The best charging cable is the one that comes with your device (phone, tablet, laptop, camera, etc), but it is unlikely to be the smartest or most useful. It does the job but that’s about it.
Let’s face it – charging cables are boring… until you can’t find yours and your device has run out of battery power. Then it suddenly becomes a matter of life and death to find it.
Believe it or not, there are some actually rather brilliant charging cables out there. I won’t claim that they will change your life, but I do think you’ll quickly be telling friends and family how amazing they are. Also check out our best desktop and travel chargers.
Thankfully, some people think differently to the phone makers, and have designed cables that are better - they might have two connectors (MicroUSB and Lightning, for instance), be reversible to stop fiddly MicroUSB annoyance, super-short, super-long, or amazingly strong.
There are plenty of crazy-coloured and suspiciously cheap charging cables available online, but make sure it's certified, as cheap cables can cause fire, death and mutilation. Apple iPhone and iPad users should look for MFI certification from Apple.
Hide the boring cables, and get yourself one or some of these!
One of the most annoying things about cables is that seemingly every device requires a different one – and, significantly, not the one that you have in your hand.
iPhones need Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable, Android phones and other devices might use a MicroUSB, USB-C or some other cable with a weird-shaped connector. Every single Fitbit activity tracker has a different charging cable. How annoying is that?
We are rather fond of two charging cables from Tylt. The first is the Tylt Syncable-Duo, which you can use to charge and sync many different devices.
The smart thing about the Tylt Syncable Duo cable is that it has both a MicroUSB end and an Apple Lightning connector (MFi-certified by Apple so definitely legit).
The MicroUSB connector works exactly as you’d expect. To charge an iPhone all you need do is connect the MicroUSB connector into the back of the linked Lightning part when you need to charge your iPhone, iPad, etc.
So suddenly Apple users need just one cable – although this is so brilliant that you’ll probably want at least a couple around the house or office.
And unlike other boring cables these are available in four bright colours (Red, Blue, Green and, ok, less vibrant black) so you shouldn’t lose them in that writhing snake nest of cables.
You can also choose from three lengths: 30cm (1 foot), 60cm or 1m.
The Tylt Syncable-Duo cable was our favourite-ever charging cable until we got our hands on the Tylt Flyp-Duo.
This works on the same basis as the Syncable-Duo, with both a MicroUSB connector and Lightning end. You simply connect the two to use the Apple Lightning, and disconnect to use the MicroUSB. Simple, and hugely useful.
But the Apple MFi-certified Tylt Flyp-Duo goes one further – indeed its innovation is so amazing that “one further” just doesn’t do it justice.
You see, the Flyp-Duo has a USB connector like no other. It’s reversible. That’s right, unlike other USB connectors you can slot it in either way round.
Unless you’re statistically freakish it’s likely that a lot of the time you try to force the USB end into a plug or slot only to realise it’s the wrong way round. This is one of the main reasons humans can tut. But those days are over.
It’s rather long, at 1 metre, but you can at least choose from a range of colours (Blue, Black and Green). A shorter version would be appreciated.
Handy? It’s flypping brilliant!
Just Mobile Micro USB and Lightning cable
Tylt isn’t the only smarty pants who worked out that one cable with two connectors is a great idea. Just Mobile thought the same with its Apple MFi-certified AluCable Duo, which like the Tylt cables features both a MicroUSB and an Apple Lightning connector.
It’s available in one colour only – black with cool aluminium, connectors – but it is available in three different lengths.
Generally we prefer the option of short cables, and the 10 cm (4in) version (AluCable Duo Mini) will suit most people, without taking up unnecessary space in that all-important desk/kitchen drawer. The next length is a phenomenal 1.5m (5 feet; AluCable Duo), and then an astronomical 1.8m (6ft) version (AluCable Duo Twist) of thankfully coiled cable.
The AluCable Duo Twist is a wonderful thing indeed: not too massive, but stretchable when required.
MicFlip Micro USB cable
It seems that Tylt and Tizi (see next) aren’t alone in thinking the one-way USB connector is a pain in the port.
The brains behind the MicFlip claims that it’s the “world’s first reversible Micro USB cable”. That's right – they have engineered the fiddly Micro USB end to be reverible, too.
We applaud anyone who makes our lives easier, and not having to worry about which way round to insert a USB cable is undeniably a game changer when it comes to cable efficiency.
If you've got used to Apple's reversible Lightning connectors Micro USB can get on your nerves, always having to check which way round it gets stuck into to your device.
We have tested MicFlip 2.0, and it works as claimed. What's even better, and why this one of our favourite micro USB cables, is that both ends are reversible: the usually fiddly micro USB end and the otherwise curse-worthy standard USB end. Perfect!
