I’m an Apple fan. I’m pretty much entirely enrolled in the ecosystem, working between my iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch throughout the day (sadly, no iPod). However, there’s one aspect of the Apple universe that I don’t subscribe to, and, in fact, make an effort to steer away from: accessory loyalty.
Apple makes a lot of accessories: cases, keyboards, headphones, you name it. I really like the Magic Keyboard, and I use my AirPods every day; these aren’t the accessories I’m talking about. For the purposes of this article, I’m referring to Apple’s favourite submarket of cables, chargers, and adapters.
You don’t need to buy Apple accessories for Apple products
The truth is, there’s nothing special about the cables and chargers Apple makes versus the competition. You can debate all day long about the merit of Apple’s devices, but when it comes to things like plugs, there’s just no need to pay the Apple tax if you don’t have to.
Functionally, most of these accessories are the same as most third-party options — but for an increased cost. Apple knows that customers, after adding an expensive new piece of tech to their cart, will want to make sure they’re all set with the add-ons they might need while using their new device. So, they pick up a new lightning cable from Apple, and an adaptor to connect their old devices to their new one. Maybe they even pick up an Apple-branded microfiber cloth for $29 (no, really, that exists).
Often, though, these cables, chargers, adapters, and more can be found cheaper through a third party. Sometimes, a company offers a product for a similar price but includes additional features, like an extra port or two on a wall charger. Sometimes the product itself is simply better made — Apple’s standard lightning to USB cable is notorious for breaking, while tougher, nylon-threaded options have been available through other companies for years.
Beware all companies that try to upsell you on Apple accessories
It’s not just Apple that tries to convince you to buy their products, though — tech stores will also attempt to sway your judgment. For example, I was travelling this summer and realised I forgot my USB-C to USB-A cable. I turned to the already-overpriced airport tech store to buy a generic cable to get the job done. As I was ringing up, the clerk asked what type of computer I was buying this cable for.
“A Mac,” I said. “Oh,” they replied. “In that case, you should really buy Apple’s cable. It’s more compatible.”
Compatible? It’s…a cable. USB-C on one end, USB-A on the other. The thing isn’t running Windows; it doesn’t care whether it’s being plugged into a Mac, PC, PlayStation, or my ten-year-old Toyota — it’s a cable. If compatibility mattered so much, you’d have to specify a PC-compatible lightning cable when you buy a new iPhone. This is not a thing.
But how many people have bought the Apple cable because someone told them something similar? Mind you, Apple’s “compatible” cable cost nearly double the generic cable, so I imagine the company has made quite a profit off of people in this same situation.
When you’re looking to buy an accessory, you just need to make sure it matches the specs of the device in question. If you’re buying a charger, make sure it’s powerful enough to charge your device’s battery. If you’re buying a cable, make sure it has the correct port for your device. As long as the company isn’t making garbage (and, often, reviewers will be happy to let you know that), it should perform just as well as Apple’s.