When shopping for a smartphone, iOS tends to be an easy choice for most consumers in the United States, thanks to its ease of use, its safety and security in day to day activities, and of course, the wide market for accessories. Thanks to the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, you can go nearly anywhere in the United States and find a charging cable or a Lightning-equipped accessory for use with your phone. Drug stores, grocery markets, and even book stores all carry equipment that can plug directly into your iPhone to charge, transfer data and photos, and so much more. It seems every store has cases, cables, headphones, and adapters for your iPhone to help you out when you’re on the move and need to pick up an accessory to plug into your iOS device.
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A big reason why Apple has found so much success with their accessory partners is because of the MFi program. MFi, which stands for Made for iPhone (or iPad, and previously iPod), is a licensing program made for the manufacturers of peripherals and other accessories that directly integrate with iOS. Though it costs money to buy into the program, companies that pass the required tests to join are allowed to place the MFi logo on their products, which, for consumers in the know, basically guarantee a quality product that will work well with their device. Essentially, by paying Apple a licensing fee, you help separate yourself as a company from the unregistered third-party accessory makers, guaranteeing your devices and cables will sell above the rest in the long run.
Of course, sometimes you need a new cable right away, and can’t afford to search for a product marked with the MFi logo when a $5 cable is sitting on the counter right in front of you. These devices typically work just as well as a licensed product, and typically sell for a lot less, but sometimes, you can run into a problem where the cable refuses to work, with iOS alerting you that your accessory may not be supported on your device. This can even happen with MFI devices on occasion. Basically, the software in your phone detects an issue with the hardware plugged into your device and, not knowing what to do with the accessory plugged into your Lightning port, freaks out and alerts you, the user, that the device seems to be incompatible with your hardware. This is a really annoying bug, especially if it pops up from a cable or peripheral you’ve used for months prior to the error message appearing on your device. But worry not: there are a few solutions and a couple workarounds to your problem. Though iOS only supplies you with that vague description, it’s typically pretty easy to find the cause of the message. Here’s a few ways to solve the error message that appears when using specific cables and devices with your iPhone or iPad.
First Steps: Pinpointing the Problem
As with any error message, the first thing to do is attempt to figure out what’s causing issues with your software. Is it an iOS problem, where a bug in your software is not allowing your iPhone or iPad to charge or exchange data with your accessory? Is it your actual device, causing problems due to a corrupted Lightning port? Or is it the accessory itself? The easiest way to answer all of these questions and determine the cause of your hardware problem is as simple as finding another iPhone accessory. For instance, if your device won’t charge through your current Lightning cable, find a replacement cable to test your device with. Borrow a friend’s cable, or find a spare lying around your house. If you don’t have one on you, you may have to head to a store nearby to pick up a replacement, though with the prevalence on iOS devices on the market today, you can probably find someone who has a Lightning cable lying around.
Once you obtain a replacement cable, plug your device into that charger. You may also want to try a different AC adapter for optimal results. If you’ve tested multiple cables and you’re still having trouble charging your device without the warning message appearing on your phone, it could be the fault of your device’s Lightning port. Obviously this is a major issue, so skip to our section below on potential fixes for your Lightning port for more information. Alternatively, if your iPhone or iPad has no problem charging with a different device, skip down below to read about solving issues with your cable or accessory. Finally, one more potential problem lies in your phone’s software. It could be a potential bug that your device isn’t being read or registered by your phone, and you should take note of the issue in our guide below.
Solving The Issue
After you have some idea of what the issue is based on the steps described above, it’s a bit easier to focus on solving the issue. While it isn’t a terrible idea to try every step laid out below, focusing on the problematic part of your device, whether it be the cable, the Lightning port, or your phone’s software, can help get rid of the problem sooner rather than later. Let’s take a look at each potential issue with your device one by one to better your chances of solving the problem.
Your Cable or Peripheral
The most common reason for receiving an error message on your iOS device is because of a poorly-made cable or peripheral that hasn’t been properly tested to support iOS devices. The Lightning standard that Apple uses on their mobile products was developed in-house by Apple for Apple, and while this comes with its fair share of benefits for iOS users, it also means that much of the market for Apple accessories is made up of knock-off devices and cables that won’t properly work with your device. In fact, cables in particular can be a tricky issue. Not every cable is created equally, since different cables can support different voltages, and this may be a major cause of your issue on your iPhone or iPad. If the cable is providing too little or too much voltage, iOS may be trying to preserve the phone from damage by blocking the device through your software. A bad cable can destroy electronic devices—we’ve seen this on multiple USB-C based products over the past few years when users were buying cheap cables—so it’s important to check the brand and the reviews of a specific device or company before grabbing a cable. This can be tough if you’re in a bind and need a cable immediately, but cables from companies like Anker sold on Amazon are typically available for less than $10 with free shipping. If you’re a Prime member, take advantage of your two-day shipping and grab those cables on the cheap.
