We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Written By
Published Aug 8, 2022 3:30 PM

If you own an iPhone, you can’t live without a Lightning cable. Even with wireless charging, Apple’s proprietary cable connector for iPhones and most iPads is a must for fast charging, transferring data, and wired audio. The stock Lightning cables bundled with new iPhones and iPads are … fine. Most of the time, they’re a bit short and they fray easily. Luckily, you don’t have to settle for one of Apple’s cables. There is a vast market of third-party alternatives that offer more variety, better durability, longer reach, and more interesting designs. If you’re holding onto your current iPhone for a while and need a new cable, the best Lightning cables will drastically improve the experience of connecting your phone.

What is Lightning?

Introduced in 2012 with the iPhone 5, Lightning is Apple’s proprietary 8-pin connector format, which replaced the company’s original 30-pin dock connector for iPods, iPhones, and other handhelds. Like USB-C, the common charging/data port on Android phones and tablets, a Lightning connection charges, transmits audio, and transfers data to and from your device. Since its introduction, Lightning has been used in dozens of Apple devices and accessories, including last year’s iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, the Magic Trackpad 2, MagSafe Duo Charger, and AirPods Max

While the technology remains prevalent across Apple’s portfolio, there are signs it could be replaced in the near future. Apple switched to USB-C for the iPad Pro and the iPad Air M1. Meanwhile, an EU mandate will force Apple to replace Lightning with USB-C in European devices by fall 2024. In order to streamline production and continue selling its devices in the European Union, there’s a very real possibility that Apple drops Lightning entirely within the next year or two.

We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, though. if you’re using an iPhone with a Lightning port, you’re still going to need charging cables for the foreseeable future.

How we chose the best Lightning cables

I’ve used many, many Lightning cables over the last decade since Apple introduced the format. Over the years, I’ve encountered my fair share of frayed cables and understand the value of high-quality materials, and I combined that experience with peer suggestions, critical reviews, and online under impressions. When I’m not searching for the perfect Lightning cables, you can find me writing about the best Lego Star Wars sets and the best mouse for Mac.

Things to look out for when picking the best Lightning cables

If you’ve ever bought a $5 charging cable at a pharmacy when you left yours at home, you know that there are good Lightning cables and bad Lightning cables. They come in different lengths and designs. Some connect Lightning to USB-A, while others go to USB-C. Most importantly, you need to look out for MFi certification, which ensures third-party products meet Apple’s strict standards for things like construction and durability.

MFi Certified

Introduced in 2005, Apple’s “Made For iPhone/iPad” program—or “Made for iPod,” as it was originally called—certifies third-party manufacturers who create accessories for Apple devices, ensuring they meet certain technical specifications and standards for product quality. Developers and manufacturers that join the MFi Program get access to technical specifications, hardware components, and the right to say that their gear is “Apple approved.”

As part of the MFi program, official Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip to ensure full compatibility with Apple’s devices. When you plug in a Lightning cable without this authentication chip, your phone may warn with a message saying the accessory isn’t compatible with your device.

Uncertified Lightning cables aren’t automatically bad but most uncertified knock-off Lightning cables aren’t great. At best, you may find they don’t charge your phone as fast as an official one would. At worst, they may break or even overheat in a way that damages your device.

When you buy a Lightning cable that’s MFi-certified, you know it will work as it’s supposed to. They may still fray and break before you want them to but it’s clear that an MFi certification is a prerequisite for making a great Lightning cable. Given that, all of our picks are MFi-certified.

Length and material

Lightning cables come in various lengths and materials, and what you buy depends on when and where you charge. The standard 3-foot cable is easy to transport and only becomes a tangled mess when you drop it in a bag without winding it up. They’re good for charging your phone in the car or transferring data at a workstation. However, it may not be long enough for you to continue using your device on your couch or in bed while charging.

A long cable may be more difficult to fit in a bag or purse if you don’t wrap it up properly, but it gives you more flexibility to charge and use your phone while charging. You can find Lightning cables anywhere from 1-10 feet long, so you’ll have to consider what size works best for your needs. You may need to purchase a few different cables at different lengths to use in different scenarios. Worst case, you have a couple of extra cables that you can stash away for when friends come over or if a go-to cable breaks.

Once you settle on the size, you’ll need to consider the outer material of your cable. Apple’s standard Lightning cable is made of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) and is infamous for fraying after a short time. Many high-end cables are coated with braided nylon or kevlar, which are more resistant to the long-term effects of bending and pulling. Cables made with these materials are also more likely to withstand bites from mischievous pets.

Connection

If you’re plugging in an iPhone, you’ll always need a Lightning connector. The question is, what gets plugged in on the other end? Most Lightning cables plug into either a USB-A or USB-C port. If you’ve been using iPhones for a long time, chances are you have at least a couple USB-A power adapters around, so you should buy a cable to support your charger. 

