Pitch: Apple should re-launch AirPorts and a range of Apple Home products

Rumor has it Apple just may be introducing their own, Tile-like tags later this year. Ones that we'll be able to use to locate things like our keys, wallets, and bags, as easily as we find our friends and devices today. In the exact same, soon-to-be-unified app, as a matter of fact.

And I'm seriously into this because it seems like an ideal application of Apple's user experience, privacy, and security oriented product model.

Rather watch than read? Hit play on the video above!

But, it also got me thinking: What other accessories could likewise benefit from that exact same approach? From getting first-party Apple versions onto the market?

Google has WiFi and owns Nest and Dropcam. Amazon owns Eero, Ring, and Blink, and has invested in ecobee.

Those are all functionally great products but, routers aside, ones that, since acquisition, have all conveniently delayed or abandoned support for Apple's HomeKit.

Which, yeah, I still think should be rebranded to Apple Home.

Ring may actually get that support and soon, but even if and when it does, there are still staggering privacy concerns when it comes to Amazon and Google products.

And, again, there are probably other acquisitions I've missed or forgotten.

Amazon has had several repeated scandals involving everything from Echo to Ring and Google has just subsumed Nest fully into its own account system, removing the last firewall privacy-conscious customers had between their data and Google's insatiable appetite.

Apple is by no means perfect in the bug department, far from it, but there's a huge difference between a bug and deliberate behavior, and between the business and policy models of these companies.

So, I'd argue, there's a giant, gaping, glaring hole in the market for customers, especially and including existing Apple customers, who truly want privacy-first products in our homes.

Now, yes, Apple can't make everything from everybody. A thousand nos for every yes, and all that. Currently, Apple is happy to leave all the kit for their home to third-party partners. Apple, the integrated, top to bottom, full stack, whole widget company is happy leaving the home, perhaps the place we need privacy and security the most, to the modular approach.

So much so, they've already killed the AirPort routers. Which, fair enough.

Despite their enormous size, there's just a limit to how many products a focus-centric company can focus on at any given time. Just look at their struggles to get everything from Macs to AirPods out in a timely fashion.

But, for the sake of this video, let's just assume Apple could find enough focus for first-party home accessories, just like they can for the Mac mouse and keyboard, and audio gear from HomePod to AirPods to Beats.

Maybe they even get a jumpstart by buying the equivalent of a Beats… if there are any left out there to buy. Whatever. Regardless.

If, super giant sized if these are the Apple Home products I'd love to see… along with some recs on what you can currently use instead.

1. AirPort

I get that Apple hard quit the router market but I'm kinda still all shades of sore about it. The router is the gateway to the internet and there just aren't that many, if any, companies I trust with my packets leaving my devices and hitting the internet outside of Apple.

On the flip side, there are also very few companies that could provide as many integrations and features for Apple devices as Apple.

It would be secure and private, sure. It wouldn't monitor your business or get all up in your traffic, but it would provide any number of services, including caching any number of Apple services, to make everything from backups to downloads to streams just work better.

It could also be a personal, private iCloud if you want local backups as well as or instead of server-side ones, including for iOS devices.

With the advent of mesh, a stand-alone router could also work with HomePods and Apple TVs, to make not just the connection to your accessories but your devices rock solid throughout your home, no matter the structure, size, or layout.

Hell, make it a HomePod mini and just take my money already.

In the meantime, check out Netgear's Orbi (opens in new tab)

2. AirLock

There are almost unlimited options when it comes to home accessories. A lot of them, though, don't scream Apple to me. Lights, plugs, even thermometers don't feel like they'd gain much from having an Apple logo on them, much less Apple engineering inside them.

That's why I'm going to stick to the ones that I really think would. Namely, the ones that involve privacy and security. And nothing says security like a lock. It's literally the icon for security.

I know there are some good smart locks on the market already. I use August and, generally, it's been fine. It'll even unlock automatically if you want it to, when it detects your iPhone within a very small geo-fence.

And that's the type of stuff, beyond even just the design of the lock itself, I think Apple could really sink their product teeth into.

The Mac, for example, can already unlock based on actual proximity of your Apple Watch, including time-of-flight calculations to prevent relay attacks.

Beyond that, even something like automatic pairing would be terrific. The current scanning system works but it feels old school, like Bluetooth in the age of AirPods.

I'd love to see that interface, the one we currently get for Apple audio accessories, used for Apple home accessories as well.

