After last month’s “duckhead” power adapter recall, Apple has started another charger-related replacement program. Beginning today, Apple will be replacing early runs of their USB Type-C charging cable for the 2015 MacBook, covering both the included cable and any additional purchased cables.

In the advisory for the program, Apple notes that cables made through June of 2015 could potentially fail, rendering the cable unable to charge the MacBook or only capable of charging it intermittently. The failed cables aren’t being cited as a safety issue – and hence there’s no recall – but rather Apple appears to be replacing them due to their unreliability.

Affected (Top) and Resdesigned (Bottom) Cable, Noting the Presence of a Serial Number
(Image Source: Apple)

The replacement program itself is being handled based on the serial number of the MacBook, as Apple did not issue serial numbers for USB cables at that time. In fact the means of telling apart an earlier, potentially faulty cable from a newer cable is the presence of a serial number, as newer cables have a serial number stamped on. According to Apple’s advisory, new cables will be going out by the end of this month.

Finally, hearing that Apple is experiencing an issue with their USB Type-C charging cable is somewhat surprising news. The cable itself is only a USB Type-C 2.0 cable rated to carry additional power – the MacBook charges at 29W – so it’s not a complex cable. The fact that the replacement program isn’t a safety recall makes me suspect that the issue isn’t in the wiring itself (as this is typically a safety hazard), but rather it’s an issue with the controller within the cable that identifies its capabilities to USB hosts and devices via the CC sense pins.  Though this is just an assumption on my part.

Source: Apple (via MacRumors)

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  • ImSpartacus - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    I didn't know that the macbook's stock cable was only usb 2.0 with custom power delivery.

    But the port, itself, is usb 3.0, right? Or was it that silly usb "3.1a" that was basically just 3.0?
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    The port itself is USB 3.1 Gen 1, i.e. USB 3.0. AKA USB SuperSpeed.
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    Ahh, that's what the terminology was, usb 3.1 gen 1. I knew there was some clever naming that was basically just 3.0. Thanks for the reminder.
  • KPOM - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    Sort of. It is 5Gb/s, like USB 3.0, but it conforms to the Power Delivery 2.0 specs that enable up to 100W charging, and the integration of DisplayPort, which standard USB 3.0 does not. Hence the USB committee decided to brand it USB 3.1 Gen 1.
  • Dusk_Star - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    The comparison photos are currently of an Apple Lightning cable - the source link has one of the actual USB C cable, but that should probably be fixed.
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, February 13, 2016 - link

    In the initial advisory (and when this article was posted), Apple's images had the Lightning connectors in them. So that was inaccurate right back to the source. But thanks for pointing out the updated images, I've gone ahead and updated the article.
  • yannigr2 - Saturday, February 13, 2016 - link

    After all the other articles about cheap and dangerous USB 3.1 cables, it seems that everyone + the dog was producing cheap cables with Type C connector, USB 3.1 or USB whatever, companies where beta testing cheap cables putting in danger their customer's equipment.
  • valinor89 - Saturday, February 13, 2016 - link

    At least these oned didn't fry someone's chromebook... I wonder if the cables are really that much worse than the crap other companies sell. I expect all usb cables to fail sooner or later.
  • FelixDraconis - Saturday, February 13, 2016 - link

    Most of Apple's newer cables fail. The plastic goes bad pretty quickly due to the weird tension sleeve that actually adds more tension because that sleeve doesn't bend. Many of our display port and other charging cables at work split because we have no choice but to have them tightly bent - the old display cables are just too short and we have so many iOS devices for testing that inevitably you can't fit them all. Third party cables tend to be a lot nicer quality, but admittedly you occasionally get a bad one.
  • rstuart - Sunday, February 14, 2016 - link

    It failed in a particularly annoying way for me. Not only did it intermittently stop charging, it managed to convince my phone (a Nexus 6P) that it was charging the charger. It took the phone from 100% to somewhat less that 0% overnight, where "less than 0%" mean the phone refused to power on for a while even when connected to the charger.

    Why would the cable need any embedded electronics at all? It can't (due to its length) carry high speed data, and a purely passive USB-C cable is rated up 60W of power.

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