Phil Schiller iPhone 5 event Lightning cable Improved durability

When you think about easily damaged Apple products, a smashed iPhone display with a screen like a spider web probably first comes to mind. While I’ve never cracked my own iPhone screen in my four years of carrying one virtually everywhere and mostly without a case, I have had to replace the charging cable required to keep the iPhone juiced up more than enough times.

The classic 30-pin cable used on the iPhone 4s and prior certainly wasn’t the most durable cable I’ve ever owned, but the Lightning cable introduced alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012 has proved one of the least forgiving accessories I’ve ever needed to use, and that’s despite Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller touting Lightning’s “improved durability” when he introduced it.

You may not have the same experience, but there’s even a Tumblr dedicated to venting over broken Lightning cables, and that just shouldn’t be the case.

I’ll preface this by saying I do have one Lightning cable that I haven’t needed to replace after more than a few months of use. It’s the 0.5-meter Lightning cable that Apple sells for the same price as the 1-meter Lightning cable (although the 2-meter Lightning cable is $10 more). I bought it mistakenly when intending to buy the standard 1-meter version and decided to just use it to connect my iPhone 5s dock to my Mac. That’s why it hasn’t broken; I never need to connect and disconnect it.

That’s the Lightning cable’s weak spot: the section just below the protected end by the Lighting connection. As I’m sure you know, pull it too many times the wrong way or apply too much pressure to it over time and it’s game over. I still haven’t found the right way to use a Lightning cable in the real world that doesn’t stress it after a few months.

Need more evidence that the Lightning cable just isn’t holding up to real world use? Jump over to Apple’s Online Store and check out the reviews for its 2-meter Lightning cable, for instance. Out of 124 reviews, it has a 2 star average with 80 reviews rating it just 1 star out of 5 stars (probably because zero stars isn’t an option).

Apple Lightning cable reviews

 

People often reply to these complaints saying Apple will replace any broken Lightning cable. All I can say is your mileage will most definitely vary (although it is covered under the 1-year warranty so a receipt and an Apple Store will help). And what about 3rd party Lightning cables that are often just as expensive? Apple surely won’t touch those.

Like I mentioned above, the problem is almost always with the part just below the protected tip. If you remove the Lightning cable from the device, it asserts stress on the inside, of course, but it’s a limited surface for grabbing and often impractical to remove any other way.

It also bends (in my opinion) too easily. Lean too far in one direction and your Lightning cable takes a permanent vacation to Belize.

I’ve summarized the stages of a Lightning cable in my experience: new and shiny, used and appreciated, electrical taped then retired.

I’ve yet to find a truly solid Lightning cable. Aside from Apple’s own Lightning cables, I’ve tried ones that look like bungee cords, ones that are 10 feet long, and even ones that light up when you charge your device.

Surprisingly, the novelty illuminated Lightning cable has been the best so far as it has the most protection by the connector. However, out of the three I’ve bought for around the house, one did get really hot at the tip and melt. Based on the other two working so far, I’m planning on exchanging the melted one for the same cable. Hear that? I’d rather risk a melting cable than guarantee a short lived, frayed neck cable.

Meanwhile, Apple is probably making a Lightning cable with a reversible USB end (you can even buy one now!) and Samsung is touting its new, three headed micro USB cable (presumably so you can plug in your Android, your smart watch, and your Android tablet all at the same time) but multiheaded cables aren’t really a new innovation (hello 30-pin). A tough Lighting cable? Now that’d be impressive.

Apple, please, even if the design is a little less minimal, make a truly durable charging cable that can live up to real life use cases.

For that matter, a company like Mophie that makes battery packs or a company like Otterbox known for making durable products should make a truly durable Lightning cable and forgo the idea that it has to look slim and sleek.

It’s probably not as niche a market at you might think (again: see Tumblr).

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131 Responses to “Opinion: It’s time for Apple to deliver on its Lightning cable’s ‘improved durability’”

  1. Tim says:

    Honestly I’ve never had one break and I’ve been using them since the day iphone 5 came out. Even the one I’ve used daily in the car has given me zero problems. People must “yank” cable to remove it. I always grab the solid end in one hand and the device in the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I accidently left my lightning cable (and wall charger) in my jeans pocket when doing the laundry. It was in there the whole time with water and soap and spin and everything. I put it in a bag of rice for a couple of days and it still works like a charm ;)

    I know your complaints are mainly about the rubber but still.. Happy customer here !

