You get what you pay for

Needing a second iPhone charging dock, I bought this particular product from eBay.

It was cheap. £2.19 shipped to my door.  Well, it seems you get what you pay for.

From the outset this dock felt much cheaper than the Apple original I have on my desk at home.  Ok, it was 10 times cheaper, so it was never going to be of similar quality.

Comparing this cheap dock with the original it felt much lighter, I noted that the charge cable socket was “upside down” and when placing the iPhone onto the connector it felt tight and required a little persuasion.

Nothing particularly wrong, just cheap. For £2.19 I was more than happy to live with that.  It worked after all.

However, with cheap often comes poor build quality and dubious assembly ‘precision’.  It was, therefore, no great surprise that this was the case with this dock.

I shall get to the point…..

After connecting the iPhone today I noticed that it wasn’t charging.  Being a geek and engineer I immediately opened up the dock.  As you can see from the picture below, it didn’t take long to figure out why it wasn’t charging any more!  “Dry Joint” would be a huge understatement!

No big deal, my wife runs an electronics assembly company so it will be soldered up in no time.  What concerns me more is the very poor workmanship that has gone in to soldering up the connectors at manufacture.  A couple of bridged (shorted out) pins here or there may cause damage to the phone.  Knowing how phones are designed and tested, it is highly unlikely that serious failure would occur (by that I mean it won’t get excessively hot) but it is conceivable that something may stop working.

Of course, it is highly possible that I have been unlucky and received a defective unit, a manufacturing error.  My experience in the field of electronics design and manufacture coupled with my wife’s expert knowledge of electronics assembly suggest that is not the case.

So, my advice is to accept that cheap (especially as cheap as this dock) may mean poor build quality.  Just be weary.

Have you had similar experiences with cheap alternatives to the expensive original?  I’d love to hear them.  Please drop a comment below.

Update (29-Jan-2011): Unfortunately the dock was beyond repair.  After taking a look under an inspection microscope, several pads were lifted and broken away from the corresponding tracks.  The tracks themselves had also become detached from the PCB making a repair too time consuming to warrant an attempt (it’s BER).  What has clearly happened is that the connector was allowed too much room to move around which, after a few weeks of use, resulted in the tracks and pads connected to the pins of the connector coming away from the PCB.  Cheap, badly designed rubbish.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

By icraigt

Craig Thornton (@icraigt), Geek Dad, husband of @linsthornton, Principal Engineer at JLR, tech addict. All views my own.