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Stop buying Apple's flimsy Lightning cables. Try these instead

Apple's iPhone cables just aren't good. These alternatives from Amazon and Anker are cheaper and better.

Sarah Tew

A frayed Apple cord ranks high on my list of first-world problems, right up there with stepping on a Lego or living in a city without a Shake Shack. I've had some sort of portable Apple product since I got my first iPod in 2005. The flimsy connectors that come with each device have been thorns in my side ever since. 

It's been the same story for more than a decade: For months, I charge my device with no problem. But eventually, a bump pops up where connector meets cord. Soon, there's a slit in that light gray casing that exposes the guts of the cable. Then, I have to choose whether to wrap electrical tape around the injured cable or buy a new one from another manufacturer. 

(Full disclosure: My husband works at an Apple store. It doesn't stop my cords from busting, though.)

Other folks feel the same way. Apple cables have ranked among the lowest-rated products in Apple's own online store for years. And just take a peek at some of the 3,407 (and counting) comments about frayed Apple cables in Reddit's Mildly Infuriating channel:

And users rightfully called out people like me who tend to be a little bit harder on cords than the average user:

Short answer: I DON'T KNOW. I NEED HELP.

How does Apple's Lightning cable compare to other brands?

With user reviews at a steady 1-star on Apple's own online store for the 1-meter Lightning cable, we have to assume that the company is well aware of the product's terrible reputation. Apple didn't respond to our request for comment, however.

And, yes, we're already into the realm of "wireless" charging: All three new iPhones -- the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X -- offer inductive charging for the first time, cementing a move toward the Qi wireless standard that Android phones had started years earlier. But hundreds of millions of us don't have those new iPhones. And -- spoiler alert -- those charging pads still need to be wired to the wall outlets. 

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Anker's PowerLine+ cables include a nice cloth wallet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So, no, charging cables aren't going away any time soon. That's why we decided to test a couple of popular alternatives alongside an Apple comes-with-purchase cable to see which held up the best. Here are the contenders:

All of the cables were about 3 feet or 1 meter long, with standard rectangular USB-A on one side and a Lightning connector on the other. We picked the Amazon Basics and Anker cables based on positive user reviews and recommendations. Note that they're available in longer versions, as well as in Micro-USB and USB-C flavors for non-iPhones.

AmazonBasics Nylon-Braided Lightning Cable

Amazon's cable was the more durable one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I wasn't interested in how fast the cords charged my devices. I wanted to see how well they held up to abuse. So I treated the cables badly over the course of three days. I twisted the cables repeatedly where connector meets cable. I twirled them around my finger. I rolled over them with my office chair. I held onto the USB ends and swung them around in the air like a lasso. Oh, and I used them to charge my devices.

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The bump appeared on the Apple Lightning cord after just one day of testing.

Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

The Amazon Basics Nylon Braided USB-to-Lightning cable held up the best to my wrangling. I attribute a lot of that to the nylon covering, which kept its woven design fairly tight around the cord on the inside. There was also an extra bit of reinforcement between the cord and the connectors that kept it in tact. And, they're Apple-certified. The only knock against the Amazon Basics was that the reinforcement warped after my office chair wheel rolled over it (that's where a lot of my cables seem to get caught). 

The Anker PowerLine+ Lightning Cable started to show some wear on its red nylon after three days of abuse. Specifically, some of the white cord beneath the nylon exterior began to show. The Anker did, however, hold its own against an office chair wheel.

The verdict

Though you're going to have to make an additional purchase, the Amazon Basics and Anker cables make better alternatives than the default cord that comes with your iPhone. 

Because after just one day of tests, I spotted that telltale bump on the Apple Lightning cable.

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