Until then, I'm using the August Smart Lock (opens in new tab).

3. AirBell

Video doorbells are great. They provide for both security and convenience. But not so much privacy, at least not the popular ones owned by Amazon and Google.

There's the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell, which can and will do everything locally or only with your personal, private Dropbox, and has a host of other, clever features, but it's not yet available yet.

Still, it feels like Apple could really do something elegant, secure, and private here. There's just so many technologies that could come into play, including Apple's push service for notifications, FaceTime protocol for voice and video, iCloud Library for storage with expiration by default and adjustable settings for immediate or some level of retention.

And, because it's Apple, there could be some level of custom silicon involved as well. Something like what the new H1 chip does for headphones or what the W-series has been doing for wireless, or even the T series for security.

Providing local processing for facial recognition, so it can tell you who's at the door before you even have to ask or they even have to announce, but in a way that's based on your personal contacts and not anything siphoning selfies off into the cloud to train drone strikes or crowd control or anything, would be huge.

Beyond even the security implications of having mics and cameras locked down at the hardware level, and the easy pairing of computational connections, there's just so much that can be gained in terms of efficiency and usability as well.

August currently makes a doorbell cam (opens in new tab), so if you're interested in their lock, you can check that out as well.

4. AirSight

The big one, of course, isn't the cameras pointing out but the cameras pointing in. Call me paranoid, call me learned, but I just can't and won't trust a Google or Amazon, or, yeah, a Facebook mic in my home, much less a camera.

Again, there have already been far too many allegations of abuse, not bugs but abuse, wherein any number greater than zero is too many.

But, the need for cameras is real as is the scale needed to offer something really robust, really useful.

Apple, though, could provide a really good camera backed by a really good service and, most important, really good privacy.

Similar to a doorbell camera, Apple knows how to stream video, how to encrypt it, how to make great interfaces and experiences that are available across and between devices, and how to keep it all absolutely locked down from everyone and anyone but you.

With all the custom security and communications silicon, on-device computer vision and machine learning, super easy pairing, and privacy-first policies to power it.

For now, though, Netatmo (opens in new tab) has both indoor and outdoor cameras with privacy-centric options you can check out.

Apple Home

Look, I'm not advocating for an Apple cappuccino machine, regardless of how much fun that'd be to see. Or Apple consumer robotics, no matter how much I'd love for that to be a thing one day, especially as autonomous technology continues to improve.

I'm advocating for privacy-centric options for our homes, not just from Apple, but from Apple so that everyone else is forced to compete with and on privacy. Not just as a word they throw out on stage to gaslight us, or deliberately try to conflate or confuse them. But real privacy they really have to really compete on.

Because that, a rock-solid present, is how you build a better future.

And, yeah, I'm not typically fond of the whole blogger or podcaster or YouTuber listicle telling Apple or any company which products they should or shouldn't make.

Like Apple isn't rich enough or big enough to prototype any product any of us could think of, years before we think of it, and run the go-to-market a hundred and eight ways to Sunday to figure out whether or not they should actually make it.

But, here's the thing: Every once in a while, if you can make a good case, you can be heard. Just ask the iPad mini…

Should Apple be in the smart home business, even if Amazon, Google, Samsung… so many platform competitors are? No. But Apple owns Filemaker. Apple owns Beats. Apple can chew gum and subsidiaries can walk too.

I don't expect a rebrand to Apple Home. I don't expect a rollout of security and privacy focused home products.

But, I'd love to see both. How about you?

