Apple's MacBook, iMac, and iPad Devices Get Matter-Capable Thread Radios — But Shh, It's a Secret

Surprise: your new MacBook, iPad, or iMac might have a Thread radio inside, but Apple's silent on why and whether you'll get to use it.

Apple may be preparing to make a deeper push into the home automation market, with recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings pointing to the presence of a IEEE 802.15.4 Thread-compatible radio in its latest MacBook, iMac, and iPad models — something the company has not yet publicly disclosed.

Apple is no stranger to the home automation market. It has its own platform, Apple Home, and worked as part of the consortium responsible for the new Matter cross-vendor home automation standard — a standard that includes the use of the Thread radio protocol for cross-device communication. Its latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max smartphones included an IEEE 802.15.4 Thread radio — and thus, in theory at least, Matter compatibility — as standard.

That feature also, apparently, extends beyond the iPhone range and into the MacBook, iMac, and iPad product families — but, for some reason, Apple isn't saying anything publicly about its presence. Regulatory filings with the FCC, unearthed by The Verge, have however spilled the beans ahead of any official announcement by the company, confirming that the radio is both present in the devices and has been tested for compliance with regulatory requirements.

The filings confirm the presence of Thread radios, on top of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and in some cases cellular radios, in the iPad Pro 13" and 11" models based on the Apple M4 chip, the iPad Air 13" and 11" models based on the M2 chip, the MacBook Pro 14" and 16" models based on M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips, the MacBook Air 15" M3, and the iMac two- and four-port M3 models. In all cases, the Thread radio is not discussed in the devices' public specifications — and Apple has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.

It's possible the presence of the radio is the result of a decision to switch to a multi-function radio module, which includes Thread as standard, and not part of a plan by Apple to offer Thread functionality in the devices. The company's involvement with the Matter standard, though, and its decision to advertise Thread support in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max suggest that it could simply be waiting for firmware or software support to expose the functionality to end users — turning the gadgets into Matter-compatible smart home controllers or bridges.

Apple had not responded to requests for comment on the filings by the time of publication, and remains silent on its thinking behind keeping the Thread radio's presence a secret.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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