Apple is discontinuing its line of wireless routers, including its AirPort Extreme base station and AirPort Express, both of which support simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity and can be configured and managed through an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. It’s a somewhat surprising move when there is so much focus in the tech industry on the fast growing Internet of Things (IoT) market and connecting homes, though the writing has been on the wall for more than a year.
In late 2016, Apple dismantled its AirPort division and reportedly reassigned employees who had been developing the company’s branded routers to other projects. Once Apple disbanded the AirPort team, it was really only a matter of time before it bowed out of the router space altogether, and that is what’s taking place now. Apple’s plan is to sell is remaining inventory of AirPort products, and then be done with the category.
Even though this day was inevitable, it feels like a strange move, especially from a company that has built a booming business on identifying or otherwise creating consumer trends. So why move out of the connected space?
“The original AirPort wasn’t really ours, we bought that,” a person familiar with the situation told AppleInsider. “[Apple] supported that for a very long time, even after we built our own, reorganized the division, and some of the guys we brought on to advanced the platform were twice removed.”
It was a good run, at least—the AirPort dates back to 1999. Apple started building its own AirPort products in 2003 starting with the AirPort Extreme, and have carried them ever since. However, Apple’s routers have not seen any major updates in half a decade. And more recently, the Linksys Velop series became the first third-party router line to appear in Apple’s online and brick-and-mortar stores.
In preparation for life after the AirPort, Apple has put together a support document on what customers should look for when shopping for a wireless router to use with their iPhones, HomePods, and other Apple products. It’s a pretty basic checklist, followed by a recommendation to consider a mesh Wi-Fi system for areas that are larger or otherwise more difficult to cover.