Apple’s newest Macs and iPads ship with hidden Thread radio


Apple Magic Keyboard for M4 iPad Pro
Apple could be future-proofing its Macs and iPads with this move.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhone 15 Pro and 2nd gen HomePod are not the only Apple devices to ship with a Thread router. The company has secretly shipped all its recent iPad and Mac models with the smart home radio as well.

Unlike on the iPhones though, the Thread router is not active. This could explain why Apple has not advertised its inclusion in the specs page of its new Macs and iPads.

All new Macs and iPads feature a built-in smart home router

The Verge came across FCC reports indicating all Macs and iPads shipped since September 2023 feature a built-in Thread router. This includes the M3 iMac, M3 Pro MacBook Pros, and the 2024 iPad Pro and Air models.

The FCC’s rules require companies to test and certify all radios in their devices before launch. And Apple obviously cannot test a radio that’s not there. But the question remains: why did Apple not activate the Thread radios inside its new Macs and iPads?

This is not the first time Apple has silently shipped a radio or sensor in its devices. The HomePod mini shipped with a hidden temperature sensor, which Apple only got around to activate nearly three years after its launch. Besides the HomePod and iPhone, the 4K Apple TV can also act as a Thread router since it has the necessary radio.

Matter is the next big smart home standard

Matter is a new smart home standard backed by many big industry players like Apple and Google. It uses Thread as the primary wireless protocol for communicating with other devices.

Apple could eventually turn on the Thread radios inside its new Macs and iPads, turning them into a router for your smart home devices. It will also enable them to act as a Home hub for HomeKit devices.

The report speculates several other reasons behind Apple including a Thread radio in its new iPads and Macs. It could be futureproofing, or it could be that the radio is a part of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip bundle that Apple used. The company might also plan to use Thread in innovative ways in the future. Whatever the case, only time will tell how useful the Thread radios inside the new Macs and iPads are.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.