This all raises a pretty major question, and a perfectly valid one at that. If you’ve owned the same cable for three or four months, why is it only now giving you error messages when plugged into your phone? Cheap cables are typically made with cheap materials, including unauthorized or counterfeit connectors and contacts on the actual Lightning connector that you insert into your device. Even if the cable works as intended when you first buy it, over time and daily wear and tear on the product, a cheap cable may become loose or feature poor contacts with your device, causing issues when you attempt to charge your phone or use, say, the connection between your iPhone and a game controller. In other words, even if the cheap cable you picked up at a drugstore for a couple bucks worked at the time, because of the quality of the contacts and the metal on the device, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the cable you’ve been using has, essentially, worn itself out. Luckily, if the problem spawns from your Lightning cable, you can pick up a new one for pretty cheap. While Apple’s own cables sell for $19.99, Anker’s aforementioned cables sell for just $5.99, while maintaining a healthy 4.4 star rating on Amazon. Their newer Powerline II cables promise up to 12,000 bends while maintaining a connection, and even those sell for just $12. So if the only problem with your device spawns from a cheap cable with poor connections, treat yourself to a better cable.
Now, all that said, if you’re gaining these alerts from the Apple-branded cable that shipped with your phone or tablet, and it’s only spawning from that single cable, you may have to clean the Lightning connector on your device. If you’ve noticed any dirt or grime on your cable connector from plugging in and out of your iPhone or iPad, you don’t have to throw the cable away just yet. In addition to gunk accumulating on the surface of the charger, you might also see corrosion along the gold-plated contact pins on the Lightning cable. Grab a small cloth and some rubbing alcohol and slowly clean off the connectors on your cable. Let the cord fully dry before re-plugging back into your device, then test to see if your iPhone can charge without receiving an error message. We’ll cover cleaning your phone’s own port in the step below, so if you’re concerned
Finally, make sure your cable doesn’t have a loose or frayed connection or wire. Apple’s Lightning cables are not the most sturdy cables in the world; they aren’t designed to experience repeated bending and pulling. If you have a habit of disconnecting the cable from your phone by pulling from the wire instead of the glossy plastic head of the cord, your cable may be deteriorating behind the rubber coating. You may also start to see fraying or loose wires sticking out from your cable. If you have some experience with fixing frayed cables and wires, you may be able to fix the cable yourself to restore a stable connection between your cord and your phone. That said, for most users, spending six or seven dollars on a replacement cable online will save both time and energy, and the newer cable might last you longer than a restored original cable anyway. If you’re interested in fixing a frayed Lightning cable, you can find more information about that at iFixit here.
The Lightning Port
Of course, if you’re having this error message appear with every single cable you plug into your phone, it may be time to consider the problem lying with your device, not with the cable you’re attempting to use. Lightning ports on the iPhone and iPad are pretty resilient, but they still face daily obstacles every day, in the form of dust, rain, and of course, pocket lint. Dust can actually be a pretty serious problem when it comes to your phone, so it might be time to clean your Lightning port on your phone. If you’ve owned your device for a year or more, your Lighting port can get pretty gross. Dust, grime, lint, and more can gather inside your device and block the connections between your charger and your phone. So, we’ll have to clean out your Lightning port to ensure that your phone is picking up a strong connection between your device and your cable.
To clean out your phone’s Lightning port, all most users will need is a small toothpick to help clean out the port. If you don’t have a toothpick, a flosser pick, a sewing needle, or even a bobby pin might work to help clean out your port. Before you start, power off your device completely by pressing and holding the power button on the top or side of your device. Once you’ve powered off your iPhone or iPad, take your toothpick or other utility and gently prod around the inside of your port for lint and large accumulations of dust. Pull out any material that may have been stuck inside your device one at a time, and once you’ve thoroughly cleaned out your phone’s port, power your phone back on. After your phone reboots, try using your charger again to see if the connection has improved and if the error message still appears on your phone. If you’re still having trouble establishing a connection between your phone and your cable, or you’re still receiving the same “not supported” error message, try to clean out your Lightning port once more. This time, use compressed air to clear finer particles of dust and debris out of your phone. Be careful to follow the instructions printed on your can of compressed air carefully, as not to squirt liquid or moisture into your device by accident. Finally, we do not recommend using rubbing alcohol in your device, as the liquid and moisture can further damage your charging port.
