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I found that Apple has the MFi program to help develop a hardware for iPad/iPhone/iPod, but it looks like that only a company can apply for this program.

Can a hobbyist or an individual apply for this program to develop home brew iPad/iPhone/iPod connected devices?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Yes, smaller groups can apply to be in the MFi program, if they are serious about making a product for the iOS devices. However, you will need to get approval from Apple for your basic device concept in order to get in the program, then the device will need to pass third-party certifications to verify that it won't interfere with the iOS device, etc. Finally, Apple will need to approve your final product design before you can start selling it.

They've opened up this process significantly over the last year or so, but given the hurdles you have to jump to get a functional device out there this is still not intended for one-off hobby projects. A small company can make a product to sell in lower volumes, but you'll need at least $20,000 in development funds to get through the process to your final design.

Recouping that level of investment doesn't require selling millions of devices, but you do have to have some moderate volume of device sales to make it worth your initial development time and money.

We're in the process of building an MFi accessory, and we're a very small company. Our target sales volumes are not large, but they're enough to make this worthwhile. If the product takes off, so much the better.

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+1 Recent firsthand experience. –  Nathan Greenstein Apr 12 '11 at 2:36
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Thanks Brad for sharing. Can you suggest how long the process takes? From clicking the apply button to getting the product certified. Also how much is the credit review process and what does it review? We are a startup and actually doesn't have revenue history! I wonder if I can get through the MFI credit review even through I can set aside $20,000. Thanks. –  Yau Leung Jun 8 '12 at 4:43
    
July '14: it looks like the MFi FAQ says that there is no fee to sign up, though one must purchase a credit review. Does anyone have recent info on what a credit review costs? mfi.apple.com/MFiWeb/getFAQ.action –  Olie Jul 21 at 3:53
    
We just paid $50 for the credit review. –  Joshua Aug 7 at 9:24

You certainly can, but you probably have to pay the same as if you were a big company planning on selling millions of products.

A friend of mine tried to make a dock-connector-compatible sensor for a college project: Apple wanted to charge him the full corporate entry price to get the pinouts and size specs for the dock connector and the API headers so they could write an app that used it.

However, this is definitely a case of "it can't hurt to ask". Maybe you'll get break if you can assure them you won't be selling it.

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The MFi program may have changed since your friend talked to them last. There was no upfront fee for us to gain access to the same information for the device we're building. The cost comes in later on during development, when you need to contract out third-party testing of your hardware. –  Brad Larson Apr 11 '11 at 23:03
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@BradLarson This was several years ago - relatively soon after the iPhone 3G came out. You may have met the person in question (though I don't remember their name) - the "college" was UW-Madison. –  CajunLuke Feb 2 '12 at 5:39
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Yes, and I may know the project they were working on. From the time when they started that to when we got in, the MFi program did loosen up quite a bit. I believe it's even more forgiving now, and we're seeing the results of that in more MFi devices coming to market. We've been slowed by some technical issues on our end, and the attention that our other products have required lately, but not by any MFi-related items. –  Brad Larson Feb 2 '12 at 15:13

You can't. I've tried this route and I got a call saying that you need to own (or work for) an electronics factory to be granted MFi membership. Software companies aren't eligible.

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Software companies are indeed eligible, if they are serious about building a product. We're not an electronics factory, yet we're in the MFi program for a device we're building. We do build other hardware, but we're only a four-man company. Other small companies without hardware out there have received MFi approval by showing that they had a clear design for a product. –  Brad Larson Apr 11 '11 at 23:06
    
@BradLarson Strange, I applied MFi for one of my previous employers back in 2010 and got rejected. –  adib Apr 2 '13 at 6:03

Well, I just emailed them about joining. I'm a 'pure software' person, in that I may need low-level access to hardware, but it's existing hardware that someone else built.

Basically, they told me no way - it's not for software only people.

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Yes you definitely can. All you have to do is make a one-person business.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    
This way, you still apply as a business, not as an individual. –  guwac Nov 4 '12 at 16:40

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