Cables are like the umbilical cords of our mobile devices. Whether those gadgets are iOS or Android, tablet or smartphone, the cable is the mini highway used to transfer data and the straw used to suck up life-sustaining power. Yet many of us are happy to just use the cables that come with our devices rather than upgrading this critical part of our mobile lives.
Fortunately, there are a wide range of new cables being made that not only take care of the basics, but go beyond in terms of convenience, durability and features that are just plain smart. Take, for example, the Night Cable. It solves the age-old problem of having your charging cable leap to the floor every time you disconnect your device.
The cable from Native Union stays put thanks to a heavy knot placed along the cord's roughly 10-foot (3 meter) length that slides where you need it. Put the knot on a nightstand or desktop and when you unplug your cord, it'll stay right where you need it rather than diving to the floor.
It's also covered in a soft fabric braiding that feels good to have around when you're using your devices in bed.
The Night Cable is available as a Micro-USB for Android devices and in a Lightning version for iOS gadgets.
The MOS Spring Cable, which is a bit like the armored tank of charging cables, is named for the springs that shield the cable at each end from fraying that can occur over time from indelicately connecting and disconnecting your devices.
The cable is also covered in an exoskeleton "made from a really tough synthetic polymer (think super-tough nylon) with properties that make it seem metallic. The light weave allows it to be more flexible," according to a company representative.
Just how tough is this cable? Well, after a week of torture testing it on the road without it showing any signs of weakening, I got it home and ran over it with my car. While there finally was a split between the cable and the Micro-USB head, it actually still worked just fine.
The cable is available in a 3-foot length for iOS devices and 3- or 6-foot lengths for Android gadgets.
The Luminid Lightning cable has a simple yet oh-so-useful feature built in. If you put a finger on each side of the Lightning plug, a small light illuminates, which is perfect for guiding the plug into the port on your iPhone or iPad. The light is bright enough to make the connection, but not so bright that it would wake any nearby sleeping people.
Right now the cable is only available in 3-foot lengths, but a representative from the company tells CNET it's working on a 10-foot version.
If you tend to leave your chargers in hotel rooms or over at friends' houses, this unique cable -- called the ChargerLeash -- might help. When you detach your device from it, it sounds an alarm that reminds you to unplug it and take it with you. Of course, that could easily prove to be an annoying feature, so the makers have built in a snooze feature that turns the alarm off when you're at home or anywhere you don't have to worry about leaving your charger behind.
The alarm could also help alert you to someone unplugging your phone at a public charging station.
The cables are available for all devices. There's even one that converts from Lightning to Micro-USB with an adapter.
The Jump Cable, again from Native Union, has a pretty useful feature built in -- a charger that will return about 30 percent power to your devices when they're running low. Smartly designed, the Jump Cable wraps around this mini charger, forming an easy-to-pocket ensemble. The cable can, of course, also be used as a normal charging cable for your iOS or Android devices -- either to charge from a USB outlet or to sync.
It's a cable with a USB thumbdrive attached. It's a thumbdrive with a cable attached.
No matter how you look at it, the Memories Cable from PhotoFast is pretty darn useful. It's got a Lightning connector at one end and a USB 3.0-compatible connector at the other. There's also a flash drive built into it that can store up to 128GB of data. The cable comes with an app that lets you initiate easy backup for your photos, music, contacts or social-media information and basically allows communication between what's on the drive and your computer or mobile device.
While a company representative tells CNET that the Memories Cable will be available in 2-3 weeks in retail outlets, he also said the best pricing is now to be found through the company's Indiegogo campaign, which just kicked off.
While not technically a cable, the Neet sleeve gets a place in this roundup because it can make any cable a little smarter.
Kind of like a knitted sweater for your cables, the Neet Cable Keeper is a fabric sleeve with a shapeable wire embedded in it. The sleeve zips open completely and lets you lay your charging cable (or earphones) inside. Once zipped back up, the sleeve not only protects your cable, it keeps it from getting tangled. Also, because of the wire that's hidden beneath the fabric, you can shape the cable to double as a stand for your smartphone.
The sleeves come in 3-foot lengths and a variety of colors that can help with identifying your cords.