If you still cannot manage to get your iPhone or iPad to charge without error despite your continued efforts to clean the port, there are two solutions left. First, take a look at our instructs for device software below. You may be able to find that a software fix or workaround can help charge your device, despite the alert that your phone keeps displaying while attempting to charge or use peripherals. Secondly, make an appointment with an Apple Genius if you live near an Apple Store location. Alternatively, you can call their support line to receive help from their end. If something has gone wrong with the hardware of your phone or iPad, they’ll be the ones that can fix it. If your phone is under warranty or protected through AppleCare+, you may be able to receive a replacement at little-to-no cost. Otherwise, it may cost a small fee to replace the Lightning port in your device.
Your Device’s Software
Finally, it’s possible that the hardware for both your phone and your cable aren’t responsible at all. Instead, it could be a problem with your iPhone or iPad’s software. No operating system is completely bug-free, and considering how most iOS users don’t bother to restart their devices, it’s likely a bug or glitch in your device’s software has caused the error message to appear on your device. To fix this, start by trying to restart your phone. Once your device boots up, try to plug your cable back into your phone or tablet. If you’re still receiving the message, they’re are a few software tricks you can try to get your charger or adapter to work. Let’s take a look.
Our first tip has popped up on several forum posts over the past few years, and it seems to have a good chance of working for some users. It’s worth a shot, if only because we’ve seen some users report success from this method, but take this first step with a small grain of salt. Start by plugging your phone in with the cable that gives you the ‘unsupported’ error message. After receiving the error message from iOS, press and hold your finger on the “Dismiss” button on your screen. Do not let go of the “Dismiss” button. Now, while still holding the “Dismiss” button down on your iPhone, plug your cable back into the phone. Then release the dismiss icon from your display. While not a smooth operation, this allows your device to be fooled into charging your phone. We add that this is not a foolproof plan, and may have been patched in a newer version of iOS since originally posting this tip.
After you’ve tried the trick listed above, another way to bypass the software warning for your charger is to power off your device before plugging your phone in using your cable. Yes, this can be a hassle, as well as frustrating or impossible if you’re trying to use your phone during the day while charging it. But if you absolutely need to gain some power back into your device, powering off the phone can trick the device into charging, since the operating system isn’t awake to stop you from using the charger. To be safe, we should point out that the most usual reason to see the ‘unsupported’ error message appear on your device is because of a dangerous cable, whether it be due to fraying or due to an unsupported voltage. So, if you do power off your device to let it charge using the unsupported charger, just be sure to watch the device and make sure it doesn’t overhead or begin to catch on fire. We’ve seen explosive devices before due to low quality chargers, and we don’t one to see one of our readers end up with the same fate.
Finally, in order to ensure your software is as bug-free as possible, make sure your operating system is updating by checking for a software update in your Settings menu. We’ve seen some chargers accidentally cause this error following major updates to iOS, and with iOS 11 just having rolled out over the last two weeks, it’s worth making sure you device has received any security updates and bug fixes Apple may have pushed out in the weeks since. Typically, software updates do not cause cables to stop working, though four years ago during the launch of iOS 7, several third-party cables did cause the “unsupported device” error to occur due to higher standards on Lightning cables placed by Apple.
iOS is one of the most secure, easy to use operating systems we’ve ever seen on any type of device, but that doesn’t mean that it’s infallible. Having error messages appear on your device while you’re trying to charge your phone or attach accessories can be a real pain. Luckily, the solution typically isn’t very complex. That error typically means that iOS is trying to alert you to an issue with your cable, be it a dangerous voltage error, a lack of current, or built-up grime and dirt when trying to use your device’s Lightning port. If you continue to have problems with your Lightning cable, we cannot recommend enough upgrading or replacing your broken cable with a new one, which typically solves the problem in a heartbeat. Finally, if it seems like every device continues to give you the same error, make sure to schedule an appointment with Apple. Their support team isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the best in the business, almost routinely fixing problems and figuring out solutions that most users can’t do without special tools.
Overall, your iPhone or iPad is trying to warn you that something is wrong with your device. Take note of the warning, make sure your devices are clean and dirt-free, and you shouldn’t have any issues using your phone from there on out.