Best Lightning Cable of 2021
The Anker Powerline+ II is incredibly durable and a highly efficient charger. The most common point of failure on charging cables seems to be where the cable meets the plug-in point for the device. This connection point is bent repeatedly while plugging and unplugging your device, and a stiff cable can't withstand this kind of movement for long. This cable's durability stems from the braided nylon sheath, which gives it the flexibility to bend and twist without breaking. The flexible cord made this a standout in product durability. Typical of all the Anker products we tested, this cable comes with a convenient Velcro strap, which makes coiling and storing the cable streamlined and easy.
The Powerline+ II even comes with its own small storage case; this adds some bulk but is quite helpful for storing in a backpack or purse and helps you stay organized. Given this cable's durability, charging efficiency, and great storability, it reigns supreme over all the others we tested.
USB-C is starting to become a common connection port, and the Anker USB-C to Lightning is upping the ante with its blistering fast charge 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 well-built product. Covered in a thick and bendy, vinyl-like coating, the cable did well in the durability tests. This was one of the most durable non-braided cables. The vinyl coating is quite malleable and holds its shape surprisingly well while coiled.
Not all older generation iDevices are compatible with these cables, and when out and about, finding a charging port can be more difficult. With no connectivity issues, a durable cable, and the fastest charging times of all the tested products, this is our favorite USB-C to lightning cable.
The AmazonBasics cable is simple, cost-effective, and entirely adequate in every way. Reminiscent of the original Apple version, this cable has a thin plastic sheath that visibly stresses when you bend it. If you're the sort of person who is constantly losing your charging cables but still wants a semi high-quality option that won't stop pairing after a few weeks, this cable is for you.
During our testing, we experienced some connectivity issues, particularly when first plugging the cable in 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. The cable has sufficient charging times, but given the material it's made from, it is difficult to coil and store. With similar performance to the Apple cable, the AmazonBasics is a good alternative for those not wanting to spend the money on a name-brand product.
The Nomad Kevlar Universal Cable is a top-tier device. It is made from high-quality components and receives high scores across the board; we would be hard-pressed to find a better-made cable. With an outer sheath constructed of braided Kevlar, this cable will stand up to almost any abuse that consumers put it through. 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. In addition to the material being easy to coil, the cable comes equipped with a clever rubber "ratchet" strap that secures the coiled cable in place. The strap also lets you easily feed cable out of the coil if you want to change the length of your cable while charging. Not having to have a big pile of extra cable spilled all over your workspace is a huge plus.
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), the Nomad had more practical applications as a universal charger, such as the ability to reach the back seat of a car. The only real downside with this cable is the bulk. If you don't need the universal charging capabilities, lugging this thing around might feel like a waste of space. 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 comes complete with 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 stock 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 version is prone to do. That, combined with the standard Anker Velcro strap, makes coiling and storing this cable quick and simple.
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. Similar to other universal chargers, if you don't need the extra charging capabilities, you might not want to sacrifice the additional space that is needed for this bulky cable. However, if you are after a universal charger, the smaller size, great storability, and good durability make it a perfect choice for travelers that aren't looking to carry a suitcase full of tangled cables.
The Native Union Belt Cable not only produced some of the fastest charging times of any of the cables we tested, but its commitment to a higher visual aesthetic is also noteworthy. While most options on the market are purely utilitarian in design, it's nice to see a company putting in the extra thought to make the devices we surround ourselves with to be visually appealing. The leather strap used for securing the coiled cable, as well as its high contrast color pattern, are subtle details that give this product a more refined look. The 10 foot length is simultaneously one of its greatest selling points, and depending on your needs, one of its most significant drawbacks.
No matter where your closest outlet is, you're very likely 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 the potential for twists, snares, and cluttering of your workspace. Given the specialty nature of this cable, we wouldn't recommend it as your sole charging cable. Still, given its high-quality build and excellent performance, 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 a USB-C connector. The new MacBook Pros are solely outfitted with USB-C outlets; if you find 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 product offers middle-of-the-road quality. The stiff cable makes it hard to store, and ultimately, less durable. Again, be wary that when you're out in the world, you don't forget your C-compatible charging block because they still just aren't as common. With perfect connectivity, decently fast charging times, mid-range durability, and sub-standard storability, it is a good product but doesn't offer any features that will wow you, especially at its higher price point.
When choosing cables to review, we had to choose 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 (3.2 ft) through Amazon, we were relieved when we received ours, and it was in official Apple packaging — complete with serial numbers. The greatest selling point for this cable is its compatibility with Apple products that require a Lightning connector. Although most of the products we reviewed are MFI (Made for iProducts) certified, we did find some connectivity issues, even with certified third-party cables. Buying a branded Apple product does, however, come at a price.
It does not offer any notable features and does not significantly outscore its competitors in any metric. It's also 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 contenders 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 for the price, we would like to see some improvements.
The Takagi Lightning Cable comes in a pack of three and is not 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, it would charge our devices without issue; 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 significantly 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 is our preferred length of cable. It's twice as long as the standard three-foot cable, and the extra length allows for easy use while your device is plugged in; it 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 this 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. Six feet in length, this braided cable initially offered consumers hope for a high-quality product.
While it's always hard to say no to a good deal, these cables are rife with 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 lightning cable products, for both work and personal use, our primary tester, Buck Yedor, has been plugging and unplugging lightning cables since their inception. 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. 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 ten options, which we put through extensive side-by-side testing. After using each one 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 model.
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 model 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.
Almost all of us, at one point or another, have come across an almost entirely decapitated charging cable, barely hanging on by the internal wiring. 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 not as bendy as braided cables, the thicker rubber kept each one from being bent beyond their ability to recover. The thinner and less pliable rubberized options, 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 ensure 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.
Charging efficiency refers to how quickly a cable can charge your device. 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, going from zero to one hundred percent charged in under one and a half hours. The Apple USB-C to Lightning came 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 final component of our testing metrics was the storability of each cable. We wanted to see how easily and cleanly each cable could be coiled and put 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 affected how well each cable coiled and stayed coiled.
The Anker+II Powerline scored the highest marks in storability. 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 scouring the internet for the best cables being sold in 2021, our team of electronic experts picked 10 products to purchase and compare in a series of side-by-side tests. 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.
— Buck Yedor