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Snippet: Apple Exited the Home Wi-Fi Market at the Wrong Time ☇

Shared on January 2, 2019

Bradley Chambers for 9to5Mac:

As end-users are starting to load their home networks with more than a single laptop and a few smartphones, people have realized that having a high-quality router (with whole house coverage) is not a luxury. If you want to load your house up with smart home products, multiple iOS devices, Apple TVs, etc., you have to invest in the infrastructure. Plain and simple, Apple exited the home networking business at the exact wrong time.

When Apple was selling home routers for $199, they were ahead of their time. They had built a router that was high-end, easy to manage, and worked well. Around the rest of the industry, companies were selling home routers that were hard to manage (if step #1 is to log in to an IP address, you missed it), required rebooting, and couldn’t handle the load.

There’s plenty of great arguments in this piece, as I loved my AirPort products years ago, but the harsh reality is that outside of the echo chamber of tech writers who get mesh products or other solutions, there’s still plenty of people using terrible networking equipment at home and it’s a hard sell to convince them on the infrastructure investment.

ISP-provided routers are a bit better than they were years ago, but the narratives that Wi-Fi doesn’t always work well and ISP-provided routers are “good enough” still exists, even among many technology-oriented people (typically the type who do nothing with networking and it’s an opaque mystery box). AT&T requires you use their router/modem combo, so you might as well use what’s included, right? Some ISPs offer various extenders with varying success, so again, there’s the narrative that if one type of device doesn’t work, any sort of setup won’t work.

Networking is my day job and I pride myself on a nice setup at home where all of my devices can actually use robust Wi-Fi, but I know that not everyone can do that. Instead, some of these newer solutions like Eero, Google WiFi, Ubiquiti AmpliFi, etc. bring a lot to the table for a bit of money, but I fear that too many people won’t justify the spend. That may be the real reason Apple abandoned the market.

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