Stop Huddling by the Outlet: Longer Smartphone Cables Are Dirt Cheap

Smartphones and tablets almost universally ship with 3-4 foot charging cables. That’s all well and good for plugging your device in to charge overnight, but it’s an absolutely miserable length to plug in your device and use it. Stop living your life huddled by an outlet and start using a long cable with plenty of room for activities.

How Short Is Short?

We’re pretty sure you know how short your phone’s cable feels; nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of being temporarily tethered to a very short cable. Without a doubt the OEM charging cables that come with modern devices are painfully short. But how short is short?

The lightning cables that ship with the iPhone and iPad are 1 meter (~3.3 feet). The micro USB cables that ship with Samsung’s flagship phones and tablets are 1.5 meters (~4.9 feet). The standard length of OEM cables across other manufactures is almost universally 1-1.5 meters (with the majority shipping 1 meter cables).

Three feet of cable might be acceptable if you’re using the charging/syncing cable on your desktop or simply plugging your device in on the kitchen counter or a nightstand with an outlet right at hand. For actually using the device, however, it’s woefully inadequate. How many places in your home or office are comfortably located within less than three feet, line of sight, to an outlet? Why line of sight? Because any piece of furniture in the way chews up precious feet from the cable’s usable range. We’re willing to bet very few of the really comfortable places you’d want to lean back, relax, and use your phone or tablet are perfectly placed by an outlet.

Three feet of cable is just enough to get the iPhone in arms reach.

To use our bedroom and bed as a perfect example, there’s an outlet right behind the headboard and there’s an outlet roughly two feet off the side of the bed. You can plug a charger with a three foot cord into either outlet but once you account for the trip around the headboard or the trip past the nightstand then you find the maximum reach of the tethered device is a one square foot area at the farthest upper right corner of the bed. If you want to play on your phone you’d better get comfortable hunched around that spot.

In addition to putting kinks and knots in our bodies arranging ourselves around the limitations of our power cables, we also put kinks in the cable itself. Continual use at the maximum range of the cable puts stress on the cable connections (as well as on the charging port of the device). Before we wised up and bought more appropriate cables, we killed more than a few USB charging cables by slowly stressing the connection point between the wire and the plug until the sheathing wore right through and the wires themselves began to fray.

Free Yourself with Longer Cables

The most ridiculous thing about how many times we found ourselves hunched near an outlet at the airport or perched on the edge of the bed just barely within the reach of the charging cable is how cheap and readily available longer cables are. We all use the short cables that come with our devices because they’re there and free with the purchase of the device, but it’s hardly excusable to hobble your ergonomics and enjoyment over a minor expenditure.

For under $10 you can pick up a six foot lightning or mini USB cable and double the length of your OEM cable. For $10-15 (and often for under $10) you can pick up a 10 foot cable that nearly triples your reach. What does triple the reach look like when you’re plugging in your phone on your nightstand? Like the freedom to use your phone anywhere on your bed without issue and with slack in the cable.

The above photo was taken in the same bedroom, from the opposite corner of the bed. Ten feet worth of charging cable is enough to take you from corner-to-corner so you can sprawl out however you wish with plenty of cable to spare, with no stress on the cable connections, and without contorting yourself into an odd position just to stay within reach of an outlet. (As an aside, if you’re envious of our tablet/smartphone/book pillow and crave one for your next Netflix binge, it’s called the Peeramid Bookrest and you can pick one up for $28 on Amazon.)

Speaking of Amazon, don’t head down to your local electronics store for your cable needs as the markup on cables at big box stores is ridiculous, and they likely won’t have anything in stock but the usual one meter cables anyway. Instead hit up online retailers like Amazon and Monoprice to avoid the markups and enjoy a better selection.

Here’s our recommendations, based on our own purchases and customer ratings, for longer charging/data cables.

Apple Lightning Cables

Sundix 10 ft. Lightning Cables – $13

Amazon Basics 6 ft. Lightning Cables – $10

Apple 30-Pin Cables

iXCC 10 ft. 30-Pin Cables – $10

Liger 6.4 ft. 30-Pin Cables – $10

Micro USB Cables

Anker 10 ft. Micro USB – $6

Anker 6 ft. Micro USB – $5

Mini USB Cables

Cable Matters 10 ft. 2 Pack – $9

Cable Matters 6 ft. 2 Pack – $8

When in doubt, we’d strongly encourage you to get a 10 ft. cord. Not only is it more economical (you’re either paying the same amount or a few dollars more) but you’ll be surprised how useful the extra four feet is. The extra length is the difference between slightly extending the reach across your bed or, as seen in our photo above, gaining the ability to flop down in any direction and still have plenty of cable to spare.

It’s also the difference, when it comes to airport seating and other public venues, between fighting over the chairs huddled around the sparse outlets or sitting a few chairs away. It’s a small and inexpensive change that will leave your wrists, neck, and poor strained cable thanking you.


Have a clever technology tip or trick of your own to share? Want help thinking of a solution for your tech problems? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com.

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/10/15
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