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).
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.
Melting lightning cable was hot to plug in pic.twitter.com/mmWNbKUU0j— Zac Hall (@apollozac) August 20, 2014
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).