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The Power Trip

I have an iPhone. Some of this information may or may not apply to you if you have an Android type phone – but my suspicion is that cord problems are universal, if the cords themselves are not.

So, have you, like me, suffered the indignity of buying maybe 100 cords since you got your first iPhone? After all, when you buy a television or a lamp, you expect the cord to just work. Now, granted, over time and lots of pulling and tugging (unlikely with a lamp or a TV but possible) and the strands inside the cord may break and eventually not deliver enough power for your electrical appliance.

But these are devices that don’t have internal batteries, so as soon as you add that into the equation, things will change.

I first became aware of the whole issue of power cords when Apple released a phone with a new end – from that broad, flat style to the small version. And all those charging cables had to be replaced: the one in each room, the car versions, the one I carried in my purse, the one I kept as a spare in my work bag. And they weren’t cheap.

Needless to say, I wasn’t alone in this frustration, so thus far, Apple has wisely not changed its cord design.

In order to understand the power cords, though, I first learned that not all cords for battery-enabled devices are created equal. Now, of course, I knew that my laptops didn’t necessarily have the same plug end for the computer. (All the wall plugs are more or less the same, and as long as you’ve got reasonably current wall plugs, you’ll be fine on that end. -Yes, that’s a pun.) But the amperage is not necessarily the same, nor is the fitting on your laptop or tablet. So, you’ll need to be careful to find the right replacement or additional cord.

How many phone cords have YOU bought since you got your first iphone?

I’m not an EE or anything close, so it never occurred to me that as long as I had the right innie for the laptop itself, I could use any adapter (the fat part that sits between the cord to your laptop, and the cord to the wall). No. You need the right amperage. So if you need to replace a cord, or you want one to carry with you so you’re not pulling one out of the wall when you travel, make sure to look for the model number on the adapter, and then find one with the proper power delivery.

Back to the iPhone. When charging any electronic device, there are four things that need to be considered:

1- the wall adapter or power source

2- the Lightning cable (that’s the USB cable that plugs into the wall adapter on one end, and your phone on the other)

3- the charging port at the bottom of your phone

4- the software you’re running on your phone

And one, or even more than one of these, may be at fault if things aren’t working correctly.

The most frustrating problem is that the iPhone has updated its software and suddenly it’s not charging properly. One of the first things to try —especially if an update was threatened … er,
promised— is a hard reset. Don’t just let it go to sleep, or do a quick reset, do a complete reboot (whatever that means for your particular phone). It’s not a bad idea to do this periodically, anyway. I know it’s easier to leave all our devices on (just sleeping when not in use) but allowing them to release all their memory and clear things out now and then is a good idea.

Check your cable. If it’s frayed at the end, that’s obvious. Make a practice of wrapping it gently when carrying it around, in a loose circle, so that you’re not bending the fragile little wires inside the plastic “wrapper.” If it’s bent or has an obvious dent or hole anywhere along its length, it may very well be time for a new cable (it may work if it’s aligned just perfectly, but let’s be honest, this will drive you crazy!).

Another thing to check is the end that plugs into your phone. It may be corroded, or damaged beyond repair. But first try cleaning it. You can just use a soft cloth on it, though I admit that when I’ve seen a bit of corrosion I’ve been known to use a fingernail —lightly — on it to scrape it off.

Then check the port on your phone. It may have accumulated some dust or debris. You can tap your phone lightly on the side with the port facing down, and you can blow lightly into it. One website recommends using a clean, dry toothbrush (good tip!).

Try plugging a known working cable in to see if it lights up. I’ve also found that plugging a cable into a USB port on my computer will sometimes make a “faulty” cable work – which really means that the wall adapter is probably not working. Since I have about dozen, and since (moving on shortly to the next likely problem) many of them are not OEM, I can usually try this adapter or that one and if the cable fails in all of them – including the computer, I can be fairly sure the cable is not recoverable.

Then there is that third party cable and adapter problem. They are *not* all created equal. If you find one that is less expensive than Apple’s and that works – good for you and tell your friends. But typically, there is a reason they’re less expensive (at least that much less expensive!!).

Another lesson I learned: I have a couple of multi-port devices, which I love, because I may have more than one phone around for charging, and I have a Kindle and a Bluetooth speaker, and who knows what all else. So I wanted a couple of multi-port devices. One that I purchased was reasonably expensive, and I was, needless to say, annoyed when it seemed to fail out of the box. Then I realized that I had it plugged into a power
strip – not the wall. Plugging directly into the wall socket solved that problem – as well as resurrecting a couple of other adapters I thought were no good. Plugging directly into a wall socket, or using a high end power strip, is recommended.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.