With Android 15, you’ll be able to control your Matter smart home devices via Thread

In short

  • Android 15 introduces support for the Thread protocol, which will enable supported phones to communicate with compatible smart home devices via the Thread protocol.
  • Thread is a low-power mesh networking protocol designed specifically for smart home devices.
  • For now, the only mobile devices equipped with Thread are Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max, but some Android devices may join them soon.

Building a smart home is supposed to make our lives easier, but managing smart home devices can be a pain, especially when you’re mixing and matching devices from different brands. That’s because many smart home devices only work with proprietary apps from their manufacturer. Those that support one of the larger smart home ecosystems, like Google Home, Alexa, HomeKit, or SmartThings, are often stuck in one ecosystem, limiting your device options. That’s where the Matter smart home standard comes in, with a key component being the Thread Mesh networking protocol, which will be supported on select Android 15 mobile devices.

Matter is a royalty-free connectivity standard developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, or CSA. Matter’s goal is to create an interoperable way for smart home devices to communicate. With Matter, you can connect a Matter-certified smart home device, such as a light switch or thermostat, to a Matter-compatible app or hub, regardless of manufacturer.

You can think of Matter as a universal language that smart home devices communicate with. It doesn’t replace wireless communication protocols like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but instead standardizes the way smart home devices with these radios communicate with each other.

While Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are great communication protocols because they’re so widely supported, Thread, a low-power networking protocol designed specifically for Matter’s smart home devices, has a few advantages when it comes to the smart home. Not only is Thread very power efficient, which is a big advantage for battery-powered smart home devices, but its networking nature allows devices to signal to each other and automatically adjust and route data more efficiently. As a result, Thread offers a more robust and reliable connection that’s also easy to scale.

However, Thread radios are not yet built into many devices, unlike Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which are found in many existing devices and off-the-shelf parts. That will change in the coming years, however, as more and more devices ship with Thread radios.

For example, earlier this year, Google announced that select TVs running the company’s Google TV software would be able to act as Thread border routers for the Google Home ecosystem. Thread border routers act as a bridge between devices on a Thread mesh network and a Wi-Fi network, essentially allowing Thread networks to connect to the internet.

Last year, Apple announced that the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max would feature Thread radios, making them the first smartphones to do so. Android smartphones may not be too far behind the iPhone 15 Pro when it comes to Thread radio, as the upcoming Android 15 update adds support for the Thread networking stack.

Android’s Thread networking stack has been in the works since last year and has already been ported to Android 14 so that Google TV devices running Android TV OS 14 can take advantage of it. However, Android smartphones will not support the Thread networking stack until the upcoming Android 15 release, meaning that Android phones with Thread support will not appear until after Android 15 is released.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Radio Thread

Android 15 phones that have a Thread radio, ship the Android Thread networking stack, and declare a feature flag indicating that the device supports Thread will have “Use the thread“switch under Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > ThreadEven though my Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t have a Thread radio, I managed to fake it by tricking Android into displaying the Thread settings page, as seen below.

Android 15 Thread Network Settings

Mishaal Rahman / Android Power

Enabling Thread support on a phone running Android 15 will allow that device to communicate directly with other Thread-enabled devices, without the need for a separate Thread border router (like a Google TV device) to facilitate communication. This can speed up some smart home activities, or even allow them to be run locally.

The question remains as to which Android phones will actually feature Thread Radio, but it’s likely we won’t have to wait too long before we see it.

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