What to do with Frayed Lightning Cables?

Aug 22, 2014 - 31 Comments

Fraying Lightning cable

How many iPhone and iPad owners wind up having a frayed USB lightning adapter with wires visible or protruding from the cable? One of my own Lightning cables ended up a frayed disaster after less than a year of being always plugged into a MacBook, and only used on a desk – not exactly demanding usage conditions – and I run into many others who have similar issues with Apple USB adapters for iOS devices.


Sure, you can wrap the cord in electrical tape or go with one of the truly goofy DIY methods to try and protect the cable by using a piece of a mechanical pencil, a friendship bracelet, or some other household junk, but that’s not much of a solution to what seems to be a fairly common complaint amongst iPhone and iPad owners.

iPhone cable frayed with electrical tape

Replacing the Lightning Cable?

In the past when we and others have tried to get the frayed cables replaced for free by Apple, and while we reported about a 40% success rate, but that may be changing now. iDownloadblog says that several of their authors have had success with getting torn or frayed cables replaced by free, simply by taking them to an Apple Store and asking:

“I showed him my Lightning cable and kindly asked if this was covered by my iPhone 5s warranty. He briefly looked at it and told me to wait a second as he walked away. He came back a few seconds later with a brand new Lightning cable, fresh off the store’s shelves.

No question asked. No warranty check. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even bother to ask for my name or anything. I walked out of the store with a new cable but also feeling very satisfied as a customer.”

The accompanying device under warranty may help, but as noted Apple didn’t actually check the warranty… so maybe this indicates a change in policy for handling the fraying adapters.

If you live near an Apple Store it’s certainly worth a shot to take it in and see if they’ll swap it out for free. But those of us who aren’t near a Genius Bar are still out of luck, either relying on buying new Lightning adapters or ordering the cheap knock-offs from the web or even the Amazon brand Lightning to USB cables and hoping for the best.

What has been your experience with fraying lightning cables? Did you just buy a new one or did you try and get a replacement from Apple? Let us know in the comments, and perhaps the rumored reversible USB cables will be a bit tougher, as they should be.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Troubleshooting

31 Comments

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  1. Sean B says:

    Piece of string goes into a bar. Bartender says, “We don’t serve string in here.” String goes outside, ties himself in the middle, scuffs himself on the pavement, then goes back into the bar.

    Bartender says, “Hey, aren’t you that piece of string?”

    String says, “Nope. Frayed knot.”

    • Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you !!

      I love being in the sixth grade!

      Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says “Why the long face?”

      Funniest joke ever.

  2. Sueno Steve says:

    These cables are made as total junk.

    The 9to5mac article you link to is funny because it points out that Apple has been bragging about the Lightning cables being more durable… durable when? In the packaging?

    Every iPhone adapter I’ve ever owned (from Apple) has fallen apart and frayed. It’s almost like thye’re intentionally made junk, then they have the nerve to charge $20 for a new one. It’s a cable, it should be $2.

    • Alvin says:

      I have to agree, these cables are expensive junk. The protective covering of the cable for my Macbook Air is worn off in one spot even though it always sits on the same desk and never ventures from home. I pointed this out to an Apple Genius. He informed me the US warranty on hardware is good for one year and I was a few weeks too late.

      Apple charges $79 to replace the charging cable for the Macbook Air. That is what you call a profit center. My advice wrap the entire cable in electrical tape after you purchase it.

  3. landoncube says:

    100% success in (over the phone) replacement with AppleCare. I’ve done it half a dozen times. There is no Apple store within 300 miles. I usually request it when using AppleCare for another device.
    AppleCare FTW!

  4. Eric says:

    I’ve never had one fray or stop functioning. I have several lightning cables across two personal and two work devices. My wife had to have her first lightning cable replaced about a month ago from her 22 month old iPhone 5. She has had this happen before with a 30-pin. I suspect it comes from her using the device while plugged in, as I never do.

  5. Boise Ed says:

    Fraying isn’t my big problem, it’s “This device may not be support.” I got some drugstore lightning cables that worked just fine until after one Mavericks update, when Apple started doing a pickier job of detecting non-Apple cables. After another release, those cables ceased to function at all, so I bought a couple from OWC. They have been working well, until lately, when even they have gotten the “unsupported” message; with the next Mavericks update, I expect the OWC cables to stop working, too.

  6. Boise Ed says:

    Oops. “may not be support” should be “may not be supported.”

  7. Mykimus says:

    For the record, I’ve had very good luck with the Amazon-branded lightning cables. I have a few of them in various sizes to replace the Apple branded cables that tend to go south way more quickly than they should. They are a bit more rigid than the Apple branded cables, but I have found them to be vastly superior.* Not only that, but you can get them in a 4″ length. Super handy for traveling. And I’ve never once had my phone complain about an unsupported charging cable.

    http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-USB-Lightning-Compatible-Cable/dp/B00B3OA7R8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408747106&sr=8-1&keywords=lightning+cable

    * No, I don’t work for Amazon! :P

  8. Jeff says:

    I’ve used sugru, as Adam suggests. It seems to work so far, but will eventually crack and then peel off. That’s what’s happening after six months or so since the repair.

