Review of the iDrifta for iPad/iPhone/iPod touch

Posted on June 6, 2012

Full disclosure : I have no affiliation to DSTV, DSTV Mobile or Multichoice. I write this blog in my spare time with no payment from any providers. The review unit was provided to me by the marketing agency working with DSTV Mobile and I thank them for it. I pay the monthly subscription fees on the Drifta devices I am using – including the iDrifta. 

The iDrifta is a cute, small, convenient little device. As a Drifta for the iPad / iPhone / iPod touch (referred to as iDevice), this is brilliant. It is however restricted to just those devices.

I have in the past reviewed the original (wifi) Drifta and the USB Drifta. This review now focusses on the iDrifta. If you are wanting to use the Drifta with your PC, Blackberry, Mac, Android and your iDevice then right up front this is not for you. Take a look at the table over here to see which devices work with which Drifta’s to make that decision. If however your are primarily wanting a Drifta to use with your iDevice, then read on.

The iDrifta is about the size of a matchbox. On the top it has an Apple connector, on the bottom it has a micro USB for charging, with a soft loop of aerial around the port.  Just above the micro USB is a single LED which lights up when the device is being charged.

Before using the iDrifta it needs to be charged up – if the iDrifta has NO power in it, then it will not be recognised by the iDevice and you won’t be able to use it. It is by default not powered from the iDevice, and cannot be charged from the iDevice. Charging takes about an hour and half when connected to the mains, and around four hours when connected to your PC.

Once charged, you are ready to go. Just plug in the device and if you have the app installed it will (most times) directly load up the application for you and you will be watching in no time. On the odd occasion I needed to manually load the DSTV application and then it would detect the iDrifta and work fine. If you still need to install the application, just search for DSTV in the apple Appstore and you will find it easily enough.  Install the DSTV guide and the Supersport application while you are there, both quite useful. Just a pity the apple devices don’t multi-task so you can use all at the same time.

The DSTV application is pretty bad at multi-tasking on iOS. If you switch away from the application and switch back, then it will have shut down completely, audio will have stopped, and it will need to re-sync to the signal, taking a few seconds to do so. This even happens if you do a four finger gesture to bring up to app switching bar, or take too long to dispatch a notification. This is no different with the original Drifta, but just something you need to be aware of.  I have to confess that sometimes when I want to keep up to speed on a sporting event while doing some other tasks on the iPad I will use TuneIn radio to listen to a Radio 2000 stream. This application allows you to put it into the background and keep listening while you do other things.  The professional ($1) version even allows time shifting and recording. Brilliant. Sadly no recording or time shifting in the DSTV Mobile application.

The battery on the iDrifta will last about three hours. Once the battery starts to get low a message will pop up onscreen to ask you if you with to continue watch tv, if you ignore the message (or don’t notice it) the DSTV app will quit within a few seconds. This happened to me the first few times without me noticing the message (I was working on the PC and had the iPad next to me with the cricket on, more listening than watching). The time-out period is perhaps a bit short, but if I was out somewhere without power and accidently ran the iDrifta totally flat and then couldn’t “boot it” I would be unhappy so understand the approach.

You can configure the DSTV app to automatically switch to iDevice power once iDrifta power starts to get low. I would suggest you do this. Just go into the iDevice settings, scroll down to “Decoder” and on the Decoder settings at the bottom is a statement “When the iDrifta’s battery is low” click the box below to change from “Ask what to do” to “Use the battery of the iOS device”. This will drain your battery a little faster, but I didn’t find the difference to be noticeable. I was testing on an iPad 3 (aka New iPad) – so the drain will be more noticeable on an iPad 2 (which has just over half the battery capacity). I appreciate that DSTV gave us the option – and won’t leave you stuck halfway through the game.

You can charge the iDrifta while it is plugged into the iDevice, but this won’t charge the iDevice, only the iDrifta. There is no way to charge the iDevice while the iDrifta is plugged in. I have seen various docking stations out there which have a pass through type connector that allows charging and using a peripheral (such as iDrifta) but haven’t tried any of these out. Still, if you charge the iDevice before use, a good ten hours of usage is possible without needing power to either device. This situation may be a whole lot worse on the iPhone. I just don’t have one to test with currently.

The iDrifta requires you update your application from 1.01.07 (or earlier) to 1.01.09 to support the detection of, and settings for the iDrifta. The application is 18.7MB so you won’t need to be on Wifi to do the update.

If you are using both a Drifta and iDrifta on your iDevice, just be aware you will need to re-pair the devices each time you swap between them. If you connect via wifi to your Drifta, and then load the application it will complain that no iDrifta can be found. You need to go back into the iDevice settings, into the Decoder settings and flick the “Reset Pairing” switch to on, then when the DSTV app loads it will go through the process. It does take 2-3 minutes to pair though and rescan channels so just be aware so you don’t miss the first few minutes of your programme.

The DSTV app on the iDevice is exactly the same as the previous version, bar the few minor changes to cater for the battery usage settings of the iDrifta.

I took a look at signal strength of the Drifta and iDrifta and could see no difference. I have 100% signal at my house on both devices so it isn’t that accurate of a test. I had no problems with picture freezing or breaking up, and have so far run it for about 20 hrs.

