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Where did the wi-fi go?

Apple has numerous products that rely on wi-fi, yet they no longer have a router. Why?

You name it, and any number of Apples devices live and breath by their connection to the outside world. It’s all about wi-fi. Yet, oddly, Apple does not sell a wi-fi router, at least not any more. If you were to travel back in time, around 5 or 6 years ago, we had a few options from which to choose. There was the AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme, but since their take-down, Apple have not set foot back in the market.

The route back

Apple has stood by and watch their competitors launch products like Googles Nest, the Amazon Nero or even Samsung’s SmartThings, but still, they seem wary of re-entering the marketplace. But it seems they could already have the answer staring them straight in their faces. This could be the one time that Apple doesn’t need to over-egg-the-pudding – or, in other words, over-engineer the answer. No, rather than looking to create a brand-new router, why not make a router out of what they already produce? They could make a router from a product that has already made returns on their R&D dollar. What am I talking about? My vision is an ecosystem of mesh routers using HomePods, HomePod Mini’s or Apple TV. Devices that are literally scattered about our homes now, which could easily be transformed to supply a unique home network solution. Apple’s USP, has always been about being unique. Standing out from the crowd. Not being afraid to innovate. It would almost be doing what Apple do best – a combination of hardware and software and of course including services and apps as well.

We’ve seen it before

What I am suggesting, is not revolutionary to Apple, either. We have seen this same thing occur only recently, with the Studio Display. With that panel, they didn’t take the easy option. Instead, they Apple-ised it. They could simply have put an aluminium body around the already outsourced LG panel. But no – they took a new look at what a panel could be. Whilst some may argue that it is over-priced, what they have done, is taken panels in a new direction, with a fresh, bold approach. It has its own firmware, runs the A13 Bionic chip, the same chip used in iPhone 11 and iPad 9, and they didn’t stop there. They added noise-cancelling microphones, a Center Stage webcam, Spatial Audio, TrueTone and even SmartHDR technology. Love it or hate it, this is what Apple does best. Apple briefly tried outsourcing their routers, even attempting to help third-party suppliers with HomeKit Secure based routers, but it just ended up not being unique enough for Apple. It didn’t live & breathe their DNA.

Where do they start

Currently, the clarion call in wi-fi is wi-fi 6E, simply because it’s the best that is out there. Set-up would be super simple, almost non-existent, actually. Then we could hope to see varying models depending on user needs. Say an AirPort mini, with the A13 chip inside. On set-up, say in a small apartment, it would be perfect, and of course, being part of the Apple ecosystem, it would link all your devices to it via iCloud, so no logging in. But then, as your needs grow, or in larger homes, the mini flourishes to a pro! Any stationary Apple products dotted around your home, in theory, (in my mind at least), become part of the mesh network. So, the mini next door, is talking to my Mac in the study, which in turn talks to my HomePod mini in the bedroom. Sure, buy another mini if you really need to spread the network, say to the end of the garden. But in essence, every-time you add to your Apple lineup, it could, quietly, invisibly and powerfully be adding to your mesh-style network. Brilliant, or have I had too much Easter sun?

It’s only the start

They could have some storage on board, harking back to the Time Capsule (I still have one actually!), so that devices on your network could sync and back-up automatically. Maybe you could even log in to it and moderate the kid’s screen-time, or have some kind of HomeKit functionality built in as well. It is not inconceivable that at some-point in the future, Apple may even dip their corporate toes in to the full-blown home entertainment market. Then, the theatre system in your TV room or sitting room jumps in on the action as well. And if you are gaming on the VR headset in that same room, the connectivity, and limits seem boundless.

Concluding

As I said earlier, Apple seems to be back in the saddle with ingenious thinking at last. Yes, the Studio display is not fault free, not by any stretch, but, it shows off what they represent perfectly. Hardware, software, and services all bundled up in one glorious device. We all buy in to the Apple brand for one reason or another. I know some of what I have written sounds a flight of fancy, but, close your eyes and picture your home fully Apple’d up, never leaving the glorious design and network of the Californian tech-beater. Yes, far-fetched, but, out of the question?

What do you think? Does the thought of adding to your network simply by adding another device to your home appeal? Would you be up for a mesh style, Apple network around your home? No more boring black routers, hidden on the sideboard, instead colourful, bold Macs and HomePod minis doing the job stylishly for us.

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Originally published at http://talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on April 20, 2022.

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