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Couldn’t agree more, thanks! I hope somebody at Apple reads this one!
  • I dunno, I feel like Apple is at its best when it focuses on core products. I get they need to pivot, but services make more sense than making more hardware. I prefer Apple stick to making HomeKit (I agree it should be called Home as will) as secure as possible and leave companies like Philips and WeMo to deal with those security and privacy policies.
  • I wish Apple could do both. Airport devices were great for consumers, they could buy a router from a company that they trust. Many routers come with unsecure default settings and management interfaces from the 90s, and then the customer gets blamed for not changing the settings, which to me is victim blaming. Default settings should always be secure, in this day and age devices should "just work" and be easily configurable
  • Wow, normally I read articles by Rene and I only sort of agree or think he's a little off base. But I'm 100% on board with this! I feel like Apple got out of the router game because most people just use the router that is built into their ISP's modem. But as somebody who had Shaw's router firmware mess up some Christmas Facetime stuff this year, I'm 100% on board with Apple designing it's own Mesh system. They could even call it iMesh. (I'm sure they won't.) I'm not sure how well existing HomePods and Apple TVs would work in this regard. They'd probably need to have a new hardware revision. But if they built in chipsets that allowed Apple TVs, HomePods and other Apple fixed location hardware products to act as mesh network nodes, that'd be fantastic! Your spouse might not be happy about you spending four hundred bucks on a new HomePod... "But Honey, in addition to awesome sound, it'll also make the WiFi more reliable in the other half of the house!" This would be awesome! Also literally every other WiFi router brand these days is a privacy nightmare. Linksys is currently leaking device info all over the internet. Most routers ship with default passwords that never get changed and become part of bot networks. Even if Apple never made as much money on their investment as most router manufacturers would, they could still be a positive part of the industry. Sadly I think Apple is already looking toward where the puck will be. I think their goal with the Qualcomm cross licensing deal will be to put a modem in just about every one of their devices, so that you can pay X amount to your cellphone carrier every month and have all of your devices connecting to the internet via cellular. (Though I also would have thought that Apple would have become their own cell carrier by now. I suspect that they don't want to risk angering Verizon and AT&T. I suspect that they would like to negotiate a deal where they buy X amount of bandwidth though and function as an MVNO. (Of course Apple would want to offer unlimited and I think right now they know the the carriers would charge them more than they could make in profit off of a reasonably priced plan, so they'd rather the carriers gouge us than them directly.) I wouldn't be surprised if Apple sees Mesh WiFi as something that is only going to matter for the next five to ten years. (Realistically I think their hopes of putting in a modem in everything will take longer than 10 years to hit mainstream. Though I'm already considering paying extra for a watch with cellular already, so maybe enot.) Realistically I think Apple is trying to cultivate partners with Homekit. They don't want to be making thermostats and lights (Though they're pricy, Philips Hue is pretty fantastic and they integrate well enough with Siri). So I think coming out with door bells and locks would be more of a liability for them now. They'd rather not have to do all the work to manufacture locks when they can just have the lock makers integrate with HomeKit. (Though to be honest after installing our Schlague lock I was craving something designed by Jonny Ive. (It's a great lock but you have to connect a jumper manually and they don't give you near enough slack on the cable to do it without having small gnome hands.) As it stands I think Apple is getting ready to make the Apple TV set top box abandonware. They'd rather be on every new TV than try and win in the set top box market. (Which is kind of a shame since most of these TVs do not remotely respect your privacy. Though at the same time I don't really care about my TV manufacturer knowing how often I watch Game of Thrones. (Though people probably have some video content they'd rather their TV maker not know they watch.) To be honest I think both HomeKit, Siri, HomeKit and tvOS are all products that exist more because Apple doesn't want to let Amazon or Google own those markets uncontested. If Apple ever releases an AppleTV box after the 4K it'll be as a proper game console built for Apple Arcade that also has TV functionality built in. (And if they tried that, they'd be wise to negotiate some sort of arms length investment/ownership deal with Nintendo. Since by that point Nintendo will have a ton of portable games already optimized for ARM chips. (Just to be clear, I actually like Nintendo as separate from Apple since Apple fundamentally doesn't get video games.) As it stands Apple's focus right now is on iOS, continuing to dominate in phones, continuing to blend the iPad and Mac into one platform that offers features based on form. (This will accelerate after macOS moves to ARM. I suspect eventually it will get to the point where iOS's UI basically is a subset of macOS, if that makes sense. IE when it's on your phone it looks like an iPhone, when you're using an iPad hand held it'll feel similar to how an iPad feels now, but when you sit at a desk and prop up the iPad while using a keyboard with trackpad or keyboard and mouse it'll feel more like a desktop/laptop, and when you connect it to a multiple monitor set up the UI will behave more