We all do it.  We want to save a few cents on store-brand napkins, lick-it-yourself envelopes and birthday cards for distant uncles.  But there are some items we buy that just aren’t worth risking a buck or two.

We’re talking cables here — quality cables that can help avoid possible damage to your Apple® ecosystem.

Amazon may be the biggest culprit, offering us all a wide range of bargain-basement cables, adapters and power supplies from no-name manufacturers from around the globe.  They are not only cheap, they are cheaply made, and could cause damage to your devices or, worse, a fire.  

Rule of thumb — if you see a supposedly genuine Apple cable selling for a too-good-to-be-true price, consider the possibility that it’s counterfeit.  Apple has even created a detailed page (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204566) that explains how to identify counterfeit or uncertified Lightning® accessories.

Yes, Apple’s prices for Lightning, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 cables often seem high.  They are $19 for a USB-C to Lightning cable and $29 for the two-meter version.  But other reputable hardware manufacturers — such as Anker and Belkin — make quality cables and often charge less than Apple.

Consider the potential impact of cut-rate cables before tossing them in your shopping cart.  Weigh the downside before pairing your $1,000 iPhone® with a $3 counterfeit cable.

It’s not that these cables might break or wear out sooner, but that they could carry power as well as data.  When there’s sufficient juice flowing down those skinny wires, a short-circuit can fry hardware, generate sparks, create smoke and ignite a fire.  Over the years, there have been numerous headlines about fires caused by charging certain smartphones.

And Amazon isn’t the only suspect — Target recently recalled 90,000 USB-C to Lightning cables after 14 reported incidents of the cables smoking, sparking and igniting.

With these red flags surfacing everywhere, resolutions are on the rise.  Thanks to the efforts of Google engineer Benson Leung, after a bad USB-C cable fried his Chromebook, he embarked on a one-man crusade to identify which USB-C cables were good and which were bad.  Leung’s efforts forced Amazon to begin prohibiting listings of USB-C cables and adapters that weren’t compliant with the USB-C specs.

But how will you know where and when those corrections were made?  You won’t.  You might still run across bad cables that Amazon hasn’t yet identified, or dodgy cables sold through other retailers.  And so while the danger might be lower than before, particularly with cables from name brands, it still lurks.

Even when using quality products, it’s smart to practice good cable health.  To ensure a long life for your most heavily used cables, follow these simple guidelines:

Don’t create sharp bends.  Sharp bends (especially near the connector) can eventually break the insulation and reveal the internal wires.

Don’t yank the cable.  Unplug your device by pulling from the plug and avoiding cord stress near the connector.

Don’t tightly wrap your cable.  Coiling is better.  A tight wrap can cause kinks that will degrade the wires inside.

Don’t put heavy objects on cables.  Or sandwich them between a desk and the wall. Anything that compresses the cable can cause damage.

Don’t subject cables to liquids.  Try to keep both the Lighting port and the cable’s pins clean and away from liquids because even a droplet or two could cause a short circuit.  USB-C cables are less susceptible to such problems because of their metal jackets, but it’s still worth being careful.

Don’t wait. If a cable’s insulation ever breaks and reveals the wires, wrap it with electrical tape and replace it as soon as possible.

If you are suspicious about which cable to trust — especially if you are about to buy in bulk for your organization — check with us first.  At CranstonIT, we are well versed in the counterfeit or wonky cables you should totally avoid.  We can be reached at 888-813-5558 or support@cranstonit.com