctly to verify the value. Getting the value wrong could very easily cause a fire, so this is important to make sure you get it right.

This is not surprising, as USB does not allow variable voltage, and current is supplied completely on demand with no regard to the provider. So you either have your device set to draw a fixed amount of power (current) and limit your options to *1*, or you develop some simpler way to tell the device how much power (current) a device can demand from any given charger.

The only other option would be to use the data pins and actually communicate over the usb spec normally and outright tell the device how much power to draw. (which is actually already in the USB specs) Apple would have probably preferred to go this route, but that would significantly increase the complexity of the power adapters. All the people that are whining about Apple being nasty about this need to get some education. Apple's other two options were to make chargers cost more, or to not be able to offer both fast (wall power) and slow (AA batts) chargers.

The only group that's more thick-headed than the Apple zealots, are the anti-Apple zealots.

USB? (1)

weeeeed (675324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127306)

Every iPod/iPhone ships with an USB cable: i use that one together with a $5 USB charger.... Where's the problem? Why do i need to build my own charger?

Re:USB? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127758)

As the article mentions, you need to do 'special' stuff to get >100mA out of a USB port (as the USB specification requires). Besides, they are using batteries to recharge the other device which can't give 1A for a very long time which is what the iPhone requires. As the article mentions, you don't want to put in a chip to negotiate the requirements ($$$) so you mess around with voltage dividers on the data busses to negotiate what your charging device can provide. You also don't want to pull out more than a charger can provide or you will kill it. USB ports were never meant to be charging at high current in the first place.

There's nothing 'secret' about it as the poster of the Slashdot article makes it out to be. You can reverse engineer all of this for any number of devices, you'll be hard pressed to find any manufacturers that actually provide specs for charging devices through USB ports. The fact that Apple does it in a better way than just connecting 5V and GND and ignoring the USB specs and just drawing a great amount of current is not evil, the fact that others (Samsung) take out my USB port everytime their 'USB charger' is used is evil.

okaaaay.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127308)

So the trick to reverse engineering an Apple charger protection is to look at another third party charger and copy what they did.

The beginning is great, but that end is a complete letdown in the article.

secret resistors abound (3, Interesting)

SpinningCone (1278698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127358)

i hate when manufacturers do crap like this to keep peripherals locked into a more profitable licensing agreement. Apples tendency toward total control is one of the things i don't like about them.

tho other manufacturers are just as bad. i will never buy a Dell for my home for the same reasons. at work we had an Out of warranty gx 270 desktop. they were know for their bad capacitors in the power supply. so lo and behold the PS goes out. i have to spec a new one. at first i thought i would hop down to the local PC store and grabe a cheap PS for like $30 would work fine.

found out that the motherboards on those dells had different pin layouts from regular boards. the connector was the same as your usual PS but the lines were scrambled. if you plugged in a PS from the PC store you would fry the mobo. thus i would have to get a new PS from the dell store at a cost of $115 ..

we opted for a used PS from a 3rd party supplier for $30 instead.

wish companies would back off and be more open. the way things seem to go we're heaed back to the old at&t days when it took a court action just to add a funnel to your telephone handset http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hush-A-Phone/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:secret resistors abound (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128124)

Any company in their right mind should be leasing PCs for the duration of their warranty period. If the PC is used as a license server or runs some nodelocked application, then real server-class hardware should be used anyway. Trying to save money by using a desktop instead of a server never results in net savings.

usb standard chargers in china (and europe etc)? (4, Insightful)

joostje (126457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127386)

According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org],

China and other countries are making a national standard on mobile phone chargers using the USB standard.[13] Starting in 2010, Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and RIM will begin making handsets with a standard phone charger based on the micro-USB connector

But the shown resistors don't look like the standard micro-USB connector. So is Apple breaking it's prommisses? Or am I missing something?

Re:usb standard chargers in china (and europe etc) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127924)

In this case, "based on the micro-USB connector" most likely was interpreted by Apple to mean "one end plugs into USB". I mean, that's based on USB, right?

In other words, Apple in effect confirmed they were entirely giving up on Firewire. :-)

Re:usb standard chargers in china (and europe etc) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127994)

They sell an adapter for $90 :)

Confused (3, Insightful)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127408)

Doesn't it just use micro USB like all the other new phones?

I thought that the EU had forced all of the cell phone makers to adopt micro USB for charging and that they had complied by adopting the standard everywhere (not just in the EU).

I probably don't need to make this point here on /., but I think this is a great development. The convenience and cost saving to me as a consumer are substantial.

Has Apple managed to avoid this?

Re:Confused (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127698)

Doesn't it just use micro USB like all the other new phones?

I thought that the EU had forced all of the cell phone makers to adopt micro USB for charging and that they had complied by adopting the standard everywhere (not just in the EU).

This is the EU that you are discussing. Rules don't come into force overnight. Also, it appears that the rules can be satisfied by selling an adapter. Apple sells such adapters.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33128130)

Pretty much all modern cell phones have standard mini-USB charging. It's bloody great. I'm surprised apple would still prevent a standard USB connection from charging one of there devices. Glad I stopped buying there stuff a couple of years ago.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127872)

I agree, not to mention the waste of resources that go into creating special chargers for every handheld electronic device. You'd think the manufactures would be all over this, cut the cost of chargers from production and keep the price the same. More profits for them, less hassle for everyone else.

Re:Confused (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127928)

More profits from them? Compared to making sure that novice cell phone users have to buy a specific $0.50 charger from them for $20? Surely you jest.

How is this different (1)

Jabrwock (985861) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127414)

than any company that makes products with custom dongles to interface/charge their batteries? All I see is that Apple found a way slightly more clever than just making a unique connector shape...

Chinese knock offs. (2, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127466)

Most third party chargers I see for Apple hardware are Chinese knock-offs purchased for under 20$ from eBay. I somehow doubt these manufacturers signed anything.

Monoprice! (1)

alphax45 (675119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127552)

Monoprice had (has?) iPod/iPhone USB cables for 0.69 (USD). I picked up 6 a few weeks ago. (They had a limit of 6 per order). The cheapest I could find them in a store around here was ~ 10 (CND). Even with the shipping buying the six from Mono was cheaper.

The wrong game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33127942)

If the game could be won only by getting highest sales numbers, Apple would have given up on Macs 3 decades ago.

Just read the damn specs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33128046)

Read the USB battery charging specification, you clods. You've probably never heard of it because it's relatively new and isn't covered by your dead-tree book you picked up at the local library, but it's what most manufacturers follow.

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