Why the iPhone charging cable gets hot, smokes and melts...

I recently discovered Reddit as a very exciting source for iPhone and Mac problems. In the current case user “NoisilyMarvellous” sent a photo of an iPhone with a half-burned and broken USB-C charging connector sticking out. This is what happened:

The user reported that the iPhone 15 Pro Max became extremely hot while charging overnight. The heat was so intense that he burned his finger when he touched it. When he removed the charger, he found that some of the plastic had melted, leaving burn marks on the phone's body. In addition, the metallic part of the USB-C port was stuck in the phone.

Photo: NoisilyMarvellous/Reddit
Photo: NoisilyMarvellous/Reddit

Repair options without Apple Care

He also asked the following questions:

  • How can I remove this?
  • Is the problem with the phone, the charging cable or the plug? I turned on optimized charging.
  • I don't have AppleCare, can Apple fix the problem?

We'll get to the possible cause of the "accident" later, but I would like to briefly answer two questions from my point of view:

  1. You can safely remove the remains of the plug with pliers, but I would be very surprised if the charging port still works afterwards. The heat may also have damaged electronic parts in the iPhone or at least parts of the charging socket.
  2. Yes, Apple will probably repair it, but only in the typical Apple way and, above all, not for free: you exchange the device for a new one. Unfortunately, I don't know the costs for this. Apple will only cover the costs if the charging cable and power adapter come from Apple.

Why does the charger plug overheat?

But well, now you would of course like to have an answer to the question of how the plug can overheat to such an extent. And this is where the advantage of Reddit comes into play, because you get ideas directly from many users, all of whom have very interesting explanations.

Here is a summary of the user comments for you, with my comment directly attached:

  • Quality of cables and chargers: Many users emphasize that you should not use cheap cables and chargers. They point out that using low-quality or counterfeit cables can lead to overheating and damage.
    → Yes, there is some truth to that, but cheap doesn't always mean bad. There are the expensive Apple charging cables and some from companies like Anker or Belkin and a few others that are a little cheaper but are still Apple certified and high quality.
  • Experiences with non-Apple cables: One user reported that an iPhone cable from IKEA caused him similar problems. The cable got hot and started smoking.
    → This surprises me a bit, since the Lightning cables from IKEA also “MFi-certified" are. This means that they are “Made For iPhone” and therefore have to meet Apple’s high standards. But ok, there are always Monday models - even for charging cables.
  • Incorrect cable specifications: There is evidence that some cables, such as the Amazon Basics brand, are only designed for lower charging speeds (e.g. 15W) and may overheat when used with a more powerful charger (e.g. 30W).
    → I learned something new myself. I would have thought that a charging cable that only “can handle” up to 15 watts would communicate with the charger and connected iPhone to ensure that it only lets 15 watts through.
  • Brand recommendations: Many users recommend sticking with well-known brands such as Anker, Belkin or Baseus and especially using the original Apple cables, even if they are more expensive.
    → I can agree with that. With the original cables from Apple you are of course on the safe side, but unfortunately also on the expensive side. I have had good experiences with Anker, Cabletex, Rampow, Ugreen and Amazon Basic.
  • Avoiding no-name products: Some comments explicitly advise against purchasing chargers from platforms such as Aliexpress, Temu or Wish.
    → Yes, if a cable costs less than 5 euros and comes from a company that will no longer work under the same name in 2 weeks, then I would stay away from it. Problems and damage are inevitable here.

I hope you were able to get some ideas from this post. If you have any questions about this, please leave a comment here. I'll try to answer it as soon as possible.

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In the Sir Apfelot Blog you will find advice, instructions and reviews on Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.