The complete guide to Apple cables

Some cables sold separately.
Some cables sold separately.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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There was a time, many moons ago, when it was relatively simple to know what cables you needed to use your Apple products. There was the long 30-pin connectors of iPods, iPhones, and iPads, and the MagSafe power cable for laptops, and that was pretty much it.

But in recent years, Apple has branched out into all sorts of different cables for different devices. Just this week, Apple moved away from the Lightning cable it’s been using on all iOS devices for the last six years with the new iPad Pro.

Here’s a quick refresher on what you’ll need to use the latest Apple products:


For now, all iPhone models still use Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable to charge and connect the phones to computers. They all still ship with a cable that has a Lightning connector at one end and a standard USB connector at the other.

But there’s two wrinkles here: First, Apple’s newer laptops don’t have standard USB ports—they use the newer, smaller USB-C standard—so you’ll have to pick up a Lightning to USB-C cable to charge your phone from a Mac. Apple sells one for $19.

The second problem is that all iPhones since the iPhone 7 don’t have a headphone jack, meaning if you have a pair of wired headphones you like to use, you’ll need a headphone adapter to plug into the Lightning port. Apple has included one in the boxes of each new phones until this year’s iPhone Xs. If you still need one, Apple sells one for $9. (Another far more expensive option is to give up on wires and buy a pair of wireless headphones, like Apple’s $159 AirPods.)

If you want to listen to music and charge your phone at the same time, you’ll need to get a splitter cable. Apple doesn’t make one, but there are a bunch of options, starting at around $15.

Each iPhone since the iPhone X has been able to quick-charge, getting about a 50% charge in roughly 30 minutes, but bizarrely, you can’t use the cables that come with the phones. Instead, you need a Lightning to USB-C again, and a 30W USB-C Power Adapter, which is a larger version of the one that ships with the new iPad. Apple sells one for $49.


Every iPad since the fourth-generation model released in 2012 has used a Lightning cable, including the first few versions of the iPad Pro, and the iPad Mini.

Much like iPhones, you’ll need a Lightning to USB-C cable to charge from a Mac laptop.

iPad Pro (2018)

At this week’s event in Brooklyn, Apple unveiled a new iPad Pro that ditches the Lightning connector in favor of a USB-C port, much like those found on its newer laptops. The tablet will also ship with a USB-C to USB-C cable, meaning you’ll need to pick a Lightning to USB-C to use it to charge an iPhone.

The tablet also no longer has a headphone jack, and doesn’t come with an adapter, so you’ll have to pick up one of those if you need one.

And if you’re interested in taking full advantage of the iPad Pro’s processing abilities and want to use it to edit images from a camera, you’ll need a USB-C SD card reader, which Apple sells for $39. If you want to connect the iPad to an external monitor, you’ll need a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter, which Apple sells for $69.

MacBook Pro / MacBook / MacBook Air (2018)

If you’re using one of Apple’s newer laptops, including the new MacBook Air introduced this week, you’re likely aware of the fact that they don’t have a lot of ports, and the ones they do are all USB-C, meaning you need some sort of adapter to connect to your old accessories, and, likely, your phone.

For an external monitor, the best choice from Apple is again the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter, as that gives you an HDMI connection, as well as a USB-C and standard USB port to play with. Apple also sells a version for VGA connections, which also costs $69.

If you need an ethernet connection, Apple sells a USB-C to Gigabit ethernet adapter made by Belkin for $35.

If for some reason you still need a CD/DVD drive, Apple doesn’t make a USB-C CD drive, though you could theoretically buy the standard USB one it sells for $79 and then buy an adapter, or you could look to other manufacturers, like Nolyth’s $59 drive on Amazon.

Apple’s newer laptops no longer ship with an extension cord for the plug, so if you want one of these, you’ll now have to shell out $19 to get one from Apple.

Apple Watch

Every generation of watch has shipped with a magnetic charger with a standard USB connector. If you want to charge your watch from the new iPad Pro or a newer laptop, you’ll need the new USB-C charger, which will run you $29.

How much will this all cost me?

If you are a diehard Apple fan who buys their laptop, phone, watch, and tablet from Apple, and you want to make sure everything can connect and work with everything else, it’s going to set you back a fair bit. Buying each of one of the cables listed above, you’d be spending $342, which is close to the cost of a brand new Apple Watch. It’s almost as if Apple is trying to force you to do everything wirelessly.