Do you plan to import accessories for iPhone, iPad or other Apple devices? Then you need to make sure that your product comply with the Apple MFi licensing requirements.
In this article, I answer some of the most common questions about MFi licenses when importing Apple accessories from China:
a. Should the importer or the factory obtain the MFi license?
b. Which products require an MFi license?
c. Which products to not require an MFi license?
d. How can I find a licensed supplier on Globalsources.com or Alibaba.com?
What is the Apple MFi program?
MFi stands for ‘Made for iPhone, iPad or iPod. If you own an Apple device, you’ve probably seen the ‘Made for iPhone and iPad’ label on power banks, headphones and other accessories.
Apple MFi is a licensing program that brands and manufacturers can become part of, in order to label electronic accessories as ‘Made for iPhone or iPad’.
A few examples follow below:
- Game controllers
- Hearing Aids
- Dock stations
The program is also mandatory if you want to import accessories compatible with Apple HomeKit, GymKit, CarPlay or AirPlay.
A supplier, or importer, that is not part of the Apple MFi program is not allowed to add the ‘Made for’ label on its products, or even use Apple licensed technology such as the following:
a. Magnetic Charging Module
b. Lightning Audio Module
c. Lightning Analog Headset Module
What’s the purpose of the MFi program?
The point of the MFi program is to set technical standards that ensure product safety and compatibility with Apple devices. It also generates revenue for Apple itself.
Non-MFi certified accessories, such as chargers or earphones, can still be compatible with Apple devices. That said, many non-certified (MFi or other) chargers sold in the US and Europe are unsafe, and prone to explosion.
Hence, there is a need to ensure that accessories meet certain safety standards. If you want to import Apple accessories from China, you should only consider MFi licensed manufacturers.
Should the Importer or the Chinese manufacturer be MFi licensed?
Both. There are actually two types of MFi licenses:
a. MFi Development Licensee (Importer)
b. MFi Manufacturing Licensee (Chinese supplier)
Hence, you need to obtain an MFi Development license, as you get to work on the product specification and prototype.
Once you start sourcing suppliers, you must limit your selection to suppliers that are already Apple MFi Manufacturer licensed.
Obtaining a developer license is not enough. Both you and the factory must be licensed.
Apple is not charging for the MFi program at this time, but you must have a legal entity (i.e., a registered business) and pass their screening process to enroll.
Also notice that each SKU (Product) must be MFi certified by the manufacturer. Once the product is certified, it will appear in the official list of Apple MFi certified accessories.
How does Apple MFi affect product design?
When you apply for an MFi Development License, you will get to sign an NDA with Apple.
At this stage, they will review your specifications, and provide technical support, sample components, product testing and other guidance:
- Product compatibility feedback
- Product safety feedback
- Royalty fees
As a developer, you will work directly with Apple, to ensure that the product is fully compliant and compliant with their requirements.
Once you have a complete MFi approved product specification, you can take it to an MFi licensed manufacturer in China.
Is MFi manufacturer licenses common among Chinese suppliers?
No. Only a small fraction of all electronics manufacturers in China are part of the MFi program. There are various reasons for this:
- They don’t reach the MFi licensee requirements
- They don’t know what the MFi program is
- They are not making accessories for Apple devices
I’d say that less than 0.1% of all manufacturers are part of the MFi program, so you have to look specifically for a licensed factory.
How do I know if a supplier is MFi licensed?
Apple lists all MFi licensed manufacturers on its website. If a supplier claims to be an MFi licensed factory, they will appear on that list.
If they are not on that list, they are not part of the program.
Apply this protocol when sourcing MFi licensed suppliers:
1. Is the factory specialized in manufacturing the type of products I am looking for?
2. Do they claim to be Apple MFi Manufacturer licensed?
3. Is the supplier listed on the Apple website as MFi Manufacturer Licensed?
Notice that even MFi licensed factories are specialized in certain product categories. If you’re importing power banks, you must look for an MFi licensed power bank manufacturer.
There are no ‘all round’ MFi manufacturers that make all kinds of Apple accessories.
List of Apple MFi suppliers in China
The full list of Apple MFi licensees can only be found on the official Apple website. For the record, that list is confidential, and only accessible if you sign a digital NDA.
However, we managed to find a few suppliers who claim to be MFi certified on their website or company pages on supplier directories.
Notice that we have not verified if these suppliers actually are MFi licensees, and we are not affiliated with any of the listed companies.
- Tonetron Electronic Limited
- CYD Electronics (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd
- Dongguan Ronghe Electronic Co., Ltd.
- Tankya Developing Co., Limited
- Shenzhen Topband Co. Ltd
- Shenzhen Meishunhe Electronics Co. Ltd
- Shenzhen Trusda Industrial Co. Ltd
- 0101 TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD
- Dongguan Lontion Industrial Co. Ltd
- Dongguan Huiyan Electronic Co.,Ltd
- Solar Loyal Limited
- Shenzhen ShuYuan Keji Co.,Ltd
- Shenzhen Gaoshiyuan Technology Co.,Ltd
Most MFi licensed suppliers in China are based in Guangdong province, which is the global center for electronics manufacturing.
Can I source Apple MFi licensed suppliers on Globalsources.com and Alibaba.com?
Yes, there are at least a few hundred MFi licensed suppliers listed on Globalsources.com and Alibaba.com.
MFi licensed suppliers clarify their status. Below follows one example from Globalsources:
Globalsources.com is an ideal sourcing platform for finding MFi licensed manufacturers
The easiest way to find MFi licensed suppliers on these sites is to type ‘MFi’ followed by the product name. A few examples follow below:
- MFi Cables
- MFi Earphones
- MFi Power Banks
Just keep in mind that you must verify if the supplier is actually listed on the official MFi list of manufacturers.
Do need an MFi license If I import a private label product?
No, an MFi developer license is not required if you intend to import private label products. In other words, you can brand a private label product (i.e., charger or power bank) with your own logo, and use the MFi label on the packaging.
However, this requires that the supplier has an MFi manufacturer license.
Further, if you make any change to the ODM product, you must obtain a development license. Such changes include the following:
- Case design changes
- Component changes
- PCB changes
In other words, you are not allowed to make any changes to the private label product.
Can I buy Apple device compatible accessories from non-licensed suppliers?
Using Apple licensed technology and components (i.e., the lighting connectors) requires that both the importer and the factory are part of the MFi licensing program. There are no exemptions.
However, an MFi license is not required for the following:
- Non-electrical accessories (i.e., iPhone or iPad cases)
- Bluetooth devices
- USB Cables
- USB Chargers
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