The Apple Lightning cable is Dead, Long Live the Apple Lightning cable!

Apple lightning cable. Game Over.

When Phil Schiller, then SVP at Apple, introduced the Lightning cable in 2012 with the launch of the iPhone 5, he said it was “the cable for the next decade”. Sure enough – and having exceeded that with 11 years under its belt – it has been a reliable cable and we can’t imagine using a non-reversible cable any more (even though the EU wanted to standardise around that stupid micro-USB plug). @ChargeBox we have found it to be the best cable (though not without our modification to the junction of cable and head which extended life from 300+ charges to 4,000+; more on that in a future post).

The actual ending is very reliable – far more so than USB-C which has a tendency to break off. You can occasionally get dirt or corrosion on the pins, but this can usually be cleaned off quickly.

With the introduction of USB-C to all iPhone 15 models, it was portrayed as the death knell for Lightning. Of course, in many ways it is – and over future years, will undoubtedly be. But in one clever move, Apple actually made the Lightning cables you already have MORE useful, not less ($29 purchase required!). 

Indeed stay with me here while I explain, slightly tongue in cheek, that the Lightning cable has now become the only true Universal cable! There’s even something for Android users too.

If you’re like me, you’ll have quite a few Lightning cables around the house and office – for charging phones, AirPods, older iPads, and even pencils and keyboards. I’ve got quite a few USB-C to Lightning as well as some older USB-A to Lightning.

With the release this week of the simple USB-C to Lightning dongle adapter you can now plug in a Lightning cable into a USB-C device. Ostensibly to protect investment in things such as music systems, car adapters etc, this little gem also has the added advantage of allowing you to use Lightning cables to charge not just iPhone 15 models, but also iPad Pros, and, wait for it, ANY recent MacBooks – Air and Pro varieties! (Hang on non-Apple users!)

I picked up my adapter at the local Apple Store yesterday – the person I spoke to didn’t know it existed but they found the stock. It has some useful benefits for our business in field testing which first brought it to my attention. I wondered if it would work with my iPad Pro? And of course, why wouldn’t it work? Indeed using it with my 11.9” M1 iPad Pro I was able to see around 26W charging at 9V with my 96W MacBook Pro charger and USB-C to Lightning cable. I have seen 15V charging when the iPad Pro starts at very low battery with up to 35W, so a limitation here is that I think 27W (9V/3A) is as far as this goes. But that’s almost full speed charging of a modern iPad (note it’s also higher than the 20W charger Apple have typically included if you have access to a higher power USB PD charger such as those with MacBooks).  

So, then I thought if it can do this, it might also allow charging my new 15” MacBook Air. And, lo and behold, this also worked. Yes, charging a modern laptop with a Lightning cable! I was able to confirm these details through the “About this Mac” —> System Report —> Power.

It advertised to the MacBook Air as a 28W charger – specifically identifying as the Apple USB-C to Lightning Adapter. (I’m guessing it has a chip in it which probably contributes to the price and which converts the power signalling from Lightning protocol to USB-C). Obviously, it’s not as good as the 70W charger which is optional for this MacBookAir, but a good match for the 35W dual charger in a pinch and not far off the 30W charger included with the base MacBook Air. But, wait. There’s MORE! 

Then I started wondering about all the old USB-A adapters out there. Amazingly these work too with 11W recorded into the MacBook Air using a 12W old iPad charger.  

So, not only does this adapter allow you to continue using your Lightning cables with new phones, it also allows you to charge ANY other Apple USB-C devices with almost any USB based charger and any Lightning cable.  

Ironically, Apple’s done more for sustainability with this one action than the EU’s “rule” about USB-C – which by itself is a big initial negative rendering lots of chargers and cables useless without such solutions.

If you had to take just one cable with you for all your Apple gear, the answer may turn out to be Lightning! 

If you’re not one of the 1 billion+ Apple users, how does this help YOU? 

Well, for Android users – though I haven’t tested this –  it should also allow you to use Lightning cables to charge Android phones – including providing pretty good USB PowerDelivery charge to 27W. So, a cable for every situation! Right now, the only true Universal cable. How ironic, EU? But very much in-tune with Apple’s sustainability push at the announcement event. 

Here’s a handy summary of what you can do:

  1. You’ll need the Apple USB-C to Lightning adapter for this £29/$29 at the Apple Store. You plug a Lightning cable INTO the adapter and then plug the adapter INTO a USB-C device.
  2. The faster the charger you use, the faster the charging experience, but any charger above 30W is not going to help any further
  3. If you’ve forgotten the USB-C to USB-C cable that came with your new iPhone15, you can charge with this setup at similar speeds to iPhone 14 models.
  4. You can charge a USB-C iPad using this setup at a good speed (depending on charger).
  5. You can charge any USB-C based MacBook using this setup at a decent speed (MacBook Air models and using a 30W charger) or an acceptable speed (MacBook Pro models). In a pinch even a USB-A charger and USB-A Lightning cable will charge these devices up but over a much longer period (USB-A limits of 12W are an absolute maximum). But this would be ok in an overnight situation.
  6. You should be able to charge almost any Android phone that has a USB-C input using this setup and with approximately 0-50% charge in 30 minutes using a 20W (or ideally 30W) charger. 
  7. You should also be able to charge larger USB-C based tablets and laptops using this setup, with power dependent upon the charger available (again up to around 27W).
  8. Of course, this same setup (without the adapter) can continue to charge all of your Apple devices and peripherals.  
  9. Taking the adapter with you (Android or Apple users) allows you to “hijack” any friends Apple Lightning configuration to charge your USB-C based device.

So, this little gem of a dongle is a real get-out-of-jail device for all sorts of situations, and useful for many road warriors to carry around.  If you have any other situations you’ve found it useful or think it might be useful, let us know and we can update this post.

Thanks for reading!