Is Apple really abandoning the AirPort Extreme?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by redheeler, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. redheeler macrumors 603


    Oct 17, 2014
    Today I was reminded of just how easy these things are to work with. Picked up a used 2013 AirPort Extreme 802.11ac for $45 to upgrade the 2011 model I'd been using. I plug in and press the reset button, connect to it using the utility, and am immediately prompted to transfer over the settings. Up and running in a matter of minutes.

    Its been eight months since we first saw the rumor that Apple is shifting resources away from AirPort wireless routers, and haven't yet heard anything official to indicate that's the case. It makes me wonder if, perhaps, Apple is simply waiting for the next big advancement in wireless technology. The 2013 AirPort Extreme 802.11ac remains decent, despite being a few years old at this point, although I personally wouldn't pay full price for one.

    I'm curious what your thoughts are on this.
  2. QzzB macrumors regular


    Mar 7, 2015
    I believe that the story might of been misreported. The team working on AirPort was reassigned. There wasn't a announcement about not making, distributing and supporting the current model

    I agree as I replaced my WiFi with 2 x Apple AirPort extremes and i get 100% coverage and also full speed through my Internet - faster than the provided router from my ISP
  3. Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    It remains to be seen. If the story was false, great. If true, ugh.

    I mean look Apple, you're selling an ecosystem and you've got your iOS devices and your Apple TV and your Macs and your HomePod... So of course the hub of all that needs to remain an Apple product as well. It's important for consistency, familiarity and stability, but it's also symbolically important, since all those products are worthless without home networking and internet access and thus shouldn't have to rely on a third party product for that. All those shiny Apple gadgets lining up like orphans at a soup kitchen going "please Mr D-Link, can I borrow a LAN IP number please?" and Mr D-Link in his top hat laughs derisively and goes "Perhaps, but only if you dance for me. Dance!" So.. degrading.
  4. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68020

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Rumors are rumors. The things are still for sale.

    I think the timing is wrong to make a decision on whether the rumors may be true or false. The logical time to see a refreshed Wi-Fi product lineup would be later this year, when HomePods go on sale. The more I think about it, the more I believe Apple may overhaul its entire wifi ecosystem at that time. (Perhaps the current AirPort team was reassigned because this hypothetical project is in the hands of an entirely separate team?)

    It seems to me that Apple is downplaying HomePods' ability to function as a smart home hub. Perhaps the "Home" in HomePods refers more closely to HomeKit than we've been lead to believe (might Apple have its own line of smart lights, locks, thermostats, etc. in the works?). If so, the quality of the wifi network becomes even more important to the success of Apple's products. It seems very un-Apple for them to abandon such a key part of the infrastructure just at the time they're becoming more reliant upon it. On the contrary, end-to-end control of the wifi experience becomes even more important.

    The same is true regarding expanded dependence on cloud-based services (today, iCloud Photo Library, Apple Music streaming, and the Mac's Documents and Desktop folders, tomorrow, iCloud Time Machine??). A poor wifi network means trouble with the backup.

    Competitively, it's not easy for Apple to sell base station-style routers - most cable/DSL installations come with a service provider-supplied router. To me, it makes more sense for Apple to offer ways to improve the performance of the existing network.

    The demands being put on the home wifi network are only going to increase. The single-router home is becoming harder to sustain - that router is almost always located wherever internet service enters the home, rather than the location that would allow for the best radio coverage. If there are multiple wifi-dependent devices in every room, range extenders in particular become more important. Well, not only range extenders, but supplemental networks (like Sonos BOOST) - dual-band routers may not be enough.

    This fall might be a good time to introduce a refreshed AirPort Express - Express has not yet been upgraded to 802.11ac, while AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule have been. It may also be time to offer media server/DVR capabilities - if iPad is all the computer a person needs, Mac-as-media-server is the wrong approach.

    My prediction is that we'll see two new/upgraded products in the fall - an easy-to-setup range extender, priced around $50-$75 (AirPort Express without the I/O ports and base station capability), and an 802.11ac AirPort Express. Maybe also a media server with Time Machine capabilities playing second-fiddle. I'm also thinking that, perhaps, Apple has chosen to not yet announce that HomePod's smart home hub capabilities include a built-in range extender.

