Secret thing: Apple’s hidden apps for accessory manufacturers
An app hidden by Apple but now revealed to the public offers a little behind-the-scenes look at how Apple works with accessory manufacturers. The app called “Accessory Developer Assistant” can only be found via a direct link. It’s a kind of tool that manufacturers can use to verify that their products meet Apple’s quality criteria.
Anyone who develops hardware accessories for Apple products that connect electronically to the devices is encouraged by Apple to certify them in the MFi (formerly Made for iPhone) program. This includes Apple, for example, AirPlay audio devices, car keys via Car Key, CarPlay accessories and HomeKit smart home products.
What the app is used for
The app that has now appeared enables accessory manufacturers and developers to test, for example, the interaction with the autofocus of an iPhone or iPad or whether the compass is impaired in its function. The app, which is quite unadorned, also offers options to check NFC connections or the device’s battery discharge in connection with the accessory. If all tests are passed, the devices can be presented to Apple. If successful, the US company will grant approval. Manufacturers can then provide their product packaging with appropriate badges (e.g. “Made for iPhone”).
Apparently, apps that support this process have been around for a long time. However, since the beginning of 2022, Apple has only made it possible to make apps invisible in the App Store, but they can be accessed via a direct link. This unlisted status is known from YouTube videos, for example. In contrast to the video portal, this status with Apple cannot simply be changed again with a mouse click. Before the current app, links to a Car Keys test app and a certification app for the GymKit, introduced in 2017, had appeared on the internet, with which electronic car keys and fitness devices that are supposed to function as Apple accessories are put through their paces can become.
Almost everything is secret at Apple
Apple itself is, as usual, very reserved when it comes to such details. Accessory manufacturers must sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This includes, among other things, the amount of license fees manufacturers have to pay to Apple in order to receive certification.