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. Read on to learn more about micro USB and check out our top picks of the best lightning cables.
- BEST OVERALL: Apple Lightning to USB Cable
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Amazon Basics Lightning to USB-A Cable, 3 Foot
- UPGRADE PICK: SmallElectric iPhone Charger Lightning Cable, 6 Foot
- MOST DURABLE: Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable, 6 Foot
- BEST USB-C: Anker New Nylon USB-C to Lightning Charging Cord
- BEST WITH POWER BLOCK: TrimDish Type C Charger USB-C to Lightning Cable
- BEST MULTIPACK: Jahmai iPhone Charger Lightning Cable 3 Pack, 6 Foot
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 than a basic cable.
Some lightning cables 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 other Apple products.
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 kilohertz 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. Long 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 they 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 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 shoppers look for lightning cables to keep their Apple gear charged and connected, they may also want to give some thought to which adapters they might need.
Our Top Picks
The following are the top picks for the best lightning cables to keep 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. Here are a few of our top lightning cables to add to a collection of useful desk accessories.
This lightning-to-USB cord, packaged by Apple with its iPhones and iPads, is the cord to which all others are compared. At 1 meter long, this Apple cable is just the right length for connecting Apple devices to a computer’s USB port to sync and charge devices, but it’s not so long that it gets tangled in other gear. Connect this white cord to an Apple USB power adapter to charge devices from a wall outlet when on the go or there’s no laptop around.
- Length: 0.5, 1, or 2 meters
- Color: White
- Cable: Plastic
- Official Apple product
- Available in multiple lengths
- Guaranteed compatibility
Get the Apple lightning cable at Amazon, Best Buy, or Target.
The Amazon Basics MFi-certified lightning cable can be used to sync and charge Apple devices including iPhones, iPads, and other Apple products—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.
- Length: 1, 3, and 6 feet
- Color: Midnight green, black, white, or gray
- Cable: Plastic
- USB and lightning connector head
- Multiple lengths, quantities, and colors
- Resistant to bending
- May not fit perfectly into devices
Get the Amazon Basics lightning cable on Amazon.
This SmallElectric charger and lightning cable incorporates a thoughtful design that ensures the cable lasts for the long term. Inside is a compact aluminum alloy shell, strong Teflon-core structure, aramid-fiber core, and laser-welded connectors on both ends of the 6-foot cable. Interior gold plating provides wear and corrosion resistance, and several thick copper wires ensure a fast and safe charge for devices.
It’s considered one of the strongest cables available with its 175-pound tensile strength, and the flexible braided nylon and reinforced self-regulating cable joint are hard to break. This cable withstands a 40,000-plus bend test, offering reassurance that it should last for years.
Use this USB-to-lightning cable for iPhones or iPads to sync devices and charge at the same time with a 2.4-amp current. This cable is MFi certified, so users can be assured that it’s gone through rigorous testing to ensure that Apple devices charge safely as fast as possible.
- Length: 1, 3, 6, 10, and 16 feet
- Color: Blue, gray, brown, and gold
- Cable: Teflon, aluminum alloy, gold plating, copper, aramid fiber, and braided nylon
- Offers data transfer
- 175-pound tensile strength
- Withstands 40,000-plus bends
- MFi certified
- Some users report manufacturing defects
Get the SmallElectric lightning cable on Amazon.
This 6-foot-long black lightning cable from Anker has a double-braided nylon exterior and aluminum alloy connectors and is MFi certified. Unlike other cables, it has been tested to last 30,000 bends, and it has the tensile strength to withstand 175 pounds, meaning the Powerline+ II has the capacity to hold out 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 1-foot, 3-foot, and 10-foot lengths.
- Length: 1, 3, 6, or 10 feet
- Color: Black, red, silver, or gold
- Cable: Double-braided nylon
- Durable nylon cable
- Multiple lengths and colors available
- Comes with a travel pouch
- May not work with Apple CarPlay
Get the Anker Powerline+ II lightning cable at Amazon, Best Buy, or Target.
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 it’s compatible with Apple iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 products.
This charging cord can be paired with an 18-watt or higher power-delivery charger (sold separately), which can power up an iPhone to 50 percent battery life in just 30 minutes. Unlike other cables, this model is available in unique colorways, including black, red, blue, and silver.
- Length: 1, 3.3, 6, or 10 feet
- Color: Black, silver, blue, or red
- Cable: Braided-nylon and bulletproof fiber core
- Durable-braided cable
- Reinforced stress points
- Supports up to 60-watt output
- Can be paired with an 18-watt or higher power-delivery charger
- Some users report malfunctioning over time
Get the Anker USB-C lightning cable on Amazon.
This USB-Ccharging pack from TrimDish consists of a 3.3-foot white MFi-certified lightning cable and a power block. Unlike other cables, this USB-C-to-lightning cable provides up to 20 watts of fast-charging power, which can charge an iPhone at a charging speed of up 50 percent battery capacity in as little as 30 minutes.
These cables can withstand 9,000 bends and are built out of thick copper wires for maximum signal quality and durability. To charge devices at an electrical outlet, simply plug the cable into the compact wall charger power block. The TrimDish USB-C lightning cable is compatible with most iPhone, iPad, and Apple devices.
- Length: 3.3 feet
- Color: White
- Cable: Plastic and copper
- Fast-charging USB-C technology; charged 50 percent faster than comparable cables
- Compatible with most Apple devices
- Limited durability of the plastic cable
Get the TrimDish USB-C lightning cable on Amazon.
This pack from Jahmai contains three 6-foot cables, all of which are made using durable black-and-white braided nylon and an aluminum shell. Tested to withstand at least 8,000 bends, these durable charging cables are much stronger than standard plastic cables and offer high-speed charging and universal compatibility with Apple products.
This multipack allows users to keep their charging cables around the home, office, or car without having to unplug and relocate the same charger.
- Length: 6 feet each
- Color: Black and white
- Cable: Braided nylon and an aluminum shell
- Durable-braided nylon cable
- Resistant to bending
- Some users report limited compatibility with Apple devices
Get the Jahmai lightning cable on Amazon.
The most reliable cable for your Apple devices would be the Apple lightning cable, which does come at a premium price but is guaranteed to be compatible. Shoppers looking for the best budget lightning cable to have multiple cables around the home, office, or car should consider the Amazon Basics lightning cable.
How We Chose the Best Lightning Cables
With the huge popularity of Apple products in the U.S., it’s no surprise that the market is full of alternative options to plug in and charge these devices. When curating our list of recommendations, we focused our research on the most reliable Apple-alternative products that would provide users with durable, long-lasting, and fast-charginglightning cables.
Certain options on the market are suspiciously inexpensive, and our research has shown that these options do not provide adequate compatibility nor longevity, so we have made sure not to include these in our top picks.
We did, however, find many reliable options for shoppers in a wide range of colors, lengths, and materials. Our list includes 1- to 10-foot cables in various colors with both the standard plastic cable coating as well as the more durable and flexible nylon braiding, depending on user preference.
This list also includes our top picks for USB-C type lightning connectors, providing a faster, more efficient charging speed with its updated technology.
Still wondering if a lightning charging cable is right for you? Here are some important questions and answers about these high-tech accessories.
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, 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.