Now that everything is reversible we can move on to curing cancer and stopping climate change.
Equinux tizi Schlingel
You wait years for a USB cable that works both ways, and then along come three (see the next cable, too).
The Equinox Tizi Flip is a series of Micro USB and Lightning charging cables that feature a USB connector that will fit in a port either way. It's so simple you have to wonder why we waited for so long. In fact it's making me angry...
Tizi Flip cables (all black) are available in a variety of lengths, and clever shapes.
The Equinox Tizi Flip Schlingel Micro USB (£14.99 / US$7.99) has the Flip USB and a standard Micro USB connector. (What a shame that can't also flip...). It links together to form a small chain, protecting the connectors, and measures about 10cm unfurled.
The Equinox Tizi Flip Schlingel Lightning (£24.99 / US$12.99)has the Flip USB and an Apple Lightning connector, which of course can also flip either way. It too links together to form a small chain and measures about 10cm stretched out. Is it more expensive than the Micro USB version because Apple users have bags more cash, or does Apple charge manufacturers a premium for its little connectors?
The more standard Equinox Tizi Flip Lightning (£24.99/ US$12.99)doesn't fold up into a chain but still boasts the clever dual-fit USB. The 10cm version costs £14.99/US$13.99; 30cm costs £19.99/$19.99; 2m version costs £24.99/US$12.99; and 3m costs £29.99/US$29.99.
Syncwire Unbreakcable charging cable
Another super-strong charging cable is the aptly named UNBREAKcable from Syncwire, which uses “an extremely advanced proprietary hybrid of ultra-high molecular polyethylene”. Syncwire claims this mouthful of ingredients is 40% stronger than military Kevlar, so it can probably pull drones from the sky and trip up tanks.
Well, maybe not that tough, but you’d have to be in a ridiculous situation to come close to breaking this cable, and that will likely mean it really is, for all intents and purposes, unbreakable.
It's also available in black, and a shorter 20cm length in either colour.
There are a few charging cables out there claiming to be the strongest and toughest, and the Anchor cable comes with a lifetime guarantee so it's putting its money where its mouth is. The only catch is it's not quite out...yet. You can pre-order it from its Indiegogo campaign and it should be available by April 2018.
It's quite nifty, too, in a cross-device way, as it has not just Lightning for iOS but Micro USB for Android and plenty of other devices, and even USB-C.
It's made of stainless steel and is magnetic as well, and measures either 1.2m (4ft) in length or 2m (6.5ft).
It costs from £29 or US$39 from Anchor, where you can also read more about the product.
Fuse Chicken Titan Micro USB cable
Cables get yanked, stretched, dropped, trodden on, and even bitten by pets and often children. Few get attacked with a chainsaw, but if one did you’d hope your cable of choice was a Titan cable from Fuse Chicken.
The Titan calls itself “the toughest cable on Earth”, and it’s hard to disagree.
It’s an industrial-grade cable that is wrapped in two layers of flexible, high-strength steel.
The Lightning and USB connectors on Titan are permanently sealed with a one-piece housing fused directly over the electronics and metal cabling. Makers Fuse Chicken (yes, really) claim that it is “virtually indestructible” but we can’t think of many situations short of nuclear war that would even dent this thing.
There’s a Lightning version available for iPhone users, and a MicroUSB one for Android users and everyone else.
In the meantime, you’d better steer clear of chainsaw-wielding maniacs.
You can find the Titan Lightning cable on Amazon UK for £26 and US$29.78 on Amazon.com. You can also find it in a Loop version for MicroUSB on Amazon UK/US for £12.95/ US$14.95 and Lightning (£16/ US$23.89), respectively.
Corning USB 3.0 Cable Optical
If you want state-of-the-art cables you need Optical cables from Corning, a pioneer in fibre optics and the maker of the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass screens. Corning’s optical interconnect technology for Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2, and USB 3.0 removes any performance bottlenecks in the cabling – it connects computers and devices at super-fast speed and over longer distances (p to 20 times longer).
(Note: USB 3 Optical Cables by Corning are designed to be used with self-powered peripherals only. They are not charging cables, as no significant power is available after powering its internal opto-electronics. A self-powered USB 3.0/2.0 hub can always be used at the peripheral (B-side) to provide power if desired.)
The cables convert the electrical output of standard USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports to optical, which allows the cables to be much longer than standard copper cables while maintaining signal quality and speed.
Corning Optical cables reach up to 5Gbps on USB, up to 10GBps on Thunderbolt, and up to 20Gbps on Thunderbolt 2 with cables as long as 60 metres.
The light, thin cables are also much more flexible than standard cables. They can be bent, squeezed, or even tied into knots.
But all this cable coolness comes at a cost: A 30m USB Corning Optical Cable will set you back £330/US$309!