Apple sync and charge cables have never been particularly hardy. With the release of the iPhone 5 and the accompanying Lightning cable, Apple strengthened the portion of the cable most prone to fraying (that’s mostly because the Lightning cable connector is much smaller than the former 30-pin version). But it's still pretty weak. Now that Lightning cables have been darting in and out of our devices and ports for more than six months (the iPhone 5 launched in September 2012), many of them are already starting to show signs of wear and tear.
We think its a good time to survey the landscape of frayed cable fixes and protection tips. And, for when all else fails, we’ve included a few suggestions for replacement Lightning cables that might be a better value than Apple’s own $19 version.
Pen Spring Method
Tipsters have been suggesting this one since the FireWire era: pull the spring out of an old pen, and slowly wrap it around the base of your fraying cable after stretching it out a little bit. This works well—the cord won’t bend from inside this brace— but caveat emptor: if you use a very narrow spring, it could actually pinch your cable worse than all your cable yanking already has. The bigger the pen, the better the cord protection you’ll get out of this tip.
Friendship Bracelet Method
We featured this project from Hello Brit more than a year ago, but there’s no reason why embroidery floss and yarn can’t do just as much for a Lightning cable as headphones or a 30-pin cable. The threads protect the cord at the base of each connector, and they look pretty, too. If this sort of fabric-wrapped cord looks appealing to you, but you're not much of a DIYer, you can save yourself the summer camp nostalgia and buy one instead.
We’ve shown you Eastern Collective’s woven textile designs before, but now they’re available in new patterns for Lightning cables. They’re a bit pricey at $26.95.
Fix It With Sticky Stuff Method
More enterprising cable enthusiasts have found a variety of ways to mend already fraying cables using various materials. One such elixir is Plasti Dip—a can of synthetic rubber coating that can be painted onto most surfaces and dries quickly. Cables can be spot-healed this way. A similar method involves a mere few droplets of silicone sealant. The easiest and cheapest repair job, however, can be accomplished with a $4.99 roll of vinyl electrical tape. Here's a really good one. Its ugly, but it usually works.
Aside from the attractive, fabric-covered cables mentioned above, there are a slew of other Lightning cables on the market from third-party vendors. Griffin’s cables are made of harder, thicker materials than Apple’s, come in various shapes and sizes, and are $2 cheaper than Apple’s. Monoprice’s are $11.77, and are at least as strong as Apple’s—if not stronger.
Our favorite option is the Escargot Spixi, a well-designed retractable cable that could last longer than any of the others (thought it costs more, too, at $33). It retracts at only one end, which minimizes breakage, but the cord itself is flat and super flexible. Its made from thermoplastic elastomer instead of the typical cable material known as polyvinyl chloride (which happens to be an environmentally nastier substance).
(Images: Rachel Rosmarin, Celljee.com, Hello Brit, Eastern Collective, Griffin, Escargot)