    A further prediction is that, as with AirPods, Apple will add some proprietary hardware capabilities that will make the setup/addition of Apple wifi-enabled devices even easier than using AirPort Utility - something that beats Sonos' setup procedure. If they follow this route, expect the capability to be added to every new wifi-equipped Apple product.
  5. kohlson macrumors 6502a

    Apr 23, 2010
    I believe the team was "re-assigned." This makes sense to me because 1) it happens all the time in the corporate ecosystem, and 2) hard to imagine there was a team of people waiting around for the next rev of the 802.11 standard. Airports are awesome, but they were built on two things imho: ease of use and performance. Those are necessarily what the market is looking for. Will Apple assemble a wi-fi development team again, if indeed it ever blew it up to begin with? Most likely.
  6. techwarrior macrumors 6502


    Jul 30, 2009
    I have been speculating this and perhaps ATV taking on hotspot roles to replace the need for AP Express.

    802.11ac and dual band are clearly insufficient for the future of home networking. Mesh networks are starting to catch on, and rumors that 5G will bring 1Gbps home internet service wirelessly from carriers, perhaps even before mobile phones, at a lower price than current DSL\Cable service begs for improvements in home Wi-Fi to keep up. ATV and\or Home Pods extending the Wi-Fi via Mesh could help considerably. Plus, these products will improve over time, leading to greater lifecycle upgrade opportunities than basic networking offers to Apple. I believe the lack of clear differentiation and slower product upgrade cycles make Airport standalone products less profitable\desirable to Apple.

    I have also been speculating a Media\Home server type of solution might be in the cards. Apple is steering the market away from desktop\laptop dependence. I wonder if a Mac Mini Home Server edition might be in the cards. It could replace AP Extreme\TC and offer iTunes media, Time Machine, and networking as well as a light version of the current Server app for managing devices centrally (thinking Home Pod\ATV\HomeKit). Further, with rumors of over the air wireless charging being in the works, an ATV\HomePod\Home Server could also deliver charging throughout an Apple user's home.

    Apple (rightfully) understands that competing toe to toe with the likes of Belkin\Linksys\Asus\TPLink in the Wi-Fi arena is tough. But, if they took a different approach and made networking a secondary function to other products that just work together, Apple users would find little reason to consider limited function networking gear from their competitors who would be unable to match the functionality that an Apple end to end solution could deliver.

    One other thing I have been speculating about is Time Machine updates to support some of the APFS features. APFS will eventually be open source, but Apple rarely delivers the entire functionality via Open Source. As High Sierra roles out, I expect Time Machine updates via Airport FW updates may be coming.

    So, in short, I doubt Apple will abandon networking, but I do expect them to abandon Airport standalone products in time. Likely, they will upgrade AP FW for several years, they do that with other products, so a 5 year support for current generation AP products is likely, though you may find it compelling to consider upgrades sooner if they deliver more functionality on replacement products. In the mean time, AP Extreme is on par with most networking gear out there today, clearly not the best product for networking, but not a bad bet due to simplicity.
  7. RnR macrumors member

    Oct 28, 2009

    So, to buy or not to buy?

    I have a rather full 1TB Time Capsule (7yr old) which I use for back up and wifi.
    Was contemplating buying an Airport Time capsule 3TB
  8. GustavPicora macrumors member

    Jan 22, 2010
    I bought recently an Airport Extreme, no Time Capsule. and connected to it a MAS WD Single bay MYCloud with 4Tb. I had before a TP-Link (ac) router, but on the far side of the apartment my download speed was aprox 10mbs, and I have a 500Mbs Internet connection. After setting up the AE, on the same far side I get 200mbs download speed, and if Im inside the same room where the AE is, I get aprox 470+ Mbs.

