A couple of weeks ago we reported on how the iPhone 5's new Lightning connector was going to be a pain for people with older docking systems. Now it looks like it's not just the dock, but even the regular sync cable has been designed to make life difficult for aftermarket suppliers.
A teardown by custom cable-maker Double Helix Cables reveals that the Lightning connector includes what appears to be a sophisticated authentication chip, and that a cable built without this chip is unlikely to work correctly.
With all iPhones up to the 4S, if you lost your sync cable you could go on Ebay and get one for about $1 including shipping, which is a whole lot cheaper than the $19 that Apple asks for their version. That $19 price tag remains unchanged for the new Lightning cable used by the iPhone 5, but it seems like you'll have few choices other than buying it from Apple.
There is at least one tricky way to get around this, and the people at Double Helix Cables have come up with their own novel solution. They simply start off with an official Apple Lightning cable that includes the chip, and rebuild it to their own specifications. The catch is that their cable ends up costing a cool $85, though Double Helix will do it up in whatever look and length you want.
An analyst from KGI Securities talking to AppleInsider has also checked out the lightning cable, and he says that the new cable costs about $3.50 to make, or nearly eight times as much as the older version. This means that Apple will actually be making less profit from each sale, but by wiping out the low end of the market they will increase their share.
Apple's products have always existed in a kind of bubble where aftermarket profiteering is discouraged, but this move seems like it's little more than a blow to the customer. Pirates will find a way around the chip, but others who operate legally, such as those who make custom cables or cheaper options to what Apple's selling, will be the ones to really feel it.