2020 iPad Pro microphone has ‘hardware disconnect’ for added security


Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2020 iPad Pro
It stops software from listening in when you think your iPad is asleep.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s newest iPad Pro has the ability to disconnect its microphone when the device is not in use for increased security. The disconnect happens at a hardware level so software cannot override it — but there’s a catch.

The feature only works for you if you have the right accessories.

Apple first implemented what it calls “hardware microphone disconnect” in 2019 with its T2 Security Chip. It works by disabling the microphone in MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models as soon as their lids are closed.

Because the disconnect happens in at a hardware level, it means software cannot circumvent the block — even if it has root or kernel privileges in macOS. In other words, you can’t be spied on when you think your MacBook is asleep.

The same technology can now be found inside iPad Pro.

iPad Pro gets microphone hardware disconnect

“iPad models beginning in 2020 also feature the hardware microphone disconnect,” Apple confirms in a new support document, published this week. To enable it, however, you need an MFI-compliant iPad Pro case with cover.

This includes cases sold by Apple, and those from third-party accessory-makers that Apple has approved. When those cases are attached and closed, they disconnect iPad Pro’s microphone, preventing it from being used.

This protects your privacy even if your iPadOS firmware is “compromised,” Apple says. The only downside is that it prevents you from using “Hey Siri” when your iPad case is closed.

Not just for iPad Pro

This technology is exclusive to iPad Pro for now, simply because that’s Apple’s newest model, but it doesn’t appear to be reserved for high-end devices.

Apple’s document states “iPad models beginning in 2020,” suggesting all future iPad models will also have hardware microphone disconnect.