Lightning cables are proprietary eight-pin charging cables that are compatible with iPhones and other Apple products. Used to charge and sync devices, they were introduced in 2012 to replace the 30-pin charging cables Apple was using at the time. One terrific advantage of lightning charging cables is they’re reversible, which means the connector can face either way when plugged into a device’s lightning port. The best lightning cables are durable, efficient, and available in a variety of lengths for convenient charging.
- BEST OVERALL: Apple Lightning to USB Cable
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Amazon Basics Lightning to USB A Cable, 3 Foot
- MOST DURABLE: Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable (6ft)
- BEST USB-C: Anker New Nylon USB-C to Lightning Charging Cord
- BEST WITH POWER BLOCK: JAHMAI iPhone Charger Lightning Cable 2Pack 6ft
- BEST MULTIPACK: Cabepow 3Pack 6ft Charger iPhone Charger Cable
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lightning Cable
There’s a lot to think about when shopping for a lightning cable. First, consider the devices to be charged and what kind of USB connectors they require. Other important factors include the lightning cord’s charging efficiency, safety and compatibility certifications, and length. Ahead, read more details on these and other important shopping considerations for lightning cables.
USB and Device Type
The most common Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectors on the market today include USB-A, USB-C, and micro USBs. Most Apple products use lightning cables, while Android devices and newer iPad models use USB-C connectors. Micro USBs are widely used on smartphones, headphones, battery packs, and other portable devices.
Most lightning cables are referred to as lightning-to-USB or USB-to-lightning cables. These cables connect to Apple smartphones and iPads on the lightning end. The USB port on the other end of the cable can be plugged into a wall outlet for charging or into another device, such as a laptop or battery. The two main types of USBs used with lightning cables are USB-A-to-lightning cables and USB-C-to-lightning cables.
USB-A connectors have flat connectors that plug into standard USB ports. USB-C connectors, which are a newer type of connection for Apple devices, have a square shape. USB-C-to-lightning cables offer quicker charging than USB-A-to-lightning cables.
Charging efficiency is the measure of how quickly a lightning cable charges a device. Testing charging efficiency is simple: Let the device’s battery die, then connect the device to a wall outlet via a lightning cable, and see how quickly the battery can reach a full charge. The charging efficiency can be enhanced by using a USB-C-to-lightning charging cable, which offers a quicker charge.
When shopping for lightning cables, you might notice that some are labeled with certification designations such as MFi, ETL, and FCC. These designations can be found on an authentication chip inside each cable and on the cable’s packaging. It’s important to seek out certified products because using noncertified, knockoff lightning cables can damage your smartphone and other devices.
The MFi certification stands for “made for iProducts.” This certification was developed by Apple so third-party manufacturers can build products approved for use with iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Another certification to look for is ETL, which indicates that a product complies with the safety standards set by Intertek’s Electrical Testing Lab. Any electronic product that oscillates at 9 kHz or higher in the United States—as some lightning cables do—must have a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certification.
Choosing the right lightning cable for your needs also involves deciding how long and how durable the cord must be. The lightning cables that are packaged with Apple devices are 1 meter long, but lightning cables made by other manufacturers can be purchased in a variety of lengths, up to 13 feet long. Longer lightning cables are useful when there isn’t an electrical outlet nearby and users don’t want to sit against a wall until their devices are up and running.
Lightning cable durability is another important factor, especially for those with children or pets. Many lightning cables undergo tests to see how many bends it can withstand; it’s a good idea to look for a cord that has been tested for at least 5,000 bends. Some lightning cables are wrapped in braided nylon or other fibers that resist damage.
When one’s Apple devices are not compatible with other high-tech accessories and devices, adapters can help bridge the technological gap. For example, lightning-to-headphone jack adapters allow iPhone owners to use their smartphones with headphones that connect via audio plug. Lightning-to-HDMI adapters connect an Apple device to an HDTV. Some lightning cables have USB ports that connect cameras or keyboards to Apple devices. As you’re shopping for lightning cables to keep your Apple gear charged and connected, you may also want to give some thought to which adapters you may need.
Our Top Picks
The following are the top picks for the best lightning cables to keep your Apple devices charged. These cords rose above the competition because they charge devices quickly, are available in useful lengths, are made of durable materials, and can withstand many bends.
This lightning-to-USB cord, packaged by Apple with its iPhones and iPads, is the cord to which others are compared. At 1 meter long, it’s just the right length to connect Apple devices to a computer’s USB port to sync and charge devices, but it’s not so long that it gets tangled in your gear. Connect this white cord to an Apple USB power adapter to charge devices from a wall outlet when you’re on the go or there’s no laptop around.
Amazon Basics’ 3-foot, MFi-certified lightning cable can be used to sync and charge Apple devices including iPhones, iPads, and iPods—at about half the price of the Apple-branded cable. The USB connector can be plugged into a computer or wall charger, and its lightning connector head is slim enough to accommodate most device cases so users don’t have to remove the case before plugging in the device. Users should get good mileage out of this sturdy USB-A cord, given that it has been tested to bend 95 degrees 10,000 times and has an extra layer of protection at each end for increased durability.
This 6-foot-long black lightning cable from Anker has a braided-nylon exterior and aluminum alloy connectors. MFi certified, it has been tested to withstand 30,000 bends, and it has the tensile strength to withstand 175 pounds, meaning the Powerline+ II has the capacity to last 30 times longer than an ordinary lightning cable. Anker’s cable comes with a convenient carrying case that unzips on both sides, allowing the cable length to be easily adjusted. The Powerline+ is also available in 3-foot and 10-foot lengths.
This 6-foot USB-C-to-lightning cable quickly charges and syncs Apple devices. With a nylon exterior and bulletproof fiber core, this lightning cable has been tested to withstand up to 12,000 bends. It’s MFi certified, for a quick and safe charge, and compatible with Apple iPhone 11 and 12 products. This charging cord can be paired with an 18W or higher power delivery charger (sold separately), which can power up an iPhone to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. Available in black, red, or silver.
This charging pack from JAHMAI consists of two 6-foot black ETL-certified lightning cables and a power block with two ports. With aluminum alloy input-output terminals, fireproof shells, and braided-nylon fiber exteriors, these cables are designed to protect against overheating and overcharging. What’s more, the charging cables automatically stop charging once devices reach a full charge. These cables can withstand 8,000 bends and are built out of copper wires for maximum signal quality and durability. To charge devices at an electrical outlet, simply plug one of the cables into the compact wall charger power block. Compatible with most iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices.
This pack from Cabepow contains three 6-foot cables, all of which are black. Tested to withstand at least 10,000 bends, these durable charging cables are up to five times stronger than standard cables and offer high-speed charging and universal compatibility with Apple products.
FAQs About Lightning Cables
Here are some important questions and answers about lightning cables.
Q. Is a lightning cable the same as a standard USB cable?
No, lightning cables and USB cables are not the same. A lightning cable, unique to Apple devices, has an eight-pin reversible connector port. Different types of charging cables, including lightning cables and USBs, are used to charge and sync different devices. Lightning cables are slimmer and more durable than USB cables.
Q. What is the most durable lightning cable?
The Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable (6ft), which withstands 175 pounds and 30,000 bends, is one of the most durable options on the market.
Q. Can lightning cables be used with older Apple products?
When one’s devices are not compatible with other high-tech accessories and devices, adapters can help bridge the technological gap. As you’re shopping for lightning cables to keep your Apple gear charged and connected, you may also want to give some thought to which adapters you may need.