    So before I bought the AE I read the same news as mentioned here, but given the performance and ease to use, I went for it, and I don't regret it.
  9. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Yes, we get the picture. Pie in the sky ideas though.
    NZ has proven that using cellular for fixed wireless internet is not a good idea when more than a dozen users get on one cell tower, and is barely as good as ADSL.
    5G fixed wireless internet would be as useless as VDSL with moderate amounts of usage also.
    OTA wireless charging won't work for physical reasons, air moisture will make it dangerous. Also, it wouldn't be useful in 240v nations where power is more safe than the unswitched wall sockets favoured by the USA.
  10. Anuba, Jul 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017

    Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    Considering how widespread the story about Apple shutting down AirPort product development was, you'd think Apple would've dismissed it as an unsubstantiated rumor by now had it been way off base.

    Under Cook, the goodwill wiggle room seems to have gone from minimal to non-existent. Apple now wants its unique ultra-profit margin on every single thing it makes, or they'll stop making it. In order to persuade consumers to pay the Apple premium, they used to come up with stuff like the Thunderbolt 27" display or Time Capsule – built from pedestrian and occasionally outdated LG and Broadcom components, not solid gold – and add an Apple ecosystem twist like aluminum+MagSafe+Thunderbolt+FaceTime HD cam or Time Machine backup+AirPort Utility integration. If consumers still aren't convinced, Apple gives them two middle fingers and pulls out of the market segment altogether, as they did with displays recently. And if they did it with displays, I reckon they wouldn't hesitate to pull the plug on AirPort either.

    The only way Cook will reconsider is if you convince him to launch a Pro line for money-is-object customers. He was probably up to his knees in his own drool when someone pitched him the idea of an iMac "Pro" line that STARTS at $5000. So the rumors of Apple-branded displays being revived for the Pro segment are probably true. It'll cost $2000 and the marketing copy will feature the word "gamut" about three times per sentence, but still... it's coming.

    But the thing with AirPort products is that there's no opening for a "Pro" line. Nobody's gonna want to pay $1000 for an Apple-branded equivalent of mesh WiFi 3-packs like Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop, and if nobody's paying $1000 for it, Cook ain't getting out of bed.
  11. LewisChapman, Jul 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017

    LewisChapman macrumors 6502a


    Jan 10, 2015
    This is exactly how I see it now... thanks for that. :D

    With TC at the helm of Apple I don't think anyone can really predict what will happen next but fortunately the latest Airport Extreme was quite ahead of it's time and we still have a couple more years of up-to-date tech.

    It would make sense for Apple to stay in the market and continue investing in it - I know a lot of home networkers that just want an solid, easy to setup connection that they don't need to reboot once a day to get devices moving. Here in the UK the only issue faced is the need for an exterior modem which many ISP-provided routers have built in.. maybe thats the next addition to the AirPort Extreme feature list!

    Mesh networking is kicking off and who better than Apple to introduce a simple single button-press setup process.

    Fingers crossed.
  12. techwarrior macrumors 6502


    Jul 30, 2009
    Current Get Extreme vs TC... If you have a good USB drive connected to Extreme, that is as good as TC. Buy now vs wait, well that is a $64K question. Current get Airports will be supported for some time to come, but might become obsolete if Apple decides to do something, and I don't expect a minor refresh, but rather a game changer.

    I am quite happy with 2TB TC (ac model). I also have an older Extreme, and 2 Expresses to cover my home (1 Express is just an airplay "client").

    Current Airport products suffer from the same challenges other Wi-Fi vendors are struggling with. Mesh is the best emerging idea, but gen 802.11ax specs are approved and QComm is close to releasing chips for this. 802.11ax clients probably won't emerge until next year, so widespread adoption will realistically be 2-3 years out. 802.11ax aims to address a few shortcomings of current Wi-Fi, including using both 2.4 and 5Ghz frequencies simultaneously, allowing multi-user MIMO streams and theoretically reaches 4.8Gbps speeds. But, it will still suffer from interference on 2.4 and 5Ghz frequencies. MU-MIMO will help reduce contention, but not improve range or reduce interference.

