The most common complaint about the iPhone isn’t actually about the iPhone itself, but about the fragility of the Lightning charging cable that comes it. Many people claim it’s prone to dying early, with reports of premature failure happening as early as six months after purchase. But you can take steps to protect your Lightning cable from unusual wear and tear that might contribute to failure.
If you treat your Lightning cable with care, you can extend its life from six months up to a year or more. And with a little troubleshooting, you may find that your Apple-certified cable isn’t the culprit for your iPhone’s inability or slowness to charge.
The cable is such a vital part of the iPhone’s usage that it may seem like they ought to be sturdier, but Apple’s design of the cable left some weak areas that you can learn to avoid. Understanding these key pressure points means you can use simple tactics for keeping the cable intact over a longer period.
Common reasons a Lightning cable fails or breaks
Many people use their cable in various locations throughout the day. This means removing it more than once from a charging adapter, as well as traveling with the cable. Both of these use cases can create problems. And corrosion may build up on the connector, interfering with a clean connection.
Breaks in the cable
If you commonly remove the cable from its adapter by yanking on it from the middle, you’re putting undue stress on the connectors at either end. You most commonly see physical breaks in the cable near the connector ends, likely because of yanking on the cable from the middle to pull it free.
Yanking on the cable also increases the chance that you’ll bend the tip of the connector, and while you can probably bend it back a few times, this kind of stress can degrade or ruin the connector.
Always grasp the connector by the protective plastic jacket near the connector when removing the cable from the adapter.
Kinks in the cable
If you frequently travel with your Lightning cable, you might be used to throwing it in a backpack or purse without much consideration. If the cable gets haphazardly pressed in a bent position, you could introduce permanent kinks in the cable that affect its performance. The wires inside the cable and the sheath that protects the wires are thin and aren’t meant to survive repeated kinking.
Gently coil the cable before traveling with it and stash it carefully in a side pocket of your backpack or purse. For additional protection, store your cable inside a small hard-shell carrying case. These are the right size to store ear buds or USB thumb drives as well. Cable protectors are another option; they coil tightly around the cable and offer resistance against kinking.
Be wary of using third-party cables. While they may seem like a good value, many are poorly manufactured and may kink more easily than an Apple cable.
Corrosion and dirt on the connector
If the cable is ever exposed to liquids, corrosion may build up on the connector which prevents a full connection between the iPhone and the pins inside the cable. If the cable isn’t stored in a case, it’s possible for a thin layer of dirt to accumulate on the connector, which may also degrade the cable’s connection to the iPhone.
If the connector gets wet, dry it off immediately. If corrosion builds up on its own (which can be caused by loose connections that generate electrical arcing inside the iPhone), you’ll spot it as a splotchy discoloration on the connector. Gently clean the connector with a soft cloth; don’t use abrasives to try to scrape off the corrosion.
You may get recommendations to use vinegar to clean off corrosion or rubbing alcohol to clean dirt off the connector, but Apple recommends against applying liquids of any kind to the connector.
Other charging problems you may encounter
Your Lightning cable may not be the primary or sole problem with charging your iPhone. Hardware and software on the phone are involved in the charging process as well and may be at fault. Testing can potentially reveal if you have problems outside of the cable.
Blocked charging port
Given that the charging port is always open, it’s possible for dirt or debris to get inside and physically block the connector from making a tight connection. You may notice that you need to insert the connector at a specific angle to get a charge going; that’s likely a symptom of this issue.
Confirm that this is the problem by shining a flashlight into the port and looking to see if anything is lodged inside. If so, then power the iPhone down. One option is to use compressed air, spraying it in a few quick bursts into the port; it’s a tested method, although Apple doesn’t recommend it.
If that fails, grab a toothpick and very gently scrape the inside of the charging port to dislodge debris or filth. Don’t apply pressure, simply move the toothpick around loosely and if debris is removed, clean off the toothpick. Check the phone frequently during this process to see if you’ve made progress.
Don’t use cotton on the toothpick, as the cotton may contribute to the debris problem. Don’t use a metal implement, which is more likely to cause damage requiring service.
Software doesn’t allow charging
The operating system regulates charging and if there’s a fault with the cable, or particularly if you’re using a non-certified third-party cable, the OS may prevent charging in order to protect the phone.
Use an Apple-certified cable. This doesn’t have to be an Apple cable; some third-party cables are certified.
If you’ve tried everything – a new cable, a different USB port, a different adapter, and you’re on the latest version of the OS – then it’s time to try a hard reset on the iPhone. You won’t lose your data during a hard reset. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to take your phone into a repair center to be serviced.