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Apple's AirPort Extreme: What Happened to Apple's Router?

Once upon a time, in addition to Macs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and many other devices, Apple also made internet routers.

The routers were called AirPorts, with the last iteration of them being the sixth generation AirPort Extreme. Apple's sixth-generation AirPort Extreme was released in 2013, but the AirPort Extreme it and its AirPort brethren were officially discontinued in 2018.

What were these routers like? Why did Apple stop making them? We have these answers, and we’re here to share them with you. Read on to learn the full story!

The Early Years of the Apple AirPort

The original AirPort Base Station was released in 1999, with an update in 2001 that added a second ethernet port to the device.

These first AirPort routers were round, showing the Apple logo quite prominently, along with three lights to show you how your connection was doing.

The first AirPort Extreme Base Station came out in 2003 and had the same shape as the original AirPort. However, it added an external antenna connector and a USB port to the device, and with its release, the first AirPort was discontinued.

New Beginnings and AirPort Extreme Generations

In 2004, Apple released a version of the AirPort Extreme that supported Power over Ethernet.

Related: What Is Power Over Ethernet (PoE) and What Are Its Benefits?

At this point, the AirPort Extreme could be placed in air-handling spaces to allow up to 50 users to connect to the device at once.

2004 also saw the release of the AirPort Express, a portable router that could also play music, charge iPods, and allow printers be used wirelessly. The AirPort Express saw an update in 2008 and a redesign in 2012, and its AirTunes feature preceded Apple’s AirPlay functionality.

The AirPort Extreme was the primary router that Apple worked on and sold. In 2007, the Extreme was given a new design, and this new square shape with rounded corners saw improvements from a 802.11b/g wireless standard to a 802.11a/b/g/n wireless standard.

This new design was labeled the first generation of the Extreme, the 2003 model considered the “original.” The second generation of the Extreme was released in 2007, and this brought Gigabit Ethernet to the device.

An Era of Apple AirPort Extreme Updates

The third and fourth generations of the AirPort Extreme both came out in 2009, and the fifth generation came out in 2011.

These models introduced antenna improvements and the ability to use Time Machine, which let users back up an Apple computer to an external device.

This Time Machine capability reflected the 2008 release of the AirPort Time Capsule. The Time Capsule was a router with a 500GB or 1TB hard drive. In 2011 the hard drive options included 2TB or 3TB options instead. A user could use the Time Capsule to back up their Mac wirelessly via Time Machine, as well as using it to access the internet.

The AirPort Time Capsule got the same redesign as the sixth-generation AirPort Extreme in 2013. This new tower model was rectangular and much larger than previous generations. The AirPort Express, meanwhile, took on the shape of early Apple TV models in 2012.

End of the AirPort Line

These 2012 and 2013 redesigns and updates added speed and additional USB ports to the AirPort routers. But they were the last hardware updates ever made to the AirPort routers as well.

In the end, the team that worked on the AirPort models was disbanded by Apple in 2016. It took two years for Apple to stop producing its routers, but they were officially discontinued in 2018.

So Did the AirPort Line Stand Out At All?

The simple answer to this question is no. Apple's AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and AirPort Time Capsule were never bad routers—they had sufficient speed and connectivity that they worked well in most households—but they never stood out.

The problem was that the AirPort line paled in comparison to other routers on the market. Other routers were faster and started offered improved speeds much sooner than the AirPort routers. AirPort routers, in true Apple style, were also more expensive than other routers with similar specifications.

The AirPort line had its advantages: it was easy to set up right out of the box, and its relatively attractive design meant it wasn’t an eyesore to have one visible in your home.

But this wasn’t enough to make the AirPort a best seller. A 2003 press release from Apple shows that the company sold only 150,000 Airport Extreme products in one quarter. The presence of the press release indicates that these were high numbers for the AirPort Extreme at the time.

A 2008 report from Apple Insider showed the AirPort line was the top-selling 802.11n router for “five of the last nine months,” but that was for just that router type, not internet routers as a whole.

It makes sense that Apple decided to get out of the router game and focus on devices that sell better. But at least in developing the AirPort Extreme and its various spinoffs, Apple created tech that could carry over to its other devices.

The Legacy of AirPort Routers

The AirPort router line may be discontinued, but much of the technology Apple developed for it lives on in many other Apple devices.

AirPlay, and other wireless technology with Apple TV, came about thanks to work completed with the AirPort Express.

AirDrop and the sharing of files and data between Apple devices has its origins here too, as well as with the AirPort Time Capsule. Some Time Machine functionalities can be traced to the Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme wireless backups, too.

