Anyone who owns a recent Apple device knows the pain of Apple’s terrible quality Lightning cables, and the awful knockoffs that can be found for almost pennies on the high street these days. I finally got fed up of the six-month replacement cycle and decided to begin my search for the best third-party Lightning cable.
I decided I had two main criteria for a Lightning cable:
- Durability: A cable should be able to hit the six-to-eight month mark without any visible wear and tear.
- Power Delivery: Any cable I use should be capable of delivering the full 2.1A drawn by my iPhone 6S and iPad Air with no complaints.
Additionally, I decided it would be a sensible idea to get a few cables of different lengths, since I always find the Apple cables either too short or too long, depending on the context I’m using it in.
At some point, a friend told me they’d just purchased a pair of Blitzwolf Micro USB Cables and were fairly impressed with them, and I should check them out. A few minutes of googling showed me Blitzwolf’s official sales presences were via Banggood and Amazon and the reviews didn’t highlight any absolute quality control shockers. A few days and £14.98 later, an Amazon package arrived on my doorstep with a pair of Blitzwolf Braided Lightning Cables, lengths 1M and 2M, in Silver and Black. Prices seemed to be a little lower via Banggood (especially with Banggood’s recent obsession with sales), but Amazon’s delivery was quicker and I’m impatient.
I’ll admit, upon opening the package I was impressed. They looked premium, they felt premium. I immediately started using them: the 2M cable plugged in next to my bed, and the 1M cable in my bag along with the RAVPower 20.1Ah USB-C power bank I love dearly and rely on to keep my gear charged when I’m away from home, and a little silver 2.1Ah powerbank to top off my phone on smaller outings, also by RAVPower. (I might do a mini-review of these at some point, they’re both awesome!)
If you don’t have a 2M cable for your phone… wow, you’re missing out. Gone was the need to be glued to one side of the bed if I wanted to watch something whilst charging the iPad, and could stop accidentally falling asleep on top of the Apple 12W USB power adaptor (which I use with the power adapter extension cable to get extended reach) which I used to charge my iPhone.
As far as power delivery is concerned? Flawless. Blitzwolf did not skimp on the power conductors, using a pair of 24 AWG (Roughly 0.2 mm²) stranded copper wires which can carry, in theory, up to 12V at 2.4A safely - massively overkill considering the iPad can currently draw 5.1V at 2.1A from the 12W Apple USB power adaptor supplied with the iPad. This is because these cables are built using the same process as Blitzwolf’s MicroUSB cables which are designed to support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard, where a device with a Snapdragon processor can negotiate up to 18W (12V at 1.6A) from a compatible power supply to improve charging times. (Yes, it’s proprietary. Yes, it breaks the USB power delivery standard. Yes, it uses the data lines so you can’t sync and use Quick Charge at the same time. Yes, I think it’s a bad idea.)
Additionally, these cables are Apple MFI certified to charge the iPhone and iPad, which means Apple’s engineers have confirmed the cables work safely with the full range of devices with Lightning connectors. The cables are also built with official Lightning connectors sourced from Apple (a requirement to receive the MFI certification), so there’ll be no sloppy connections in sight!
Despite the absolutely exceptional power delivery abilities of this cable, after a few months a couple of issues started to surface, ultimately leading me to decide to stop using these cables.
Blitzwolf advertises the cables as having a ‘Nylon Braid and Flexible PVC Double Jacket’. It’s reminiscent of the Paracord sleeving on high-end PC Power supply cabling, but a lot more coarse and less forgiving. Blitzwolf advertise a “5000 Bend Lifespan” of the cable and offer an 18 month warranty, suggesting they’re confident in the Cables’ durability.
Whilst initially looking very impressive and feeling very premium, the sheathing began to deteriorate very quickly, beginning to fray near the connectors and leaving weird fluffy nylon junk instead of the smart out-of-box finish. This was worst on the 1M cable, which was plugged and unplugged multiple times a day as well as being thrown around in my bag. The satisfying, premium feel regressed into resentment every time I took the cable out of my bag.
The cables have no strain relief (the black rubber boot you can see terminating the connectors does not really flex), and therefore any stress on the cables is concentrated on the joint between the flexible cable and the inflexible connector. Both cables quickly developed a kink at this join, as evident in the photographs above, and I began to notice a little bit of the white PVC jacket poking through the braid. Then, seven months into the life of the 2M cable, disaster struck.
I woke up to find my phone hadn’t charged fully overnight. Upon further investigation, I discovered one of the power conductors inside the cable appeared to have suffered bend fatigue. The resistance of the conductor had been slowly increasing, and eventually failed open-circuit. I stopped using the 1M cable after this happened - a sudden failure like this is not acceptable on the cable I rely on to keep my devices running when away from a power socket.
Whilst Blitzwolf do offer an 18-month warranty which I will attempt to make a claim under, the failure I suffered was not random, or a manufacturing issue - the materials used in the construction of the cable led to a failure under normal usage. With that in mind, I’m not taking the warranty period into account as part of my review.
Despite the great power delivery specifications, the Blitzwolf cables proved to be too unwieldy and just didn’t stand up to day-to-day use over a long period of time. Whilst they’d probably be just fine for static uses (I can imagine a pair of the 1M cables being great for keeping an Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad charged on a reasonably tidy desk), the cables most certainly do not stand up to being used to charge mobile devices.
Would I recommend you buy these cables? No.
I’m currently evaluating the Anker Powerline series of cables. Expect a review in the next eight months!