Some companies have released Lightning cables that cost a few dollars less than Apple’s $19 Lightning to USB Cable and Lightning to USB Cable (0.5 m), while others have backwards-engineered the technology to release unsupported knockoffs, but Monoprice has the lowest-cost officially licensed cords to date. We received its 3ft Lightning to USB Charge/Sync Cable ($12) in white; it also comes in six-foot and ten-foot versions, all of which are also available in black.
The cord is just what we’d expect, with a USB plug on one end and a Lightning connector on the other, and despite the listed three-foot length, it’s actually 42” long from the end of one connector to the other. Thankfully the plastic housing around that Lightning plug is on the small side, so it’ll have greater case compatibility than some options; Monoprice will sell a version with a shorter Lightning housing for a small price premium. As one of our photos shows, the finish on the Lightning edge of the housing is a little rough, but in person, it doesn’t look as bad as in the photograph, and the roughness becomes invisible once the connector’s plugged into a device. As expected, Monoprice’s cable syncs and charges properly, just like an Apple cable.
It’s hard to get excited about Lightning cables—they’re a necessity, and there’s not much more one can ask for them to work and not feel cheap. Monoprice hits both these goals, with a sturdy cord that does precisely what it’s supposed to do. The $12 price makes it particularly appealing: it’s certainly the least expensive officially licensed Lightning cable option available today, and likely to remain that way for some time. Based on the pricing and aggregate quality, Monoprice’s 3ft Lightning to USB Charge/Sync Cable earns our high recommendation. If you’re going to pick up an extra Lightning cable, this is currently our top pick.
Updated October 3, 2013: Monoprice has sent us its four-inch Lightning cable, which also goes for $12. It’s much the same as the longer version, save for its stubbier size.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPad (4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPod nano 7G, iPod touch 5G