    Mesh can work with any Wi-Fi standard, it is an implementation strategy and not a new protocol standard. Given timing, it may be Apple will wait for the ax standard to take the next step, Given the current disputes between Apple and QComm, I suspect ax is not going to arrive on Apple gear anytime soon, they may wait till Intel or others answer the call...

    All this to say, next gen Wi-Fi is still a ways off. If you can get by with your current setup, Airport is adequate and should meet your needs for the interim.
  13. kohlson macrumors 6502a

    Apr 23, 2010
    If you're handy, and the wi-fi part meets your needs, why not upgrade just the disk. ifixit has the details. I upgraded my circa 2012 2TB TC with a 4TB drive. Pretty straightforward - took me about 30 minutes to physically swap the disk.
  14. Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    Yeah, that's how it used to be. Apple used to bring the latest wifi tech to consumers before everyone else. As a matter of fact, it was 18 years ago (July 21, 1999) that Jobs unveiled the first AirPort Base Station at Macworld. Sure, it wasn't the first WiFi tech (just like the iPod and the iPhone weren't the first portable mp3 player and smartphone), it was a Lucent gadget in Apple wrapping, but it was Apple that made WiFi it a household thing by assembling an attractive package solution with an easy to remember name like AirPort instead of 802.11zywz84332 dot blah slash 24 dot blerg.

    Apple managed to remain fairly innovative in wifi tech for as long as Jobs was around and a couple years more (=for as long as "his" product pipeline lasted), but now...? Netgear and Linksys are far ahead with the mesh thing, and their products are no longer ugly black plastic spiders that you instinctively hide away in cabinets. Velop and Orbi aren't bad looking at all - although regrettably, the elegance is only skin deep. The cheapness becomes apparent as soon as you spot the external power bricks. Lazy.
  15. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    I think WiFi really got its push from the client side with the iPod Touch and iPhone. When WiFi was still really new, those who were deploying it understood what the 802.11 standards and was a luxury item.

    These days, Apple's AP solution just isn't worth it. There are better solutions to be had for less than $200, many that support IPv6 very well.
    I'm not a fan of power bricks either. The only advantage to them is you can replace them easily if they fail.
  16. heimbachae macrumors regular


    Aug 1, 2011
    so i've got a more general question: are they reliable? i went to before swinging in here and the 1 star reviews are nearly as many as the 5 star. people saying they crapped out after a year?? i've had my basestation for around 10 years now and it works but i'd like to upgrade.
    anyone have issues with fan noises or units just not working?
  17. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040


    Jan 14, 2002
    South Dakota, USA
    I have a current 802.11ac AirPort Extreme that I purchased just over 3 years ago. It's still running fine. I only use it as an access point because I have an Arris gateway that handles the router part. Whether or not that makes it run cooler I'm not sure. The biggest weakness of the current Extreme is the fan inside. Sure it's nice not to have a power brick or vents in the top, but with that little fan running 24/7 it's only a matter of time until it dies.

    If I wanted a new stand alone Wi-Fi router I'd consider the router only Amplifi from Ubiquiti. You can also add the mesh points later if you like, but it's a very nice router with good reviews and retail is $149.99. It also comes from a company that does a lot of commercial systems so I think it would be a good choice.
  18. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I have a 2013 2TB time capsule and there is definitely a difference between this and an airport extreme with an external drive. External drives are REALLY slow on either a time capsule or extreme. Here is what I get with the internal drive on the time capsule.


    And this is an external disk plugged into the time capsule. Quite a difference...


    More discussion here:

    Of course, this might not matter a lot if the time capsule is just backing up small amounts of data with time machine.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 27, 2017 ---
    Mine is still fine after 3 years. I had one incident where time machine said it failed an integity check and I needed to erase and start over, losing my old backups. That was a bit annoying but I think it was related to wifi issues while using my MacBook Air outside on the porch and not any kind of hardware problem. That was two years ago and no problems since then.

    No fan noise issues, but the the disk access on the time capsule is pretty noticeable in a quiet room. It was always like that however and probably unavoidable on a device with a mechanical hard drive.

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