Apparently Apple Cables Are Scented Now
A month ago I started a new job in an office that exclusively uses Apple products. As such, on my first day I received a soft white paperboard box containing my very first MacBook, complete with a shiny new USB-C charging cable.
Reader, I’m a little out of practice writing blog posts and I don’t want to bore you with tales of life in a marketing department. So I’ll just cut to the chase:
The charging cable that came with my MacBook Air laptop is scented.
The moment I opened the box and pulled out the wound-up and neatly twist-tied circlet of cable, I could smell it. It was fresh, perfumey, synthetic but clean, and unquestionably fruity. It sounds trite, but, reader, I swear to you, what I smelled was a clear synthetic apple note.
It’s not just the cable, either. When I opened the small envelope containing the use instructions and the two silver apple fruit stickers that came with the laptop, I almost choked on the strength of the synthetic apple scent. It had been applied to the two gray stickers, so strongly they reminded me of scratch-and-sniff stickers. From those two sticker sheets, the apple scent permeated through the envelope of instructions and subtly into the rest of the box.
The office also kindly gave me a small printer, along with another cable for it, an adapter to connect it to the computer. The box was a few months older, slightly dusty. It had been ordered separately and had been lying around the office for a couple of months. And yet, When I took the cable out of the package and buried my nose against the paperboard box, I could smell the faintest trace of the same exact synthetic apple scent.
There is no doubt in my mind that Apple now coats its charging cables in some sort of finish that’s fragranced with some proprietary mixture of fresh-apple-scented aromachemicals.
What’s infuriating to me is that I can’t prove it.
I could post a photo of the cable to prove it has a certain shape or texture. If it made a strange sound when plugged in, I could post a video. But there’s no adequate way for me to convey the fact that this cable smells like a synthetic apple perfume note.
Apple charging cables — or lightning cables, as Apple inspirationally calls them — have a history of being smelly. For most of the product’s existence, however, this has been a bad thing. In my search I came across countless forum threads and support queries complaining that the cables smelled horrible.
“The problem of smelly cables still hasn’t been fixed,” writes one user on the Apple forums in August of 2021. It’s an acidic, moldy sort of smell.”
One Reddit user did a bit more research on the topic:
“I recently bought a new 13″ MacBook Pro and noticed the box smelling foul. (Foul as in moldy, not the usual smell of new stuff.) The smell seemed to originate from the 2 meter USB-C charging cord and sure enough, that was it. […] However, after searching the web for this issue I found out it’s more widespread than just one batch sent here to Finland. […] Admittedly there’s not a huge outcry about this but I don’t think it’s reasonable that anything included with a 2500€ ($2200 in the US) machine smells moldy.” The replies are filled with similar stories.
Another Reddit user comforts someone complaining about the cables by saying, “They all smell like that from Apple now, sounds like you’re more sensitive to the smell than most. To me it’s like a new car smell but for Apple products.”
“TL;DR Apple’s UBS C power cable (2m) have an odour of mildew,” one MacRumors forum participant succinctly concludes in November of 2021.
Dozens of such complaints litter the Apple forums, as well as the Apple subreddit, MacRumors, and other apple-product-centered sites. Most of them are dated from 2018 to 2021. The most recent such complaint I found is the following from February 2022:
“Why is this still happening when it was reported as early as 2018!?! Over Christmas I bought 2 brand new MacBook Airs, and both charging cables smell like mold. It’s not a subtle smell — it’s super strong.”
For years, people complained online in droves about the smell of Apple charger cables and cords. And then, almost overnight, the well of mildew moaning dried up. So what happened?
My theory is that Apple finally triangulated the problem and implemented some sort of deodorizing process for their cables, and added an apple-scented fresh fragrance to them just for extra good measure. Now instead of mildew the cables have their own “new car smell” that many more people are likely to find appealing: fresh metal and plastic coated in a sheen of bright perfume-y apple.
That’s what I think, anyway. That somewhere right around a year ago, in spring of 2022, Apple started deodorizing and perfuming their cables. As of yet I have not been able to get any Apple employees to confirm or deny this hypothesis.
At this point, convinced I might be losing my mind, I went over to the Apple support forums myself to get to the bottom of this. I wrote up a quick query, hit “post,” and held my breath.
Inevitably I had to stop so as not to die of oxygen deprivation. Because, dear reader, no one ever responded.
Within a few days a kind soul posted what I’m sure is posted to every thread that has been open for at least two days with no response.
“Thank you for reaching out to Apple Support Communities,” my benevolent intercessor began. “It may be best to reach out to Apple directly. You can do so by going to Get Support. They will take a closer look and check on available options.”
I would be best off, he said, calling Apple customer support directly with my question.
The truth is that I’d already considered going this route. But what was I going to do? Demand that some overworked and emotionally exhausted call center employee smell their phone charger for me? This isn’t the sort of question that has documentation they can reference. I don’t expect the underpaid person on the other side to be able to tell me definitively that yes, the cables are scented, and here is where and why, and here is what they use.
I looked for ways to connect with someone, anyone at Apple who might know. I submitted a feedback ticket, knowing it would most likely not get a response (it didn’t). I scoured the Apple website for some sort of PR person I could reach out to. I polled my friends that currently work at the company. None of them work with anyone who works on cables.
So far, nothing. All I have is my own nose, as well as the noses of bewildered friends and family members I’ve asked to smell my cables over the last month. They all agree: the cables and stickers are most definitely scented, and it’s definitely a bright fruity note reminiscent of apples.
And so, dear readers, I ask of you. If you have bought new Apple lightning cables within the last year, would you do me a favor and give them a whiff? Would you be so kind as to affirm whether or not I’m losing my mind in imagining the cables are perfumed with a prominent apple note?
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve noticed a smell, good or bad, from your Apple cables in the past. Or if you have any other bewildering technology-related smell stories to share.
Hey there, long time no see. I took a break from the blog while adjusting to my new job (the one that gave me the MacBook with the apple-scented charging cable in question), but I’m back now!
During my break I made a few changes to the site. I’ve overhauled the user interface a bit since I realized it looked atrociously big on Windows machines and rather awkward on tablets. Turns out the DPI on my Linux machine is way off. Basically, that means everything looks 50% smaller on my laptop than it really is, which made me design everything 50% bigger than it needed to be.
I would like to extend a sincere apology to my Windows-using friends for how eye-pokingly large the content on this site has been since its inception. It is now corrected.
I also spent a while doing a dance with the typography of The Scentaur, which culminated in a Piña-Colada-song-style resolution in which I realize the best font for my blog is the one I’ve been using all along.
One more cool thing that’s happened in the last month is I’ve dived headfirst into learning perfumery myself. To that end, I’ll probably be writing more articles about DIY perfumery from now on. The first item on my list is sniffing, closely studying, and writing about a number of perfumery materials. I’m excited to share this journey with you.
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