You should only ever buy Apple accessories that have this sticker on their box -- here's why

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Skitch blackBrandt Ranj / Business InsiderKeep an eye out for this sticker when you’re buying tech accessories for any Apple products.

If you’ve been buying accessories for your iPad or iPhone, you may have noticed that some of them have the words “MFi Certified” in their title.

MFi stands for Made For iPod, iPhone and iPad; it’s a certification program that was originally started in 2005 for iPod docks and cables.

In the past decade, it has grown to include speakers and smart home devices as well. Once certified, MFi products are guaranteed to be compatible with Apple’s products. But not all accessory makers join the program.

The reason why is because joining the MFi program requires the company to apply for a licence, which it has to pay for. The benefits are guaranteed compatibility and being able to put an MFi tag on their product boxes. But in a market like cables where profit margins are razor thin, it can be seen as an unnecessary expense. Larger companies can afford to pay the licensing fee and keep their prices low, but there are a bunch of uncertified accessories out there.

I recently learned why it’s important to spend the extra couple of bucks for MFi products when I went to buy a pack of Lightning cables that wasn’t certified. When I plugged them into my power adaptor, my phone would charge for a minute before flashing the “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPhone” message and stopping charging altogether. The price on the cables was great, but I ended up having to throw them away. I bought a certified cable from AmazonBasics, and it’s worked reliably.

Not all iDevice accessories need to go through certification, only those that use an Apple-exclusive technology. For example, Bluetooth is an open standard, so Bluetooth headphones and speakers wouldn’t need to be certified to be compatible with your devices. Docks and headphones that use the Lightning connector, though, would need to be certified, since that port was created by Apple. This is going to be more important going forward, now that new iPhones don’t have the standard headphone port.

The next time you’re accessory shopping, keep an eye out for MFi certified products. They’re typically a couple of bucks more expensive, but they won’t give you any compatibility issues. That goes double for headphones; the market for Lightning headphones is about to explode, and nobody wants to plug in a pair and get an error message.

Brands like Anker, Monoprice and AmazonBasics all sell MFi-certified accessories, so you can buy their stuff with confidence.

This article was originally posted on 9/20/16

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