Since the device plugs into the bottom of the iDevice you either need to run the iDevice in landscape mode (which gives you the biggest picture anyway) or just turn your iDevice upside down so that the iDrifta is on top. Either works just fine. The case for my iPad has a built-in flip stand in landscape mode, so that works just great. The iDrifta when plugged in has quite a sturdy connection so you can easily walk around with the iPad and you don’t have to support the iDrifta. It is light enough to support its own weight.

With the older Drifta you are using a wi-fi connection between your iDevice and the Drifta. This means that you cannot be connected to the internet, so will receive no email, twitter notifications, Skype calls etc. With the iDrifta this is not the case. Your internet connection remains and you will receive your notifications. This can be a big plus if the iDevice is the only device you have with you and you are waiting for an important message or call.

Take note that you can’t connect the iDevice to a TV and expect to display the picture on the TV. Airplay also won’t work. Jailbroken devices are detected by the application and it quits with a warning.  This is all due to rights restrictions from the content providers (as DSTV Mobile tell me). There are ways around this but they don’t always work and while current versions are circumvented future ones may not. I won’t link to it here out of respect for DSTV having provided me with the review unit, but look around this site and you will find the answers you are looking for.

There isn’t really a lot more to say about this device. It has a specific purpose, it does it simply and effectively, in a tastefully design little package that suits the iDevice just fine. It is easier to use than the older Drifta, more portable.

Coming back to my opening statements, if you want to use your Drifta with anything else in addition to your iDevice, then this is not for you. If you primarily want to use it with an iDevice, then I have no hesitation in recommending the iDrifta as the one to use.


  • Small and convenient and simple to use
  • No cables, wires, fuss or mess
  • Can charge with normal micro USB cell charger
  • Almost ten hours of use with iPad
  • Will make use of iDevice battery when iDrifta battery is flat
  • No internet connection needed
  • Internet connection remains on so notifications are received


  • Won’t work unless it has at least a little bit of charge in it
  • Can’t charge the iDevice while the iDrifta is plugged in
  • Poor multi-tasking of the application
  • Can’t use TV out or airplay to stream the signal

Final rating of the iDrifta 4.5 / 5


Some information on the DSTV Mobile Service

For those people wanting some more information about the DSTV mobile service, which hasn’t been spoken about much above here are some quick thoughts. More information is available in the previous reviews linked at the top of this review. (Drifta, USB Drifta)

The DSTV Mobile service is a DVB-H mobile transmission solution. It was originally intended for cell phones and small form factor mobile devices. It is a broadcast solution so doesn’t need an internet connection (although the Android client side application insists on authentication to a server before it will work – not an issue for iDevice users). The broadcast signal is limited in quality. You get a small picture (320×240) which is a quarter of a standard broadcast signal, so don’t expect a great picture when you make it full screen. Sometimes writing (such as scoreboards) can be a bit hard to read. Unfortunately this can’t be improved with the current broadcast system.

The broadcast signal is also limited in terms of the number of locations it can be received. It is mainly in the large metro centres in South Africa and other large cities across Africa. Each country has a separate subscription system so you can’t just move around Africa and expect it to work.

The system is limited to 15 channels, some of which were allocated to etv and some to multichoice. A deal between the two puts the eNews channel on the service and allows subscribers to get all 16 channels.

If you are a premium DSTV subscriber you can use the service free until March 2013 and you will receive the Mnet mobile channel. If you are not a DSTV subscriber you must pay a monthly subscription fee (+- R50) and you will get all the channels except the Mnet channel. The Mnet mobile channel is not full Mnet as movies can’t be shown on the mobile service (license restrictions). On launch some of the channels on the mobile service were gimped useless channels full of repeat shows, on a 2 hour schedule. This has been resolved and while some restrictions are in place the channels are now decent ones.

If you are a sport lover you get Supersport Blitz, SS1, SS2, SS3 and SS4. This covers most of what you are going to want. Formula 1 fans will feel hard done by. The F1 is seldom shown, and sometimes when appearing in the TV schedule at the last minute a replay of some rugby game or something is shown instead. Very very frustrating, but then when you have Springbok Rugby, SA Cricket, Euro Soccer all being shown something has to give. For the price being paid it is great value for money.

If you are not a sports fan, then look at the channel lineup carefully. Mnet Series, Sony Max, Idols Extra, Channel O, Discovery, eNews, CNN Mobile, Cartoon network and Big Brother Africa may be enough to convince you it’s worth the money. As mentioned above, Mnet mobile is only available to premium subscribers.

In conclusion on the mobile service, it is limited in terms of channels, content and quality. As a mobile service for R50 per month, it is well worth the money.

Additional resources :



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Categories: Fun things to do, Gadgets, iPad

7 Responses

  1. q:

    I have an iphone 5s , i see it has a 30 pin connector can i buy a adapter and it will work even on IOS8?

    30.10.2014 09:24 Reply

    • Justin:

      Yes with an approved adaptor it should work no problem. Take your iDrifta with you to the store when you buy the adapter and just make sure that specific one works.

      30.10.2014 09:45 Reply

  2. victor Ayegba:

    Comment…where do get d idrafta frm pls.

    04.07.2012 08:22 Reply

    • Justin:

      Try multichoice or the iStore. They are your best bet.

      04.07.2012 13:42 Reply

  3. Stuart:

    My iDrifta won’t pick up any channels unless I turn onto airplane mode. Any suggestions?

    28.06.2012 12:46 Reply

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    24.06.2012 12:23 Reply

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