The AirPort routers also physically live on. Apple isn’t making new ones, but there are still firmware updates you can get for them to keep them secure and functioning. So if you still have an AirPort router, you can keep it going for a while longer.

It’s still worth looking for alternatives to the AirPort routers though. You can get better routers with newer tech and even pay less for them.

Image Credit: othree/Flickr

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Jessica Lanman (44 Articles Published)

Jessica has been writing tech articles since 2018, and in her free time loves knitting, crocheting, and embroidering tiny things.

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Should I Buy the Apple AirPort Extreme?

Suggestion on Buying the Apple AirPort Extreme:

Although the Apple AirPort Extreme router lacks advanced functionality, it succeeds as a wireless router in terms of performance and appearance.

Although the Apple AirPort Extreme is costly, it provides the greatest experience in a variety of ways. The lack of some complex functions may turn off power users, but this router is hard to top in terms of wireless speed.

Buy the Apple AirPort Extreme

What is the Best Apple WiFi Router to Buy? A Comparison of AirPort Models

The AirPort Extreme includes six internal antennas (Apple claims the antennas are at the top, creating a higher platform for signal dispersion), allowing it to support simultaneous dual-band wireless networks and all wireless frequencies.

However, only a few ports are on the back: one USB 2.0 port, three-gigabit ethernet LAN connections, and one ethernet port for a WAN connection.

The router was created with simplicity in mind, whether you're using a Mac, an iPhone, or an iPad to set it up. Instead of the traditional web browser-based administrative interface, OS X has a special software called AirPort Utility.

It recognizes the router immediately, and the settings panels load faster than on a browser-based interface. However, updating some settings still necessitates a full reset.

The AirPort Extreme (version 6) has dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11ac wireless, a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port for connecting to a DSL modem, cable modem, or Ethernet network, a USB2 port for connecting a USB printer or hard drive, and three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for connecting to a computer, Ethernet hub, or networked printer.

Pros:

  • Excellent performance,
  • attractive design,
  • and simple setup

Cons:

  • Costly
  • and lacking in advanced features

Apple AirPort Extreme Review: Speed Tested

Both the 802.11n and 802.11ac wifi bands have excellent performance. It hit one of the highest peak 802.11ac speeds we've ever observed, at 706Mb/s, before settling down to a still-impressive average of 578 Mb/s at short range and 540Mb/s over the longer 10m range.

We also got good results with 802.11n, with an average of 105Mb/s at long range.

Apple AirPort Extreme Review: Design

One of the most striking looks we've seen in networking gear is the AirPort Extreme. Despite being three years old, the design is ageless and worthy of Jonathan Ibest ve's work. It has the same footprint as the Apple TV but is 168mm taller. In addition, it's enclosed in a smooth, glossy white plastic, creating an appealing product that skillfully conceals its boring function.

The built-in internal Power Supply Unit (PSU), which requires only a short figure-8 wire to power rather than additional power brick to conceal somewhere in your home, is also a pleasant enhancement.

A little status light on the front shines green while everything is working well and flashes amber when something goes wrong. A USB port can be used to connect an external hard drive.

This version, which was first released in 2013, may look to be out of date, but it's still one of the fastest wireless routers we've tested and is perfect for any Apple fan. It's also cross-platform compatible so that aspiring Windows users can get their Apple fix.

As the Apple Time Capsule, you can buy the Apple AirPort Extreme with built-in backup storage. The Apple Time Capsule is essentially an AirPort Extreme with a storage capacity of 2TB (£299/$299) or 3TB (£399/$399).

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Apple Airport Extreme and Time Capsule (2013): Unboxing \u0026 Setup Demo

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lord god, we all to thee give praise,
thanksgivings meet to thee we raise,
that angel hosts thou didst create
around thy glorious throne to wait.

they shine with light and heav’nly grace
and constantly behold thy face;
they heed thy voice, they know it well,
in godly wisdom they excel.

they never rest nor sleep as we;
their whole delight is but to be
with thee, lord jesus, and to keep
thy little flock, thy lambs and sheep.

the ancient dragon is their foe;
his envy and his wrath they know.
it always is his aim and pride
thy christian people to divide.

as he of old deceived the world
and into sin and death was hurled,
so now he subtly lies in wait
to ruin school and church and state .

a roaring lion round he goes,
no halt nor rest he ever knows;
he seeks the christians to devour
and slay them by his dreadful power.

but watchful is the angel band
that follows christ on every hand
to guard his people where they go
and break the counsel of the foe.

for this, now and in days to be,
our praise shall rise, o lord, to thee,
whom all the angel hosts adore
with grateful songs forevermore.

.
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