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Mysterious Apple device appears in FCC filings — but what is it?

Apple AirPort Express 2012 model
(Image credit: Fletcher6/Wikimedia)

In 2018, Apple officially discontinued its long neglected line of AirPort products, two years after the router division was reportedly disbanded (opens in new tab)

But is there potentially room for a comeback? An intriguing FCC filing (opens in new tab), spotted by 9to5Mac (opens in new tab), has got people’s hopes up. 

The listing for a product codenamed A2657 simply describes a “network adapter” and is subject to a non-disclosure agreement until November.  

Nonetheless, a few details are visible right now. It has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB-C port, and antennae for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC. Though it has an integral battery, it apparently is largely intended to be powered via USB-A. 

It features 32GB of internal storage, 1.5GB RAM and runs firmware “19F47”, which 9to5Mac deduces is an early internal version of iOS 15.5. That means it probably has Apple Silicon inside, the site reasons.

A second version is the same, but with a Lightning port instead of USB-C and for some reason this one only has 1GB RAM.

Don’t get your hopes up

It’s tempting to look at the words “Apple network adapter” and get excited about the return of AirPort for MacBooks. Networking tech has come a long way since Apple was last active in that space, and Apple’s recent embrace of privacy gives all kinds of exciting avenues for such a device. 

But a return to networking just doesn’t seem too likely in the greater scheme of things. 

It was, after all, just six years ago that the company was shifting its wireless engineers to other, more profitable, parts of the business, and with the company’s revenue continuing to grow in the intervening time, a return to networking feels like a stretch.

With that in mind, the most likely explanation is also the most dull: this probably isn’t a product that’s set to be commercially available at all. Instead, it’s probably a diagnostic tool intended for Apple technicians repairing iPhones, iPads and Macs, and therefore not intended for public consumption.

If I’m wrong and this is something more exciting, then hopefully we’ll hear more once that NDA expires in November, if not sooner.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.