The Best Lightning Cables of 2020
The Anker Powerline+ II is an incredibly durable and efficient charger. After extensive use, its braided nylon cable showed no signs of wear and tear. That, coupled with a lifetime warranty for all quality-related issues, made it a standout in product durability. As with other braided nylon sheaths, the cable is highly flexible and handles repeated bending quite well. Typical of all the Anker products we tested, this cable comes with a convenient Velcro strap that makes coiling and storing the cable streamlined and easy.
The Powerline+ II also comes with a storage case, which adds some bulk but could be a useful addition for those who just want to toss their charging cable into a backpack and not worry about losing it into the depths. Given this cable's durability, charging efficiency, and great storability, it reigns supreme over all the others we tested.
A relatively newer style of charging cable, Anker USB-C to Lightning, is changing the game when it comes to charging times. With faster-charging speeds, USB-C cables seem to be the direction the industry is heading. Anker's iteration of the USB-C to lightning cable is, like their other cables, a consistently well-built cable. With its thick and bendy, vinyl-like coating, the cable did well in the durability tests, and given the nature of the material Anker uses, coils well.
Not all older iDevices are compatible with these cables, and when out and about, it's still harder to find a charging port and plugin. With no connectivity issues, a durable cable, and the fastest charging times, this is our favorite USB-C to lightning cable.
AmazonBasics are best known for offering a simple, affordable, and often middle of the road quality, version of whatever product it is emulating. All those factors ring true for the AmazonBasics Cable. Most similar to the Apple version, this cable has a thin plastic sheath that visibly stresses when you bend it.
We had some connectivity issues, particularly when first plugging in the cable to initiate a charge. We didn't experience this with all the devices we tested this cable on, but it happened often enough to raise concerns about longevity. We found this cable to have acceptable charging times, but given the material it is made from, it was difficult to coil and store. With similar performance to the Apple cable, the AmazonBasics Cable is a good alternative for those who don't care about having a brand name product and are looking for a good deal.
The Nomad Kevlar Universal Cable is a top tier product. With an outer sheath made of braided Kevlar, this cable would appear to be bombproof. Not only does its Kevlar sheath give it high marks in durability, it significantly adds to the cable's storability. The thick and supple sheath coils and stays coiled incredibly well. The cable comes equipped with a clever rubber "ratchet" strap that secures the coiled cable. The strap also lets you easily feed cable out the coil if you want to change the length of your cable while charging.
With a micro USB as its base, this cable has both a Lightning and USB-C attachment that is connected via semi-rigid rubber extensions. The rigidity of the attachments keeps the end pieces from flopping around and keeps the whole package a little neater while not in use. With more than a foot and half of extra length than the Anker 3-in-1 cable, we found the Nomad cable to have more practical applications as a universal charger, such as the ability to better reach the back seat of a car. Given its rugged durability and extra length, this charger is perfectly suited to rideshare drivers and businesses.
The Anker Powerline II 3-in-1 cable offers a Micro USB, USB C, and most relevant to us here, a lightning connector attachment. The cable is sheathed in a vinyl-like material similar to that of the standard Apple Cable. This coating, however, is thicker and more pliable than the Apple version. When coiled, the cable holds its shape fairly well and doesn't spring back open like the Apple or Amazon version. That, combined with the standard Anker Velcro strap, makes storing this cable as easy as can be.
The micro USB attachment serves as the base connector, which the USB C and Lightning connector snap onto. Both connectors snapped firmly into place and gave us no connectivity issues. The small size, great storability, and good durability make this universal cable a perfect choice for travelers not looking to carry a suitcase full of tangled cables.
The Native Union Belt Cable not only boasts some of the fastest charging times of any of the cables we tested, but its commitment to a higher visual aesthetic is also noteworthy. Complete with a leather strap for securing the coiled cable and a high contrast color pattern, its details are subtle but refined. The ten-foot length is simultaneously one of its most excellent selling points and also depending on your needs, one of its most significant drawbacks.