like a traditional desktop.) Realistically I don't think that'll be that difficult to do. Eventually the desktop will start to behave more like Spring Board. You'll have a Files/Finder App where your files are organized either by folder or tag based on the user's preference (it's all a database already on the back end). And you'll have an Apps App that acts similar to the home screen on iPhone/iPad. Then you'll have your dock where on your phone you'll only have four icons, on your iPad you'll have more, and on your desktop/laptop you'll have however many you want. And you'll drag regularly used files/folders to stay in your dock as well as Apps. Phone and tablet will probably remain app centric and desktop/laptop will start out file centric but offer the option to be App centric depending on the user's needs/wants. Actually now that I'm saying this, I'm a little surprised that Apple isn't further along in terms of tweaking macOS's UI to make this possible. ... I just realized I've been going on for a while, I'm gonna shut up now.
  • Parenthetically speaking, you just won the internet. (But you lost a few somewhere. ;-)
  • Ah yes, Apple: a company so concerned about our data that they happily take a $12bn+ bung every year to have Google as the default search browser on iOS devices, rather than using the likes of DuckDuckGo. The same Apple who have a less clear data policy than Google.
  • Google being used as the default search engine has nothing to do with Apple’s stance on privacy. Google’s search engine is the best, that’s why it’s used. If you’re not signed into Google, they can’t really take anything personal from you
  • I still see it as pure hypocrisy. If Apple were as serious about protecting our data as Messrs Cook, Ritchie et al make out, they would not take an 11 figure pay cheque from Google. A simple solution would be to allow the user to select the search tool on setup. Instead they are basically a fence for their customers' data.
  • With that "solution", 90% or more of people will just choose Google out of the list, because that's what they know and love. It's not really going to make a massive impact on privacy.
  • You still don't get it do you? It's flat out hypocritical of Apple to charge BILLIONS from Google to be the default search engine on iOS & place Google's apps in the App Store all while denigrating Google (and Facebook) for their privacy lapses. And don't give us that typical response you always give that "You can change the search engine..." or "It's the best". That is nothing more than deflection of the issue.
  • Then what is your solution? To give the user a silly popup window when they first setup their phone (amongst the several steps they already have to go through), which says "Select your search engine"? The majority will choose Google, so what's the point? You're so riled up on the money figure that you're failing to see it from a consumer point of view, where they want things to just work. The real solution is for Apple to make their own search engine, but that's a large wheel to reinvent. Larger than making their own Maps
  • Again, the consumer point of view is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Apple charging billions for Google to be the default search engine while at the same time attacking Google for privacy violations is the issue. That's called hypocrisy, good business plan or not. I have no issue with Apple making Google the default because as you've said it IS the best search engine out there no question. I have no issue with them charging billions for Google to do so. My issue is Apple's hypocrisy (or at the very least disingenuousness & lack of transparency) surrounding the issue. I wish they would say "Yes we are charging Google money to be the default search engine on iOS." etc.
  • Have they said they're not charging Google money in order to have them as the default search engine? They might not have admitted they have, Apple can definitely improve on their transparency, it sounds like that's more the issue you have, which I agree with
  • Yeah my main issue is the transparency. Google is the best search engine hands down, no question and it in turn benefits Apple. I just wish they were more open about it.
  • Of course the payment is a major bone of contention. Disingenuously criticising the business model of Google whilst at the time taking massive payments from them makes Tim look sanctimonious at best, and a downright liar at worst.
  • Maybe from a business point of view, but from the consumer's point of view, it allows them to have one of the best search engines as their default. God forbid Apple wanting to make its consumers happy and forget about dumb politics
  • You don’t seem to be comprehending the hypocrisy here. Apple is talking with both sides of their mouth. If you make a mission to slam Google’s privacy model, then you shouldn’t be making money off the same company and put them as default on your devices. That’s like me leading an anti-gun protest with a AK-47 in my backpack and making excuses like “well It’s still the best gun out there, i just won’t touch the trigger” This clearly shows Apple’s criticism of Google just out of petty competition and rivalry and not out of principle and values
  • It might be hypocritical, I'm not arguing that, but it's best for Apple because it's best for the consumer. Apple's main focus is making money, as is pretty much any business, they can't have a halo over their head at all times. But the point is, it doesn't mean that Apple doesn't care about your data, Apple isn't telling you to sign up to Google services, they're just using the search engine, knowing that most people will simply write something in the address bar on Safari, and be happy that they get relevant search results, rather than having some annoying window asking you which search engine you want to use, like the old days of that annoying Browser selection screen that came up on versions of Windows in Europe