Recently, Apple stopped including chargers with the iPhone and put a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box. You can find Apple and third-party USB-C power adapters, but you will need to buy them separately. Some USB-C adapters with higher outputs will enable faster charging, so there is an advantage to making the switch.

In either case, there are many great Lightning cables in all kinds of lengths and styles, so you really just need to figure out what’s going to work well with your gear.

The best Lightning cables: Reviews & Recommendations

Many of the best Lightning cables feature braided nylon or kevlar material, come in various lengths, and are MFi certified. The picks on our list come from reputable brands and fit all kinds of use cases. Do you need something that’s ultra-durable that can survive your rugged outdoor adventures? Or are you a remote worker who needs a long cable so you charge off an outlet across the room? Whatever you need, there’s a Lightning cable for that.

Best overall: Anker Powerline+ III USB-C to Lightning

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut:  The Anker Powerline+ III is slim, braided, and enables fast charging—what else do you need?

Specs

  • Length: 6 feet
  • Material: Braided nylon
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • 35,000 bend lifespan
  • Fast-charging support
  • More durable connection points
  • Lightning connector has been strengthened to resist breaks

Cons

  • Expensive

USB-C isn’t the only port but, with its conveniently reversible interface, it has become the modern standard of choice, even in Apple laptops (RIP, Thunderbolt). For that reason, our best overall pick is a USB-C to Lightning cable. And Anker’s Powerline+ III cable has everything we look for in a well-rounded charging cable, including MFi certification, support for fast charging, a braided nylon outer layer, and a 35,000-bend lifespan. It’s very durable, with a rustproof connector and curved steel design that protects the Lightning connection points, making them more resistant to drops and other everyday nicks.

The Powerline+ III is available in 3-foot and 6-foot options in black, red, silver, and gold. Anker also offers a lifetime warranty and will provide users with a replacement for any quality issues.

Best USB-A to Lightning: Anker USB-A to Lightning (90 degree)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Anker’s USB-A to Lightning cable features a 90-degree connector that makes the device much easier to hold horizontally.

Specs

  • Length: 3 feet
  • Material: PVC
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Angled connector
  • Rated to withstand being plugged in and unplugged 10,000 times
  • Great for mobile gaming and watching videos

Cons

  • Only available in a 3-foot option

While the USB-C oval feels like it has become ubiquitous, there are still plenty of devices with USB-A’s familiar rectangle port. We like Anker’s USB-A to Lightning cable because it isn’t like every other USB-A to Lightning cable you’ve seen. The Lightning end of this cable is angled at 90 degrees, so it sits flush with the device and is comfortable when held horizontally. The angled approach makes the cable particularly good for charging while playing a game or watching a movie because there’s no cable jutting out. Anker’s cable still offers enhanced durability and official MFi certification, so you can rest assured that it will last.

Best durable: Nomad Kevlar Lightning

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Nomad’s double-braided Kevlar cable will last longer than every other cord in your arsenal.

Specs

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Material: Kevlar
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Kevlar construction
  • Fast-charging support
  • Cable length is great for faraway outlets
  • Integrated cable tie

Cons

  • Expensive

Nomad’s Kevlar USB-C to Lightning cable is made for people who have had bad luck with fraying cables. It has a double-braided sheath made from Kevlar, which is heat-resistant and five times stronger than steel. (You may know the material for its starring role in bulletproof vests.) Nomad’s cable supports fast charging when paired with the correct power adapter, bringing an iPhone battery from 0 percent to 50 percent in 30 minutes. It also includes an integrated cable tie made of liquid silicone rubber, so you can keep it coiled.

Adding Kevlar isn’t cheap, apparently, as Nomad’s cable is the most expensive option on our list. Then again, it should be the only Lightning cable you’ll ever need. The Nomad Kevlar Lightning is available as either a USB-C to Lightning or USB-A to Lightning cable, with 5-foot and 10-foot variants.

Best braided nylon: Native Union Belt Cable

Native Union

Check Price

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Native’s braided nylon and “O-Flex” cutout bring much-needed durability to the Lightning cable.

Specs

  • Length: 4 feet
  • Material: Braided nylon
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Extra durable design
  • O-Flex cutout for added strain relief
  • Variety of designs

Cons

  • Only 4-foot option

Native Union’s Belt Cable is another excellent USB-C to Lightning cable that’s MFi certified and features braided nylon for increased durability. The cable also features an “O-Flex” cutout near the end to give it more flexibility right where the cable meets the connector to deal with strenuous bends. Native Union’s cable is another straightforward option that supports fast charging and stays tangle-free with the help of a genuine leather strap, so you can keep the cable compact when transporting it in your bag. 

The 4-foot cable is also available as a USB-A to Lightning cable and comes in a few stylish colorways, including zebra, cosmos, rose, indigo, and sage

Best long: Anker Powerline+ II (10-foot)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Anker’s last-gen Powerline+ cable runs longer than the new version, so it’s still a very useful option.

