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Living With: AmazonBasics Lightning Cable
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Oct 7, 2015, 08:46 AM
It's not as if you go out of your way to pay Apple more money than you want to for things, but common wisdom holds that they do charge more -- how accurate that statement is, depends greatly on what product you're talking about. They charge enough more that if you have a Mac or an iPhone, you've been asked why you'd spend all that money, and you've been told that PCs and Androids are much better anyway, so there. The counter-argument you've probably started with is that no, they're not. When pressed, you've gone further and explained that you do spend more on Macs, but all the PC users you know have to keep replacing their hardware at what seems unfathomably short intervals. I've said all these things so often that I was programmed to ignore non-Apple Lightning cables.

I successfully ignored third party brands until two of the few Apple ones I've purchased both near-shredded themselves through some reasonably light use. I can't claim to have been ultra-careful with them, but they were just in the car, plugged into my iPhone when I was navigating somewhere and vaguely chucked in the glove compartment when I wasn't. Nonetheless, shredded. Ripped to pieces. If you were in a spy movie having to cut through to a bomb's wires and short-circuit them to save the world, the cables would look like these.

Maybe if it had only been one of them but with two, that's $40 in the States and £30 here in the UK. In comparison, an AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable 6ft (1.8m) in black costs $9 or £8. Since I really wanted one that I could take travelling with me, I reckoned that a cheaper one would be, well, cheaper, when it came to replacing it later. I was also reassured by that Apple Certified part of the name: while I lean to suspecting that approval is more a financial than a technical matter in these things, I have read of non-approved cables doing some damage.

Shortly after getting it, I was impressed enough to write a Hands On review that in short said I was impressed enough with it. The Amazon offering is thicker than Apple's cables. So much so, that it means the Amazon one wouldn't fit the iPhone dock I had -- but nor will the Apple cable I got with my iPhone 6. Apple's is a lot slimmer and closer to the size of previous cables but as the saying goes, a miss is as good as a mile, and using either cable meant the dock stood at a funny angle.

Amazon's thicker, bulkier cable feels half sturdy and half cheap: you sense that it won't break easily but it also feels basic and cut from regular plastic cord rather than beautifully engineered like Apple's. Usually I think Apple's hardware looks beautifully engineered, and actually generally is, but in this case beauty seems breakably skin deep.

Six weeks in to this, I'm ready to say I won't bother with an Apple cable ever again. That isn't true, I'm already eyeing up a spare Apple Watch cable and (for a short while yet) only Apple makes those. Plus I'm not swearing off buying iPhones and iPads again in the future. Yet for regular, day to day, functional use I honestly don't think that the AmazonBasics cable's only benefit is its cheaper price.

Without it being cheaper I'd not have looked at it, but in reliability, in coping with wear and tear, the AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable 6ft (1.8m) in black is a better buy than Apple's own. I'm not so taken with it that I've replaced my other frayed cable yet but only, solely, exclusively because I moved to a new iPhone/iPad dock that comes with its own cables. Consequently I've thrown away the two broken cables and used my two surviving Apple ones in the car.

They're going to fray too, they're going to break. Now the moment they do, I'll be on Amazon ordering from there without a pixel's worth of hesitation.

-William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
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Oct 7, 2015, 10:33 AM
The Amazon Basics cables are all superior to Apple's in quality and pricing.
I'll never buy an Apple cable again.
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Oct 7, 2015, 11:10 AM
My Amazon Lightning cables seem easier to remove and place than my Apple ones, probably because as you note that cable is thicker and stiffer. That said, there is a discussion on Amazon about the varying quality of its cables. Amazon my have multiple manufacturers with slightly different products.
Author of Untangling Tolkien and Chesterton on War and Peace
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Oct 7, 2015, 02:25 PM
I can't imagine how your Apple cables got so damaged. Is the weight of the iDevice resting on it as you drive about? Near continuous bouncy-bouncy of the device resting on the cable could do that I guess. Admittedly, I've only had my lightening cables for 10 months, but there doesn't appear to be anything like that happening to it (even with my glasses on
It would be interesting to investigate the common usage situation/s for those cables.
I'm not arguing against the Amazon product at all here. In fact, thanks for the heads up!
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Oct 7, 2015, 03:53 PM
I still use the 30-pin connector that came with my first iPod back in 2005 for connecting my iPod Classic to my car stereo. I have never had an issue with Apple cables so I am always raising an eyebrow when people talk about chord damage from 'regular use.' I've even gotten in the habit of just giving away my apple chords since I have so many extra ones laying around from my various iPad & iPhone purchases over the years.
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 7, 2015, 04:18 PM
My 30-pin cords are fine, and I also have FireWire ones around.

However, like William, I'm having problems with the Lightning ones fraying.
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