CINCINNATI -- Buying on-brand accessories for one's smartphone can be frustratingly expensive -- Apple USB cables alone, which are essential for charging, run from $19 to $39 on the company's official site.
However, these purchases might be a case of getting what one pays for. Not only can third-party accessories fail to interact properly with device-specific software such as iTunes, international reports indicate some can even pose a safety risk.
Ma Ailun, a Chinese flight attendant, was reportedly shocked to death in 2013 when she attempted to make a call on her iPhone 5 while it charged. Brazilian news outlet Globo also reported the death of a 17-year-old girl who had been listening to music on her phone while it charged.
These cases are extremely rare, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, because most USB cords carry about five volts -- not enough to severely harm a human being.
"Most of our attention has (instead) been on overheating, smoke or fire," Scott Wolfson, a former spokesman for the commission, said.
However, University of Cincinnati professor Jeff Blevins said it's a good idea to protect oneself by buying accessories produced or endorsed by the phone's manufacturer.
"They're designed to work together; you're always going to get the best performance that way," he said. "Those (off-brand) things are usually OK to get you through in a pinch, but they're not long-lasting."