  9. Tromgy says:

    My son has iPod 4, the cable stopped charging within 6 months after purchase. Not realized at first that it was covered by the warranty I got him a Belkin brand cable, that lasted only 3 months or so before fraying (but still functional). I then went to Apple store (iPod still on warranty) and got the OEM cable replaced for free. I also fixed the Belkin cable with some hot glue. The replacement Apple cable has been used for about a month now and so far so good.

    I have iPhone 5s (lightning) and it is used in Element dock, so it is never being bent back and forth and so far is good for 8 months. For changing on the road I use mini USB cable from my old LG phone and Apple mini USB-lightning adapter. That cable has lasted for 4 years. The adapter is hard plastic and hopefully more durable than the cable (costs the same).

  10. Corey says:

    Silicone tape is amazing stuff and great for strengthening or repairing these cables. Silicone tape looks like normal electric tape but it’s not. Grab some at any home improvement store.

  11. edsamac says:

    I had an old USB/Firewire cable from a 3rd Gen iPod (circa 2003) and it’s still working with no frays whatsoever.

    I also have an iPod 5th gen USB cable from 2010 that got practically decapitated after 1 year of use.

    Either something’s amiss or I’ve become quite the ogre.

  12. Eric says:

    this was a big problem with the 30 pin connectors. As in the pictures though they keep calling it a lightning cable. Lightning seem to me much more durable. As for they should cost 2 dollars you’re an idiot. Each end has a processor in it. This isn’t some POS usb cable. That’s why the knockoffs aren’t supported and if they do they usually ruin phones. All those iPhones on fire and battery exploding articles are always with knockoff cables. You have a 600 dollar phone and you want a 2 dollar cable. Sheesh.

  13. Shilo Watts says:

    Can there ill be to reapir the cable with this silicon tape at the affordalble price? after spanding my monies on the new iphone I needed to repaired the cable before I use it??????

  14. Fred says:

    Cables are definitely Apple’s weak point. Every Apple cable I’ve ever had has frayed, so I now work from the premise that they’re all crap and buy a spare when I’m buying a new product (Rocket is much sturdier and I’ve never had a compatibility problem). That way, I’m ready to go when the inevitable happens.

    Do I wish Apple would supply a decent cable with its products? Sure. Do I think that’s ever going to happen? Nope.

  15. Microman says:

    Real simple this is a defective part. It is the most frequently ordered accessory on Amazon. My calculations indicate Apple has made 5 million dollars profit on having you replace this part.
    Why has no one placed a class action litigation against Apple ?

  16. STL says:

    Have had and used many, many Apple cables for Macs, iPhones, iPad & iPod.
    Never had a cable fray, but then I handle them with care.

    • Name says:

      Thank you! I’d glad I’m not the only one that knows how to take care of their gear! :)

    • Scott says:

      Same here, no problems with the cables. But then again I don’t just unplug the connector by pulling on the wire. Always remove by the connector.

  17. Nils says:

    Try using heat shrink electrical tubing before the cable starts fraying.

  18. Greg Walters says:

    Every iPhone cable I have owned has torn

  19. Name says:

    What do you all do to fray cables? I still have, and use the 30 pin cable from my iPod 2!
    And my original power adapter cable from my 2009 MBP, unfrayed, used EVERYDAY!
    Purhaps your parents didn’t teach you how to take care of your equipment? :)

  20. Xabier says:

    I found a very cheap and easy way to repair fray cables, all you need is a piece of cord and glue, that’s it. I have repaired all my cables with this method and it’s amazing! Below the link to the video:

    http://youtu.be/iD95KQ7qb4E

  21. Allen says:

    I purchased one of the 2m USB to Lightning cables from Amazon. It frayed within a few weeks. Called Amazon, had a new one is two days. Holding up a little better, BUT doesn’t really look like a long term solution. HOWEVER, please with Amazon’s unquestioned response.

  22. Essam says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, but I have always taken good care of my cables and have never had them fray. I make sure to remove the cable by grabbing the plastic piece of the connector and don’t pull via the wire. I also don’t use the phone while it’s plugged in.

    My friend is not as careful with his cables and has to replace his at least once a year. He’s getting better, but sometimes yanks the cable out by the cord and uses the phone while it’s charging, which stresses the cable.

  23. Clark says:

    Sounds like I’m in a minority here. I’m never gentle with my cables, and I have never had one fray in all these years. Not my iPod generation 2, my iPad 2, my iPad mini, or my iPhone 5

  24. Crateish says:

    Went by an Apple Store tonight with my frayed iPhone 5 cable. First person I talked to told me that this wasn’t covered by my AppleCare. I asked to talk to someone else. He went and talked with a ‘more senior person?’. The other person came over and said that they would ‘make an exception’ and replace my cable.

    The first person documented my ‘case.’ Emailed me a report that this had been ‘covered under my AppleCare coverage.’

    Ok…

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