Sometimes an iPhone or iPad refuses to charge up its battery, even when plugged into a power source, or placed on a compatible wireless charging pad. You may find that the device buzzes and tells you it's charging, but the power level never increases; that it charges unreliably, requiring constant fiddling and balancing; that the Lightning (or USB-C) cable feels loose and cannot sustain a proper connection; or that nothing happens whatsoever.

In this article we outline what you can do to fix an iPhone or iPad that won't charge, including the official advice from Apple, troubleshooting tips and a couple of temporary fixes we've found, and advice on how to get your device repaired if none of the solutions work.

(If your device is charging, but you'd like to speed it up, have a look at How to fast-charge an iPhone instead. And if the battery doesn't last as long as you'd like even when fully charged, try How to improve iPhone battery life.)

Troubleshooting tips

  • Obvious stuff first: make sure the cables and adapters are all plugged in firmly and the power outlet is working.
  • If you're connecting to a computer, make sure it is on (and that it can charge your device). Try connecting to a different computer and see if that helps.
  • Unplug your device and check the Lightning port for debris. Give it a quick blow or use a compressed air blower.
  • One at a time, try using a different cable, power adapter and USB port to see if you can isolate the problem. (We talk about how to test each component of the charging system - and whether you're safer just buying a new one - in a separate article: How to fix a broken iPhone or iPad charger.)
  • If everything seems to be working, reconnect your device and wait for 30 minutes. If your device still doesn't charge, try to restart it while it's connected to power. If you can't restart, reset your device. You may then see an alert when you plug in your device, such as 'This accessory is not supported by this device'. In which case you know the problem is the charging equipment.

How to fix an iPhone that won't charge: Lightning port

Temporary fixes

That covers the basics, and now we move on to more advanced diagnostics. But before we get to the repairs stage - or while you wait for Apple support to provide a long-term solution - you may wish to try these short-term workarounds. They won't address underlying causes, but we've found that they can help to get a faulty iPhone to charge up.

  • Try gently balancing the phone on the connector while it charges. Just be careful, because the charging cable is prone to snapping off when too much pressure is placed on it.
  • Weirdly, we have also found that using an old 30-pin iPhone cable with a Lightning adaptor works better than a standard Lightning cable.

This is not official advice, just our experience. And as with all hardware issues, it is unlikely to improve with time. You really need to get this problem solved.

How to fix an iPhone that won't charge: iPhone 7

iPhone XS and XS Max charging issues with iOS 12

If you've got an iPhone XS or XS Max, you may be suffering from 'Chargegate', the name that The Sun tried to give to an apparently software-related fault that afflicted those devices shortly after they launched in autumn 2018.

The problem, discussed at length in this Apple discussion thread, most commonly manifests in the following way. The user plugs the Lightning cable into a sleeping XS or XS Max, but it doesn't make a sound or start charging. Even when they wake up the device, it still refuses to co-operate.

Some users found that they could get around this by removing the Lightning cable, making sure the screen was lit up, and then re-inserting it - at this point it would start charging. We've also found that in general XS Lightning ports can be a little temperamental, and removing and re-inserting the cable a few times (ideally rotating it between attempts) can occasionally help, albeit in an annoyingly non-scientific way.

We understand that the problem was related to a specific version of iOS 12, and that Apple fixed this with an OS update some time ago - so try updating iOS and see if that helps. But we should add that, at time of writing (July 2019) we are continuing to see a similar problem with our review XS, and this is running the latest version of iOS.

We have found that it is simpler to simply charge wirelessly, which works fine. (We use Mophie's in-car charger, a desk tidy with built-in charger at work, and a Ted Baker pad at home.)

Get Apple to fix the Lighting or USB-C port

That covers most of the home diagnostics we can offer, and the next step is to contact Apple support. Trouble is, most of the initial support will follow the steps outlined in the troubleshooting section above.

Very quickly when you go into the - helpful - Apple online support program, you will be asked to send or take in your iPhone or iPad for a service. This is all to the good, but out of warranty we have heard of people being charged £200 for a repair for this problem.

Ideally at this stage your insurance will kick in. If you have bespoke phone insurance, or even a good quality of home and contents insurance, you may be able to claim the repair through your insurance.

If you're on a contract, it may be that your network provider will foot the cost of repair or replacement, even if it means signing up for a longer period. If not, you need to balance the cost of repair against the cost of a new phone. This isn't good news, but at £200 for repair you're probably better off buying a new handset.