Apple formally announced its exit from the Wi-Fi router industry today (April 26) and discontinued its existing routers: the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme base stations and AirPort Time Capsule, which featured storage for backup with Time Machine. The company also offered some decent advice for those looking to buy a third-party router.
Apple called Tom's Guide yesterday (April 25) to inform us of the news, adding that AirPort products "will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last."
Don't fret, existing Airport owners. Apple will continue to provide support for these routers, so you don't need to worry about them becoming vulnerable to attack due to neglect from the company.
Looking for a new router? We've got our picks here, including our favorite, the Linksys WRT1900ACS. Apple told us it will soon announce a list of recommended third-party routers.
In a Knowledge Base post, Apple (opens in new tab) advised customers look for routers supporting the IEEE 802.11ac networking standard, simultaneous dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) connections, for maximizing data sent over the available frequencies, the industry-standard WPA2 Personal (AES) encryption and MIMO or MU-MIMO for those with high-speed internet connections or larger areas.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS offers most of those features, lacking only MU-MIMO, but it's still quite great without it. If money is no object, consider the Netgear Nighthawk X8, which offers blazing-fast performance, but costs $250 (opens in new tab), $50 more than the $200 WRT1900ACS.
Apple also notes that while a "traditional, single router is suitable for the size and layout of most home environments" those with larger spaces should consider "mesh Wi-Fi systems" that offer flexible coverage, with multiple nodes that make it easy to provide whole-home Wi-Fi." Based on our testing, we recommend the Netgear Orbi.
According to Apple's documentation on "vintage and obsolete products (opens in new tab)," the company will continue to provide "service and parts from Apple or Apple service providers for 5 years after the product is no longer manufactured — or longer where required by law."
Apple's unofficial exit from this business took place in 2016, when Bloomberg reported that the company had disbanded its router division and moved the engineers to other teams.
While this news is no surprise — the company hasn't released a new router model in almost 5 years — it's a sad moment for existing AirPort owners such as myself. Not only does Apple provide easy-to-use software for editing preferences, but my AirPort Extreme has outlasted most of the hardware in my apartment.
Image credit: Henry T. Casey