G3 iMac in a manual wheelchair over an old OS X default desktop image.

iPhone Cable Ideas: Just buy more!

One problem I’ve always had with the iPhone and iPad USB cables is that they don’t last very long when I use them. The cables I use always seem to break right down near where the dock connector meets the cable and nothing I do seems to stop them breaking in a month or two.

I used to find this very stressful – after all, iPhone cables from the Apple Store cost a pocket-withering $25 each and I really need to have at least three functioning cables so I can keep one by my bed, one by my day-bed in the lounge room, and one with my wheelchair for on-the-go charging. That’s a lot of money to be spending on cables!

Apple store screen grab showing 2 metre lightning cable for $25.
The Australian Apple Store, at least, sells these lightning cables for $25 each!

I tried all sorts of recommended things to stop the cables from breaking but none of them worked. Anything I did to strengthen the cable near the join just made it break further down which didn’t help matters.

Eventually I have settled on a solution which suits me fairly well: I just buy a whole bunch of spare cables on eBay. There are generally cables for sale for about $1 each on eBay, so can easily buy ten spare cables at a time and keep them squirrelled away fur future need.

One of the fun advantages of this method is that there are a lot of different types of cables around – different colours, different lengths, and some which have built-in winders or are curly like an old-style phone cable. My favourite are the one metre long cables in bright colours, but the spiral ones work especially well on my wheelchair because they wind around the phone mount and stay just where I want them.

I suspect that cheap eBay-sourced cables don’t last as long as the official Apple ones, but since they are only 4% of the cost it really doesn’t matter much. I did have a little trouble right when iOS 7 was released that some of my iPhone 5 cables stopped working, but I haven’t had any trouble with cables bought after that happened. Some eBay retailers specifically write “iOS 7 compatible” on their listings but I have found that even the ones who don’t do that still work OK now.

The only other thing to watch out for is that you buy the right type – there are two types of dock connectors in use now. The older type of dock connectors are about an inch wide and are referred to as “old style”, “30 pin connectors.” The new ones are about a quarter inch wide and are usually referred to as “lightning connectors” or “new style”. Here’s what they look like:

 

Someone holding a lightning connector on the left, and an old-style 30 pin connector on the right.
Someone holding a lightning connector on the left, and an old-style 30 pin connector on the right.

Important note: Officially, Apple doesn’t support these type of cables. If the cable stops working or damages your device in some way you’re on your own. It’s not impossible to damage your device – there are occasional online reports of it happening – but I think it’s vanishingly rare for it to actually happen. I’ve asked several Apple technical support people over the last year or two and none of them had ever heard of actual devices being damaged. I’ve personally used knock-off eBay-sourced cheap cables pretty much since they first became available and never had any problem that wasn’t easily fixed by switching to a new cable.

– Ricky

[Edit: A big thanks to Christina who correctly pointed out that I had originally included a photo that didn't show a dual-headed cable as I had thought it had. I still think they should exist though!]

6 thoughts on “iPhone Cable Ideas: Just buy more!”

  1. That last dual head cable looks like it’s a mini-USB rather than a lightening plug in addition to the 30pin connector. Useful if you have two types of devices (apple and not), but it would be great to find something with 30pin and lightening!

    • Oops you are right! Thanks for picking that up … I’ll edit the article and put a different picture. I was rushing to get it finished before something else and didn’t quite take care!

    • Doug: I think it’s pretty standard that tech companies don’t replace things like cables because they never last so long and can easily be damaged by anything that bends them too much or too often. I assume they’d replace them if there was a manufacturing defect, but that’s rarely the case.

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