It was a sad day when the hard drive in my Apple AirPort TimeCapsule finally died after 10 years and three international moves. Despite trying a range of Wi-Fi routers over the years, the Apple AirPort range delivered some of the best performance and was by far the easiest to connect.
Apple disbanded the AirPort team in 2016 and so now the only option for users is to buy a third-party Mesh network, like the ones offered by Linksys. I must admit, the Linksys Atlas Max 6E is an excellent router but I always hoped the AirPort would return. I just couldn't see how.
Despite my wishes, it seemed unlikely that Apple would do a 360 and bring AirPort back as a standalone product. Though after the launch of the Studio Display, maybe not impossible. However, I missed a potentially genius idea.
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg (opens in new tab) suggests a solution: put the AirPort technology into an Apple HomePod mini. This makes perfect sense. The idea of these small smart speakers is to have one in every room so that you can communicate with it easily and create multi-room audio. The other thing you need in pretty much the same place is a Mesh Wi-Fi node. So if your Mesh Wi-Fi node was your smart speaker it would be two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Netgear's Orbi does this already with Amazon Alexa and a Harman Kardon speaker built into its Mesh Wi-Fio extender, and Sonos uses its own closed mesh network to connect its speakers. I'm surprised Amazon hasn't done with its Echo and eero devices.
A HomePod with Mesh would definitely be a huge advantage to anyone looking to upgrade to a Mesh system as well as a reason to pick an Apple smart speaker over a Google, Amazon or Sonos. I don't think we'd be likely to see the return of a hard drive in there too like the AirPort Time Capsule, especially with a push to use iCloud. But I'd settle for just a return to that AirPort Utility app for connecting to my network any day.