Apple maintains somewhat of a tight leash when it comes to allowing 3rd party companies to manufacture official MFi (Made For iPod) Lightning cables and accessories. Unlike the previous 30-pin dock connector, Lightning isn’t just a dumb cable and, in fact, contains a small authentication chip. Some see this as Apple “screwing everyone to have to buy a proper cable” whilst others see it as a way for Apple to regulate official cables and keep a high standard of quality.
One of the few1 manufacturers of an officially approved Lightning cable is, rather surprisingly, Amazon.
The AmazonBasics USB Lightning Cable (£11.99 / $13.99), is a little cheaper than Apple’s official cable (£15 / $19). It’s not much of a difference so for most people looking to buy a genuine Lightning cable, there’s almost nothing in it.
Once you open the Frustration-Free packaging, the most striking difference is the colour. Unlike Apple’s trademark white cables, the AmazonBasics cable is a matte black, with glossy connectors. The logo is printed on both the USB and Lightning connector, both of which are rounded at the end.
At 0.9m, it’s slightly shorter than Apple’s 1m cable but after holding them both together, it’s almost impossible to see any length difference at all. Speaking of size, the cable is noticeably thicker than Apple’s offering which makes it feel somewhat less delicate.
The build quality doesn’t really hold up against the Apple cable with both connectors looking like fairly cheap plastic and, like with many cheaper cables, you can see the seem between the plastic casing. However, Apple has a somewhat poor history when it comes to the longevity of their cables, often wearing out at either end or just generally falling to pieces. The AmazonBasics cable, whilst cheap looking, feels durable.
The Lightning connector doesn’t require as much effort to disconnect yet it still feels like it’s a good connection. More than that, because the Lightning connector has a bigger casing surrounding it, it’s easier to hold when connecting and disconnecting which manes me think it’ll last much longer than Apple’s original. The size of the Lightning connector casing on the Apple cable is just too small which results in many using the worst method of disconnecting a cable – yanking the wire. The AmazonBasics cable just feels better to use and because the casing is noticeably larger, it’s just natural to hold it to disconnect.
For the aesthetically-minded people, the AmazonBasics cable just matches a black iPhone or iPad beautifully.
After using the cable for a day or two, it’s proven to be a much better cable than the one from Apple and I’d recommend the AmazonBasics cable over the Apple one any day of the week. It feels more durable and, in my opinion, looks better than the Apple cable when used with a black iOS device. It’s still early days with regards to its long-term build quality but my primary Apple cable is already showing signs of wear.
No matter which cable you decide to go for, just make sure it’s a genuine MFi cable. There are a lot of cheap Lightning cable copies that are of a questionable quality. They might look the part but the build quality will no doubt be dreadful, just looking at most of them will cause them to fall apart.
If you’re willing to spend a few hundred pounds/dollars or more on an Apple product, don’t cheap out on an additional cable. It’s like buying a top of the range stereo and using a coat-hanger to wire up the speakers.
I’ve only really seen Lightning cables with general availability from Apple, Amazon, Belkin and Griffin. ↩