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Apple Quietly Adds Thread Radios to Macs and iPads, Signaling Smart Home Ambitions

Apple has apparently integrated Thread radios into several new Macs and iPads released since September 2023, according to recent FCC reports.

This discovery, reported by The Verge and others, follows Apple’s inclusion of the Thread radio in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, unveiled last fall. Despite not being listed in the product specifications, the FCC reports confirm the presence of these radios, highlighting Apple’s increasing focus on smart home technology.

The Thread radios were identified in the following Apple models, per The Verge:

iPad Pro 13-inch (M4) (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

iPad Pro 11-inch (M4) (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

iPad Pro 11-inch (M4) (Wi-Fi)

iPad Air 11-inch (M2) (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

iPad Air 13-inch (M2) Wi-Fi

MacBook Air 15-inch (M3)

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3)

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro or M3 Max)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro or M3 Max)

iMac (M3, two ports)

iMac (M3, four ports).

Thread, a primary wireless protocol for the smart home standard Matter, is crucial for Apple’s Home app and platform. It is a low-power, low-bandwidth mesh networking protocol that offers faster speeds and better range than Bluetooth, making it ideal for smart home devices like lights, locks, thermostats, and sensors.

The Verge, citing Tom Sciorilli, director of certification for Thread Group, says the FCC mandates testing of all radios in a device to ensure compliance with transmission regulations. The FCC reports indicate testing of the IEEE 802.15.4 transmitter functionality, the standard that Thread operates on, specifically mentioning Thread.

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According to the report, Apple’s initial foray into Thread radios began with the HomePod Mini in 2020, followed by integration into the HomePod 2 and several Apple TV models. However, the inclusion of Thread radios in Macs and iPads marks a new direction for the company, hinting at potential future functionalities.

The presence of Thread radios could enable Macs and iPads to communicate directly with smart home devices, potentially turning them into home hubs or Thread border routers, according to The Verge. Although Apple discontinued using iPads as home hubs in its new Apple Home architecture, this new capability could signal a shift in strategy.

Apple has been rumored to be in the process of improving and expanding its portfolio of smart home technology, including a new hub, revamped smart home platform, and support for more third-party devices.

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