Tuesday, March 21, 2023
HomeTechnologyTangle-free magnetic USB cables are here

Tangle-free magnetic USB cables are here

What if your cable could magnetically stick to itself, forming a neat coil that doesn’t get all floppy and tangled in your drawers and bags? What if they were good cables, too, capable of charging and syncing all the things over USB-C, Lightning, and more?

Well… you can now buy USB cables that do the first part! And they’re cool enough that I really wish cable manufacturers would figure the rest of that shit out.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing some seriously nifty USB cables that can actually do the magnetic coiling snake trick. Originally brought to the English-speaking world’s attention by a brand called SuperCalla, they’re now sold by a whole bunch of no-name brands at the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. And they are incredible fidget toys, just as SuperCalla’s Indiegogo campaign promised over two years ago:

Image: SuperCalla

As you can see in my photo below, they totally coil just like the GIF! They’re not exactly “self-winding” the way some sellers claim, but the six-foot ones are definitely easy to wrap.

Your coil can be taller or wider depending on how many magnets per circle — but only these six-foot cables give you enough to work with.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

They work by stringing magnetic beads and silicone sleeves on a thin cable, like this:

See, it’s just a magnetic bead when you pull the silicone sleeve away. Both float freely on the cable.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

They can stick to themselves in other ways, too:

You can make a cable double back on itself.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

And, of course, you can attach them to all sorts of other ferrous metal objects and pay out just as much cable as you need. I’ve got one of these cables hanging off my metal microphone stand right now, another dangling off the corner of my wall, and another that neatly travels down the edge of my keyboard while it charges my phone:

The magnets stick to my Razer keyboard’s steel deck. This wouldn’t work with, say, an Apple keyboard because they’re made of aluminum.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Ready for the catch? I bought four different kinds of these cables, and they all suck big time (that’s a technical term) at data transfer, charging, or both.

This one, which also has its own built-in blue LED light and magnetic swappable tips for USB-C, micro-USB, and Lightning, won’t charge most of my USB-C gadgets at all, but I was able to sling some files from an external drive at lackluster USB 2.0 speeds and charge my iPhone over Lightning. It’s also got super weak coiling magnets and felt even cheaper than the rest.

Magnets on magnets.

This USB-C to USB-C one was pretty decent at charging, giving me 65W of USB-C PD power and had the best magnets of the bunch — but it wouldn’t connect to a Pixel 4A phone or my USB-C external drive at all. They just didn’t show up on my desktop!

This USB-A to USB-C cable was the worst of the lot. Just wiggling it would disconnect anything I had plugged in, and it topped out at 10W of charging — not the 15–18W I’d usually see with my Pixel.

Lastly, this USB-A to Lightning one seems to be a SuperCalla cable, showing up in an “Original SuperCalla” box, even though it’s sold by a brand named “Tech.” Slow charging, slow data, but at least it seems to stay reliably connected to my iPhone so far.

But those aren’t the only style of magnetic no-tangle cable I found. I also bought this neat accordion-style one, which is perhaps the best of the bunch: I got 15W charging, and it feels better built than the rest.

The accordion cable can twist when you pull it apart.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

But it’s less fun to play with, the magnets aren’t as strong, and it’s got a bit of an awkward shape when fully extended because the joints will always stick out. Plus, it tops out at USB 2.0 speeds of 480Mbps (or around 42MB/s in practice.) I couldn’t find a C-to-C or Lightning version.

I would absolutely pay good money for a solid, reliable six-foot USB-C to USB-C easy-coil cable with strong magnets, 100W USB-C PD charging, and at least 10Gbps of USB 3.x bandwidth.

The flexible ribbons and joints feel durable, though.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Or, if I’m really dreaming, how about 40Gbps for USB 4? Let’s go for broke and make the ultimate cable — give it a built-in power meter while you’re at it.

Right now, all I’ve found are these cheap-o, $10 novelty cables, and that’s a real shame. The magnet design deserves better, and so do we.



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