Apple, please bring back the AirPort Extreme

The resurrection of the HomePod gives us hope that Apple can do the same for other products that they killed off. In this age of privacy invasion by most companies and Apple being in the forefront of the fight to protect user privacy, the next frontier to protect is the home network.

Apple has built-in protection on its devices and the cloud, with Advance Data Protection, it is time to protect the data coming in and going out of the home network. The home network is not foreign to Apple as it had the Airport line before.

Today, Apple's only attempt at this is with the HomeKit support on a very limited number of home routers, and that support is even more limited to HomeKit devices. While end-point protection is great, protecting the entire network is even greater and hereis where the importance of the Airport Extreme comes in. What do I want to see on new AirPort Extreme?

Beyond the usual 10Gbps WAN, 3 x Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi-6E, a USB 3.2 port (two is better), and mesh networking capabilities, I wish that Apple will provide a built-in Unbound DNS server to keep all DNS queries local. Of course, the end user should be able to configure the upstream DNS servers. The parental controls can work with this local DNS server as well - restricting access to URLs that are known to have malware, trackers, etc.

Adding Content Caching services on the Airport Extreme can also reduce the total network traffic being transferred to and from the home network. Imagine being able to cache gigabytes of iOS, iPadOS, MacOS and tvOS software updates, Apple TV+ shows, Apple Music, and App updates, surely would improve the network performance for local devices.

No, I am not talking web browser traffic caching, nor am I saying caching users' data, i.e., iCloud, here - just Apple's content. It would be nice to have limited VLAN support - one for home automation devices, another for all other devices and another for the VPN connected subnetwork.

This protects the home automation devices, such as cameras, doorbells, locks, all other sensors, to not have access to the rest of the network. In addition, a VPN connected subnet, preferably one that uses Wireguard, can provide a subnetwork for devices, such as work and/or school computers, to be on a separate network.

Whilst there is an added complexity here, I am sure that Apple can address how ordinary users can take advantage of this feature. Networked Time Machine support on a portable storage connected via USB 3.2 port is something that I miss having. Whilst I am not looking for rclone support, but providing a way to securely, and privately encrypted using AppleID perhaps, mount the storage on Apple devices would be really useful. A firewall that allows more fine-grained, per device controls.

This definitely increases the need for more on-device storage, but having the basic configuration should not be that demanding, on storage and on processor - but hey, an A15 would run circles around these limitations. Shortcuts support is definitely a must-have. Querying for your public IP, throttling bandwidth for a device, rebooting the router, doing speed tests, asking for which device has consumed the most, etc., would be nice to launch from your Apple Watch, right?

Finally, this router can serve as an always-on HomeKit hub, which definitely provides a more stable Home network environment. At the moment, the Apple TV and the HomePod serve as the always-on hub, but you can turn these off whilst you are away, but not the router.

Whilst these added complexity might seem daunting to ordinary users who prefer plug-and-play, I am sure Apple can figure out the default settings that allow users to be fully protected after configuring their internet provider settings. And oh, no complex username-passwords needed as well - just scan the QR code and link it with your AppleID.

Pair this Airport Extreme with a couple of new Airport Express bricks to create the mesh is one configuration that I'd definitely investment in. At the moment, I am thinking of replacing these Eeros, but still can't decide which new routers to get. Apple, how about making this easy for me?