Specs

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Material: Braided nylon
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Longer cable
  • Excellent durability
  • 30,000 bend lifespan

Cons

  • USB-A to Lightning only

If you need a cable that can stretch from a faraway outlet to a couch or bed, Anker’s Powerline+ II is 10 feet long, giving you plenty of freedom while charging. Like its successor, the Powerline+ II features a braided nylon outer layer and is rated to withstand 30,000 bends. It also features tensile strength capable of withstanding 175 pounds, not that you’d ever stretch it like that.

As an older model, the Powerline+ II has a couple of disadvantages. It only comes as a USB-A to Lightning cable. Since it doesn’t support USB-C, that means no fast charging at a distance. The Powerline+ II is available in black, red, silver, and gold.

Best multi-cable: Nomad Universal Cable

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Nomad’s Universal Cable can charge a multitude of devices with a single cable.

Specs

  • Length: 5 feet
  • Material: Kevlar
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Features microUSB, USB-C, and Lightning
  • Kevlar construction offers excellent durability
  • Integrated cable tie

Cons

  • No USB-PD support
  • Expensive

The Nomad Universal Cable removes the pain of fumbling with different cables for each and every device. Sometimes, you need a Lightning cable, but you may also need a USB-A to USB-C cable at some point, or USB-A to Micro USB. This one can do all three using a set of removable connector heads. Now you can carry one cable that can charge your iPhone, wireless mouse, and any other accessories you may own. It’s a nice way to cut down clutter and is convenient for road warriors. It’s durable like the other Nomad picks on our list and it features an integrated cable tie to keep it coiled in your bag. 

Best budget: AmazonBasics USB-A to Lightning

Amazon Basics

Check Price

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Amazon’s USB-A to Lightning shows Apple how it’s done at an affordable price.

Specs

  • Length: 3 feet
  • Material: Braided nylon
  • MFi Certified: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Color and length variety
  • Durable

Pros

  • No USB-PD support

The AmazonBasics USB-A to Lightning cable is a more affordable MFi-certified option, in case our other picks seem a bit too pricey. With braided nylon for added durability and an additional layer of protection to the connectors to prevent fraying, it’s a straightforward cable you can quickly throw in your bag and use in any situation. It isn’t perfect, but you get the quality of a more expensive cable, which should last your iPhone’s lifetime, at a very nice price. 

The AmazonBasics USB-A to Lightning cable is available in 3-foot and 6-foot variants. It comes in four colors—gray, red, rose, and silver.

FAQs

Q: Why do Lightning cables break so easily?

Apple’s Lightning cables have had a reputation for fraying for years, even with a small stress relief sleeve at the connection point. Once torn, it’s only a matter before the cable fails. There are a few reasons Apple cables are so fragile: First, Apple removed the more substantial ribbed strain relief it used in cables made in the early 2000s. The company also stopped using PVC in its products, a plastic vinyl material that can make cables more rigid and durable. 

That’s why choosing the right material for your Lightning cable makes such a difference. Braided and kevlar cables are much more durable and more resistant to fraying than the one that comes with Apple devices. Even Apple has started to include braided cables with some of its products, including the Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and Black Magic Trackpad. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t sell its braided Lightning cables directly, so you’ll have to look at third-party alternatives (like our Anker pick above).

Q: How do I make my Lightning cable last longer?

Even the most durable Lightning cables will last longer if you treat them well. Try not to flex where the cable and connector meet, and always grasp the plug housing when disconnecting it from a power adapter. You should also avoid tightly coiling your cables to preserve the metal wires found on the inside. These steps will help extend the life of your Lightning cable, whether it’s from Apple or a third-party manufacturer.

Q: Are cheap Lightning cables safe?

There are dozens of cheap Lightning cables available on Amazon. Some of them are MFi certified and some of them aren’t. If you can’t verify that a cable is MFi-certified, there’s a higher chance it will break in a way that may damage your device. That’s why we recommend sticking with MFi-certified cables from well-known manufacturers.

If you’re unsure, we generally recommend playing it safe and avoiding a cheap cable.

Q: Do Lightning cables support fast charging?

It’s possible to fast charge your iPhone using a Lightning cable, but only under specific circumstances. You need an iPhone 8 or later, a USB-C to Lightning cable, and a USB-C power adapter from Apple that supports at least 18W. But that’s not all. You’ll need a 20W power adapter from Apple if you want to fast charge your iPhone 12 or later. You can also fast charge your iPhone 8 or newer using a third-party USB-C adapter that supports USB Power Delivery (USB-PD). You can check the wattage of your Apple adapter by looking at the top or bottom of the adapter.

Final thoughts on the best Lightning cables

It’s easy to look at a high-end Lightning cable and balk at the cost. It’s just a cable, right? The reality, though, is that the best Lightning cables can charge your phone faster and will last much longer than that cheap charging cable from the pharmacy. By upgrading to a pick on our list, you’re investing in a piece of equipment that will last as long as your phone or longer. It’s a small investment but one you’ll be happy you made.