iPhone not charging icon and screen

You plug in your iPhone or set it down on a wireless charger to charge the battery, check back later, and it hasn’t charged. What happened? Many things can go wrong. Let’s take a look at some of the most common iPhone charging issues and what you can do about them.

General Troubleshooting Tip

An Apple Lightning to USB cable

One of the most fundamental techniques in troubleshooting is called “swapping with known good parts.” Take an accessory you think might not be working and substitute it in your setup with an identical part that’s new or already known to work.

Have a problem charging? Swap out your old cable for a new one. If the charging process works with the new cable, the problem was the old cable.

You can replicate the process with every component in the setup, including the iPhone itself (borrow a friend’s iPhone and see if it charges using your charger) and whichever source of USB power you’re using. Try a different wall adapter, USB hub, computer USB port, or outlet.

Beyond that basic technique, here’s a deeper look at some other things you can try.

Restart your iPhone

Apple’s iPhone software sometimes gets confused about charging operations due to mistakes, or bugs, in its programming. Sometimes that software crashes and is not functioning properly. The best way to temporarily fix this is by restarting your phone.

On iPhone X or iPhone 11, hold down the side button and either one of the volume rocker buttons at the same time until the “Slide to Power Off” screen pops up. Release the buttons and slide your finger on the screen to shut down the phone.

On iPhone 8 or earlier, hold down the side button until the “Slide to Power Off” screen pops up. Release the side button and slide your finger on the screen to shut down the phone.

On iPhone SE, 5, or earlier, hold down the top button until the “Slide to Power Off” screen pops up. Release the button and slide your finger on the screen to shut down the phone.

Apple iOS slide to power off

Once the screen goes black, hold the side button down until you see the Apple logo in the middle of the screen.

Once the phone has finished starting up, try charging the phone and see if it works.

After restarting, it’s a good idea to see if any updates are available for your iPhone’s operating system (called iOS) that might fix the charging issue. To do that, see the step below.

Update your iPhone OS

Software that controls charging on your iPhone can have mistakes written into it. Sometimes Apple catches these mistakes and fixes them with updates.

There’s a catch: Your iPhone’s battery must be at 60 percent or higher to update. Apple requires this because if your battery dies while updating, it can ruin your phone.

If you’re OK on battery life, here’s how to update your iPhone: Navigate to Settings > General > Software Update to see if an iOS software update is available. If so, perform the update, wait for the phone to restart, and then try to charge the phone again .

Screenshot of updating iOS to 13.1.2

Check your Lightning Cable

If restarting and updating your phone didn’t help, it’s time to start looking at potential hardware problems.

Apple has a special brand name for the charging connector on the bottom of the iPhone: Lightning. Take a look at your Lightning-to-USB charging cable on both ends.

  • Are the cable connectors frayed or broken?
  • Are there exposed wires coming out of the plastic insulation anywhere along the cable?
  • Is the cable kinked or bent at a sharp angle?
Frayed Apple Lightning cable
Benj Edwards

If the answer is “Yes” to any of those questions, recycle the broken cable with other e-waste and buy a new one.

When the wires inside the Lightning cable break, it interrupts the charging circuit and will keep the iPhone from charging properly. This is a common problem with Apple-made Lightning charging cables, which are made of a soft type of rubberized plastic that breaks apart over time.

Also, look at the gold-colored contacts on cable’s Lightning connector. Are they dirty or discolored?  If so, you can rub a common pencil eraser across them to clean off the debris. The eraser is abrasive enough to rub off dirt without damaging the metal contacts. Make sure you clean off any bits of eraser rubber before inserting the connector into an iPhone to test.

Dirty Apple Lightning connector
Benj Edwards

Check Your iPhone’s Lightning Connector

Pocket lint and dust often accumulate in the Lightning port on the bottom of an iPhone through daily use, especially if the phone is frequently kept in a pants pocket. The lint builds up and physically blocks the Lightning cable from inserting fully and making a solid connection.

Photo of an iPhone with a Lightning Port
Apple, Inc.

It is possible to remove lint from your iPhone’s lightning connector with a small non-metal object such as a wooden or plastic toothpick. This technique works well, but it is somewhat risky and could possibly damage the small connector pins inside the iPhone. If you’re nervous about doing this, take the iPhone to an Apple Store for servicing.

Do not spray compressed air into the Lightning connector to remove the lint. It will push the dust and lint further up into the phone.  Blowing dust into the phone could get it trapped in the camera assembly and create blurry photos.

Check Your Charging Adapter or USB Power Source

iPhone and iPad Chargers

iPhones need a certain amount of power from a USB source to charge within a reasonable amount of time (a few hours). The most reliable source of power is the included wall adapter made by Apple.

To get more technical, an iPhone charger must supply at least 1 ampere (“A” or “Amps” for short) of current to charge an iPhone efficiently. Many USB ports on computers, keyboards, hubs, or older chargers don’t supply enough current (many supply .5 A or less, also known as 500 mA), so iPhones connected to those sources will charge very slowly. If the iPhone screen is lit or the iPhone is being used while connected to one of these low-current sources, it might not provide enough power to charge the battery at all.

The charger included with an iPad works well for charging an iPhone—in fact, it will even charge an iPhone faster than the stock Apple-made iPhone charger. That’s because the iPad wall adapter outputs 2.1 Amps of current, which is higher than most iPhone chargers. The electronics inside the iPhone know how to handle the additional power, so in general, users don’t need to worry about overloading the iPhone from a USB power source.

Check Your Wireless Charging Device

Every iPhone since 2017 (including the iPhone 8 and iPhone X) supports wireless charging. To use wireless charging, you must have a special wireless charging pad or surface designed to work with the Qi wireless charging standard.

This can be a great temporary workaround to charge your iPhone if you’re having trouble charging with a Lightning cable and you have a wireless charging device available.

Photo of an Otterbox wireless iPhone charger
Apple, Inc.

To charge properly with a wireless pad or base, your iPhone needs to be centered on the middle of the charging area, which can vary by device.

If wireless charging doesn’t work, try charging with a USB-to-Lightning cable (see sections above) or with a different wireless charging pad.

If All Else Fails

If none of the tips above help, it’s time to contact Apple Support or make an appointment for service support at an Apple Store. Good luck—I hope you figure it out.

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.