Apple makes fantastic mobile products, but its flimsy Lightning-to-USB cable deteriorates too quickly. One of the most common problems faced by iPhone and iPad owners is a frayed Lightning connector. Surely there must be tougher, more rugged options?
The obvious solution is to go back to the Apple store and claim the warranty (or AppleCare if you have it). Another options is to ditch Apple’s cable altogether and get something better made by a third party.
Anker PowerLine ($10/£6.50)
Everyone’s favorite Lightning cable
Anker’s PowerLine is the unanimous choice among several tech reviewers, and it has rave reviews on Amazon too. For just 10 bucks, you get an MFi-certified cable, specialized to resist fraying. And it charges all Apple devices at full speed.
Anker claims to use Kevlar cables that can withstand bending up to 5,000 times. Bending is the primary reason why cables and headphones keep breaking. The company has reinforced the stress point around the Lightning pin, which is where most cables fray. Where the Apple cable seems flimsy, this seems sturdy.
And all that is without sacrificing compactness. Some sturdy cables end up with a fat casing around the Lightning pin connector, which makes it difficult to connect if your iPhone has a case. Anker’s PowerLine has no such issues, and fits comfortably wherever the standard Apple Lightning cable can go.
The cheapest cable you should buy
If you search on Amazon, you’ll find Lightning cables as low as $2, but that doesn’t mean you should buy them. They use low quality wires, aren’t always MFi-certified, and can damage your iPhone or iPad.
When it comes to decent quality cables, the AmazonBasics cable is as cheap as you can (or should) go. It’s a simple, no-fuss wire that just gets the job done. Just like other AmazonBasics producuts like the Bluetooth keyboard.
Amazon claims it has added measures to reduce fraying, but you’ll find plenty of reviewers who say it is as durable as the official Apple cable.
Keep in mind that the AmazonBasics cable has a thick neck, so it might not fit into all cases.
Zoook Flat Cable ($15)
Tangle-free, flat cable that won’t fray easily
What do I use? A Zoook flat-alloy, tangle-free Lightning cable. This thing has never failed me, nor has it frayed for the many users I’ve recommended it to over the years.
As cheap as the Anker Powerline and just as durable, this is a flat cable which immediately looks different from others. The flat construction style also makes it tangle-free, so even when you toss it in your bag, it’s not going to come out as a coiled mess. It’s one of the simplest ways to avoid cable clutter. Both ends of the cable are sturdy, and bending them regularly for over a year hasn’t left any noticeable marks.
Flat cables are pretty common, and there are several other brands that are as good, like Belkin’s MIXIT cable ($20). But that doesn’t make Zoook’s offering any better, and it’s something I can personally vouch for.
Braided nylon, anodized aluminum, reinforced cable
If you’re looking for a reinforced, sturdy cable without spending a bomb, then our Lightning cable review roundup vouches for the Volts Heavy Duty cables.
A small connector that fits into most cases, the nylon coating also makes it difficult to bend and easy to use. You might have some trouble bending it at tight angles though. But at such a low price, you won’t get any other cable that you’ll feel confident about not fraying.
Fuse Chicken Titan Cable ($35/£24)
The toughest Lightning cable out there
Billed as the toughest Lightning cable around, the Fuse Chicken Titan is the cable that never breaks. If you’re worried about your dog chewing the wire or the cable getting frayed in daily rough use, buy this one.
The Fuse Chicken Titan’s wires are wrapped by flexible steel, not once but twice! Yes, that makes it a bit heavy, but what you get is a cable that nothing can scratch through. All you want is the assurance that your wire isn’t going to break when you need it most, and that’s what the Titan provides.
There are a couple of issues with it, though. First, the connector is a little thick, so it might not fit all cases. Second, the steel makes it difficult to coil this into a tight, small circle. Be aware of those trade-offs before you buy it.
Apple USB-C to Lightning ($25)
The fastest cable, especially for iPad Pro
Apple is firmly behind the new USB Type-C port on MacBooks. How do you connect a MacBook to an iPhone? With the USB-C to Lightning cable. And this is actually the fastest charger Apple has now.
The large 12.9-inch iPad Pro charges faster with this cable than any other. In tests run by MacStories, the USB-C to Lightning was twice as fast at charging the iPad Pro as the standard cable packaged with it.
You’ll also need to get Apple’s 29W USB-C Power Adapter with it, but hey, quicker speed beats everything else. Just remember, this is an advantage only on the iPad Pro right now, not any iPhone or other device.
Belkin Rockstar / iLDock ($10)
Adapters for iPhone 7 to Increase Lightning Ports
Things have also become a bit more complicated since the iPhone 7 removed the headphone jack. Now that wired headphones also need to connect to the Lightning port, you need to consider buying a splitter.
The Belkin Rockstar turns a single Lightning port into two Lightning ports. With this attachment, you can connect one pair of wired Lighting headphones and charge your iPhone at the same time. You really should just buy Bluetooth headphones instead, but if you’re going to insist on not going wireless this is the price you pay.
iLDock is a new name, entering the market specifically for the iPhone 7. It’s a tiny adapter that plugs into the Lightning port, and has two outlets: another Lightning port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s right, you can plug in your regular headphones and start listening to whatever you want. And at 10 bucks, that’s pretty cheap. But remember, it’s a new startup, so we always advise proceeding with caution.
Which Lightning Cable Do You Use?
Of all these options, the Zoook Flat Cable gets my vote, but I’m also quite tempted by the MOS Spring Cable. At the moment, the USB-C to Lightning cable doesn’t make much sense. But given how quickly the USB-C standard is being adopted, it might be a future-proof investment.
Are you still using the Apple Lightning cable that came with your iPhone or iPad, or have you switched to a new company’s MFi-certified cable? Which of your Lightning cables has lasted the longest, and do you fear them getting frayed? Let’s talk about the flimsy state of cables in the comments.
Article updated by Mihir Patkar on November 23, 2016.