No matter where your closest outlet is, you're almost guaranteed to be able to plug in your device and still have the freedom to use it. On the flip side, ten feet is a lot of cable with potential for twists, snares, and cluttering your workspace. Given the specialty nature of this cable, we wouldn't recommend it as your sole charging cable, but given its high-quality build and great functionality, it is certainly worth adding to your quiver.
Almost identical in construction to the original Apple Lightning to USB-A, the Apple Lightning to USB-C is equipped with the more modern USB-C connector. With the new MacBook Pros being solely equipped with USB-C outlets, if you find that you are consistently charging your iPhone with your MacBook and have a need to transfer data between the two devices, you will need a USB-C equipped cable.
As with the other Apple cables we tested, this falls squarely in the middle in terms of quality. With great connectivity, decently fast charging times, mid-range durability, and sub-standard storability, it is a good product but not the pick of the litter.
When choosing cables to review, we, of course, had to review the one that started it all. After seeing that quite a few buyers had supposedly received counterfeit cables when purchasing the official Apple Lightning to USB (3.2ft) through Amazon, we were relieved when we received ours, and it was in official Apple packaging complete with serial numbers. The most significant attribute this cable has is its guaranteed compatibility with all Apple products that have a Lightning connector. Although most of the products we reviewed are MFI (Made for iProducts) certified, we did find some connectivity issues with even certified third party cables. Buying a branded Apple product does, however, come at a price.
While not offering any notable features or significantly outscoring its competitors in any metric, the Apple Lightning to USB (3.2 feet) is the most expensive option for a single three-foot cable but with none of the bells and whistles of the Anker Powerline+ II. With comparable charging speeds to the other cables, this cable has the thinnest, least durable, and least pliable coating of all the cables we reviewed. Given the price and how it compared to other third-party options, we could only recommend purchasing this product if you are a die-hard Apple fan who insists on having all name brand accessories. Overall it's not a bad product, but it is surely not the best of the bunch.
The Takagi Lightning Cable comes in a pack of three and, at the time of review, was the number one bestseller on Amazon despite not being MFI certified. The lack of MFI certification became immediately apparent when we experienced connectivity issues right out of the box. We had to plug and unplug the cable several times before it registered with our devices. When left alone, the cable would charge our devices without issue, but as soon as we started using any of our devices while plugged in, the cable would lose connection and stop charging. The Takagi Lightning Cable has a braided nylon sheath that greatly increases the durability of the cable itself. The soft coating has a supple hand feel that lets it twist and bend at sharp angles and then return to its original shape without issue. The braided sheath makes coiling easy, which gives it solid marks in storability.
The six-foot length has also proved to be our preferred length of cable. Twice as long as the standard three-foot cable, the extra length allows for easy use while your device is plugged in but isn't as cumbersome as some of the longer options. With serious connectivity issues, average charging times, a durable cable, and decent storability, you get what you pay for with the Takagi Lightning Cable three-pack.
Virtually indistinguishable from the Takagi Cables in almost every regard, the Yunsong Cables have a slightly different colorway but arrive in identical packaging with identical problems.
Lacking an MFI certification, this budget alternative had numerous connection issues. Even as a three-pack, this low-quality option will likely need to be replaced at lightning speed.
Why You Should Trust Us
As an avid user of Apple Products, for both work and personal use, our primary tester, Buck Yedor, has been plugging and unplugging lightning cables since their inception in 2012. Between sharing cables on job sites, using, abusing, and losing cables through extensive travel, and generally beating everything he owns into the dirt, he has come to value well-built products that can go the distance. Having used a countless number of lightning cables over the years, Buck has a keen eye for early signs of wear and, as busy as the next person, relies on his phone and devices to be charged as efficiently as possible.
After researching many different lightning cables, we narrowed in on the top cables, which we put through extensive side-by-side testing. After using the cables to charge a variety of different generations of iPhones and iPads, we were able to determine our preferences for length, cable material, and how efficient each cable was at charging. Through our testing, we could see the best and worst qualities in each cable.