    Like

  3. True that. Even the support people in store prefer to Belkin cables as they’re longer lasting.

    Like

  4. Gonna give you guys an insider’s opinion / perspective. I worked in Apple Stores for 6.5 years. Most of that time was spent behind Genius Bars. I can’t speak for everyone, but MOST of those pictured conditions have been the case of folks casually yanking the lightning cable out from the wire part and not from the plastic tip, which you used to have to do with the 30-pin connector. Over time, that stretches the cable and breaks the inner wiring. Defect? Nope! Apple not thinking about people’s psychological use of their products everyday?Could be! So, people’s perception that this cable is LESS durable really comes from shrugging off little things like this that may be true. Before you call me a fan-boy, MANY folks that I helped out have admitted that that’s indeed true, and I would sometimes offer an exchange of the cable ONCE for free as a courtesy, as technically any “physical damage” isn’t covered under warranty. They would also usually leave stoked and not come back in for the same issue. People that just got their cables replaced (free or not), with no conversation would generally be back annoyed.

    This article’s opinion and perception on Apple doing something about this is from a combination of things. Store employee’s mindless free replacement of cables without any insight to why the cable may have failed, and some employees simply being short with people calling it damaged, not covered & advised to buy a new one (which, to Apple’s warranty people is technically true). Obiously results vary too so now that I’m not with Apple anymore, this is opinion that is backed by fact. Apple hasn’t changed the material of their cables in the last 5 years or so (since the original iPhones came with 30-pins that you didn’t have to grasp the sides of to unplug, i.e. old iPod model’s 30-pins)…..if I come off as too defensive, it’s from time having real-world, in person conversations with the community of Apple users, and not just venting at a screen.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. There’s nothing wrong with the Apple Lightning cables that using a little common sense and taking care of your stuff won’t solve.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You people need to take better care of your stuff. I have a grand total of 23 iOS devices, all going back to the original 2001 iPod. The only time I’ve ever had to replace a cable is when my cat bit through one of them.

    Like

  7. What is wrong with you people?! For those of you who break your cables and say that you’re ‘gentle’ with your stuff are either blind, in denial or insane. I still have the original cable that came with my iPhone 5 and it’s been two years now! It still works perfectly! The only thing wrong with it is the hole drilled into – I bought a third party stand that makes a slight impression into the cable when properly affixed. (A dock that was reviewed and touted on this site) Even with the damage to the plastic – that I knowingly caused – is still charges perfectly, just as fast no problems. I also bought a 0.5m cable after getting this dock so I could recharge my phone at work (I like to put it on shuffle for roughly 7 hours, as well as use it on breaks and my commute to and from work and it just can put out 9+ hours of non-stop use). After months, the cable still looks brand new – still as white as day one! It’s not hard people. Just grab the hard plastic of the connector – USB or Lightning side with one hand and the device with the other, then pull. Really it’s not rocket science.

    Like

  8. i needed 5 new cables during 2 years of iPhone 5. and my original 3gs cable i still in proper work…

    Like

  9. bb1111116 says:

    We have three Lightning cables (two with iPhone 5s when first released and an extra one).
    We have never had a Lightning cable break.
    I am pretty rough with my cable.
    I’m sorry that some people have been having this problem but again, it has never been an issue with me.

    Like

  10. The connector has improved durability, not the cable. This was always clear.

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  11. If you pull the cable from the right area not just the pulling the main cable area they won’t fail like this.

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  12. herb02135go says:

    Isn’t it about time Apple turned out a product that works?
    See the story above about the latest battery problems. How is Maps doing these days?
    The sheep would buy a black brick – shaped pile of dung if it had an Apple logo. You deserve better.

    Like

  13. 5 iphones here in the house (one 5, 4 iphone 5S), and after 12 months 5 new cables. We have teens that may not be that respectful for their kit, but the lightning cable is the worst accessory I have had for years. Happy with the phones – no question.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for writing this article. I’ve gone through three expensive Thunderbolt cables so far for those exact reasons and it seems unfair. The cables simply don’t stand up to every day use.

    Like

  15. The cables are fine. I worked at the genius bar at Apple and techs have to use those cable more than any one and we made them last. When people would bring in their damaged cables, they weren’t just damaged, they were disgusting. Most of them were brown. It’s very simple. If you allow the cable to be bent near the connector, eventually there will be issues.

    Like

  16. The same goes for macbook pro power adapter cables.

    Like

  17. blm1990 says:

    I’ve never managed to damage a lightning cable whatsoever. My iPhone 6+ is my 6th iOS device that used lightning and I have had no trouble so far. Without doubt, the cable does not stand up to the quality it should for that price. As I have learned many years ago, when I started to play the guitar, is, that the trick is to never pull on ANY cable when removing it. No matter if USB, 3.5mm or Lightning, ALWAYS pull on the plastic connector itself. Don’t wiggle the cable either, pull it out in one go. Don’t run the cable over any sharp edges.

    The only cable I habe broken so far was the 30-pin on my iPhone 3G and that one sort of “rotted” of (changed from white to brown at the connector, than crumbled off). I got free replacement for that one.

    Like