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Apple has hidden Thread radios in new iPads, MacBooks, and iMacs

New iPad Air

Apple seems to be on the cusp of incorporating Thread in many of its new products without having officially listing it in the product specs yet.

In 2020, Apple released its first Thread-enabled device, the HomePod mini, and similarly has been introduced in both the HomePod 2 and new Apple TV models.

However, it appears that Apple may soon expand its list of Thread-compatible devices. There are inactive Thread radios in most of its newly launched iPads, MacBooks, and iMacs.

According to The Verge, Apple's put Thread radios in the following models:

  • 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)

Interestingly enough, Apple doesn't actually list Thread on any of the above-mentioned devices' capabilities list, and there is presently no compatibility. However, FCC reports indicate that Apple has tested the Thread radios in its devices for compliance.

As The Verge points out, its a good possibility that Apple may be adding Thread to its devices as a means of future-proofing, as Tri-band chips — chips that bundle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread are becoming more popular.

Thread is an IP-based smart home connectivity standard. Thread-enabled devices create a mesh network that interconnects all the different devices together. With a mesh network, they can all connect and expand their reach further than any single device could on its own.

Additionally, Thread is faster and more reliable than Bluetooth and does not require a hub like competing wireless standards Zigbee and Z-wave. The inclusion of Thread on a device like an iPad or MacBook would enable the devices to work as smart home hubs and improve connection speeds for peripherals.