Analysis and Test Results
To test the different lightning cables, we started by incorporating them into our daily charging routines. After an initial informal assessment to see how the various cables held up to everyday use, we changed up our testing protocols to a systematic and repeatable testing process that ensured each cable was subjected to the same conditions. We tested each cable with three different generations of iPhones and three different generations of iPads. We wanted to test the durability of the cables, find any issues with connectivity, track how efficient their charging speeds were, and identify how easy each cable was to coil and store away.
The goal of the durability testing was to see at what point and where each cable would start to show wear. We wanted to know how well all of these cables could stand up to the heavy abuse these small but essential pieces of equipment often receive. We found that the most common place to show wear was where the cable attached to the USB connection point.
Cables with either braided nylon or braided kevlar sheaths, such as the Anker+ II and the Nomad Universal Cable, were without question, the most durable. After countless 90 degree bends, using the cables to prop up the devices vertically, and even accidentally letting the cables fall prey to a pair of kittens, the braided cables showed almost no signs of wear.
The thicker rubberized cables found on the Anker II Lightning to USB-C fared the next best, while the thinner and less pliable rubberized cables such as the Apple and Amazon cables started to show signs of wear at the connection points.
No matter how durable a cable is to physical abuse, if devices can't register a connection to the cable, it's as good as useless. While, in theory having an MFI (Made for iProducts) certification should guarantee a cable's ability to charge Apple devices and transfer data, we have found that it's not always the case, especially as cables age. To test for connectivity issues, we plugged and unplugged all the cables from multiple devices, monitored the devices for error messages while they charged, and attempted to use each of our devices while it was charging.
We found no connectivity issues with either of the Apple cables we tested or with the more premium options like the Anker, Native Union, and Nomad cables. Even with its MFI certification, our devices wouldn't always register a connection with the Amazon Basics Cable but would eventually start charging after unplugging and reinserting the cable.
Performing the worst in this metric, were the Takagi and Yunsong Cables. Straight out of the box, it was hit or miss whether or not they would start charging our devices, and would often stop charging our devices if we moved them at all while connected. During one test, the Yunsong cable wouldn't charge one of our devices past 94%, no matter how long we let it stay plugged in.
To test the charging efficiency of the different cables, we ran our six devices down to zero percent battery and then timed how long it took to reach various levels of battery charge. The Anker USB-C to Lightning performed the best, by giving us charging speeds under one and a half hours, with the Apple USB-C to Lightning coming in as a close second.
The Nomad 3-in-1 cable, as well as the Native Union cables, were noticeably faster than the other USB-A cables, with charging times under three hours. The rest of the cables charged at very similar speeds, some being faster and then slower, depending on the test and device.
The last piece of the puzzle in our testing process was to look at how easily each cable could be stored away. For someone who prefers a tidy workspace, having a manageable cable is crucial. The length of each cable, combined with the material it was made from, greatly effected how well each cable coiled and stayed coiled.
The The Anker+II Powerline, with its braided sheath, Velcro storage strap, and small carrying case, made for the easiest and cleanest storage of the bunch. The Nomad 3-in-1 cable's flexible kevlar sheath, combined with its rubber ratchet strap ( especially considering its length), came in at a close second.
All of the cables with thin and less rubberized sheaths, such as the Apple and Amazon lightning cables, had a difficult time staying coiled. The elasticity of the material caused them to continually want to spring open. And with no provided mechanism to keep them coiled up, we found these three products to be functionally the worst when it came to storability.
After rounding up the best lightning cables, our expert testers put them through the wringer. Although lightning cables themselves aren't the most complex pieces of technology, the devices they charge are essential to most of our daily lives, and having a reliable cable is crucial. The results from our side by side testing will help you determine which cable has the right balance of durability, connectivity, charging efficiency, and storability for you.
— Buck Yedor