By Dan Moren
April 27, 2018 8:52 AM PT
Pour one out for the AirPort line
I know Jason already posted about the death of the AirPort line, but I wanted to add my two cents, because my love of AirPort routers runs deep.
By the time I acquired my first AirPort Extreme—around the time I moved into my current apartment—I had already run through several wireless routers, dating all the way back to the early days of Wi-Fi in 2000 or so. (A time when Internet didn’t blanket every last millimeter of our everyday lives? Wild!)
In that time I’d had everything from an early model Netgear wireless router that was clearly designed for an industrial setting up through one of the classic Linksys WRT54Gs that we all had at some point—hacked to run DD-WRT firmware, naturally.
What held me back from jumping into the AirPort world at the time was the price premium. As a cost-conscious twenty-something, why spend more than $100 on a router when I could buy something for half the price that ought to work as well?
A fair question, but when I finally took the plunge (after my last router shorted out), I was reminded of the same answer I’d given to all the people who asked why I spent more on a Mac instead of a cheap PC: it just worked better.
In the following years, the AirPort line became my go-to recommendation to those who ran into network issues. I replaced at least two or three different family members’ ISP-provided router with AirPort Expresses, and convinced another to switch to the AirPort Extreme. And in all that time, my same AirPort Extreme (the flat 802.11n model) kept chugging away with hardly a hiccup.
That’s not to say the product line was entirely without flaws. A friend with an original model of the AirPort Express mysteriously lost its audio-playing abilities (that tab in AirPort Utility just disappeared—very strange). Reception in certain portions of my parents’ house was a little weak, and setting up multiple APs was not always the easiest. And, most importantly, Apple seemed content not to update the line, even as the market started to move towards mesh networking.
I get why the decision was made: Apple, huge as it is, has to prioritize. Routers could not have been a big market for the company, especially with commoditization setting in. In the same way that it’s dialing back its Server offerings, Apple is moving away from the finicky tools of infrastructure and focusing more on how people are using its technology.
But I’ll miss the AirPort line. And when it comes time to replace my current model1—or when I eventually move to a place that’s big enough that mesh networking will actually be beneficial—I’ll probably shed a tear or two. But given the state of the router market these days, I’m confident that there will be more than a few great options, including a few, like eero and Amplifi, with former Apple engineers onboard.
- Let’s be clear, I’m not replacing it until then. Your network setup is one place where the “if it ain’t broke” rule applies a thousandfold. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]
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