Company: Technology Trends

MFi — Connecting to an iPod, iPhone or iPad... What Do You Need?

The world has become increasingly more connected via cells phones and a variety of other electronic products that connect these devices to GPS, Web, and other functions. This usage is growing rapidly and new uses increase as rapidly. There are standards and guidelines that need to be followed -especially if you want your product to connect to an Apple iOS device (iPod, iPhone or iPad). That’s where Apple’s MFi Program comes into play. MFi stands for “Made for iOS”. Electronic accessory designers and product manufacturers for produce products that connect to an iOS device must be MFi licensees. Apple states that as an MFi licensee you get access to the hardware components, tools, documentation, technical support, and certification logos needed to create electronic accessories that connect to an iPod, iPhone, and an iPad.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Products that need MFi. MFi licensed technology includes Lightning (8-pin)/30-pin connectors, authentication coprocessors and iPod Accessory Protocol, the protocol used to communicate with iPhone, iPad and iPod. Also accessories which use Apple's headphone remote and microphone technology and AirPlay audio technology. Non-electronic cases and accessories which do not use Apple's licensed technology (e.g., Bluetooth Low Energy or standard Bluetooth profiles supported by iOS) are not part of the MFi Program.
  • BLE falls outside of MFi. If you have an accessory that connects to an iOS device you do not need to be an MFi licensee. BLE’s lower power, lower overhead as well as S/W stacks being provided by most BLE chip manufacturers has opened up new opportunities for electronic products that connect to iOS devices as well as with other smartphones. As noted in Apple’s MFi FAQ: Accessories that connect to an Apple device using only Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)/ BTLE/Bluetooth 4.0 or standard Bluetooth profiles supported by iOS are not part of the MFi Program.
  • MFi Licensing. Becoming an MFi licensee is between the manufacturer and Apple. Developer licensees are also required for development companies to design products that meet MFi requirements.

Whether you are designing a new widget that connects to an iPhone or making an audio accessory for an iPad, make sure you know if you need an MFi license or not. If MFi is required, use a design house and manufacturer that is an MFi development licensee.