  • well, as long as we agree its hypocritical.
  • "The router is the gateway to the internet and there just aren't that many, if any, companies I trust with my packets leaving my devices and hitting the internet outside of Apple." What? You don't "trust" NetGear? Cisco? Do you think these companies give a crap about the contents of your packets? I have news for you. Are you sitting down? The internet runs on non-Apple network hardware. Each of your packets goes thru dozens - if not hundreds - of non-Apple routers/switches/analyzers/you-name-it, as they travel from source to destination. What possible difference would a single Apple router at your house make? There is no reason in the world for Apple to make routers, doorbells or lightbulbs. This is pure fanboyism.
  • Mmmmmm. Let’s see, an apple fan site, with an article written by an apple fan, read by apple fans, speculating/wishing for unreleased apple products.... Of course it’s pure fanboyism! What do you expect! I for one agree with Rene on this but I’m also a fanboy. Get used to it! Oh but you are right about the data packets. And the fact that when you sign up to leave a comment it asks for your google/facebook/twitter accounts etc as an option. None of them spy on us at least!
  • What do I expect? I expect rational articles. Or, at least, well thought-out articles. To harp on about wanting an Apple router at home because of "trust", when the entire friggin internet runs on networking equipment without Apple logos, is just mind-numbingly stupid. "And the fact that when you sign up to leave a comment it asks for your google/facebook/twitter accounts etc as an option. None of them spy on us at least!" Speaking of that, over at Windows Central, they have a survey going on about what kind - if any - of voice assistants you might use. You know, Alexa, Siri, whatever. The punch line is that to take the survey, you HAVE to sign in with a Google account. No other option. Not even a Microsoft account! "Windows Central" REQUIRING a Google account. The mind boggles at the sheer madness of it all.
  • You can sign up with accounts from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, or just using an email.
  • I think he was wrong to say "if any companies...", but I can understand the sentiment in that many router manufacturers provide insecure settings on their routers by default, not to mention the antiquated convoluted interfaces you're required to use in order to change those settings. If they want to be trusted, the default settings must be secure, and the interface should be relatively easy to understand, and certainly display correctly on a mobile device. I don't expect Apple to make doorbells or lightbulbs, but they've proven that they can make a very good router, at least from a consumer-friendly point of view.
  • There's different elements at play here. You need to look at them differently. The security of the Router device: Both Cisco & Netgear have had their issues with device security and they still have not overcome the default settings issue. The discreet data flow going out and back can be tracked at the router. This level of information is the risky part! Once the data is mixed within all of the others on the highway you can't tell who is who, or glean the full dialog. Just like a car in your garage I can watch it leaving and arriving. It's not easy to figure out where it's going or who's in it looking over the highway with all of the other cars. But! Someone who owns the router could tag the data flow and monitor it. While they may not know what's within it it still could offer insights on what the you and your family are doing. That's why Apple needs to get back into the game! We need the next generation of AirPort devices, hence meshed WiFi home devices starting with the HomePod. I want all of my Apple home devices using Power over Ethernet (PoE) either with a discreet PoE power unit for when its alone, or if connected via Ethernet via a home PoE power injector so no power outlet is required where its placed. Making for cleaner wiring and less clutter!
  • Throughout the article Rene keeps talking about not trusting Amazon or Google. I don't see any references or sources that state that their products have had breaches or were misusing data etc. Did something bad actually happen or is that just pure speculation on Rene's part?
  • Amazon have been very lax with protecting users' data, even sending thousands of pieces of information to the wrong person after someone made a data request regarding their Alexa usage. In fact between Amazon, Apple and Google, the latter is the only one that by default doesn't store your conversations on its servers.
  • Where does it say Apple store conversations? See comment below
  • LOL, you are kidding right? They are storing all of your private data in perpetuity. Google is linking it to your "universal identifier" number that links everything about you in a massive virtual dossier, including everything you've ever searched for, clicked on, drove to, every gmail sent or received, every photo, every document uploaded, etc., etc., now along with everything you've ever said or done in front of your Googledevice. IF it wasn't creepy enough for you when that writer wrote the article about how he went on line to hear everything he had said while drunk in college from a few years ago, I don't know what would creep you out. And, of course these dossiers with every intimate detail of your life are not only available to Google, etc., but also to hackers, governments, intel agencies, etc. Again, how much of a wake up call do you need when Amazon admitted that workers in the Ukraine were listening to what was happening in homes and had the ability to identify the address, etc., that it came from??? They even asked about whether they should notify the police if they heard an assault take place. At some point in the future, people will wonder how we could go in one generation from a nation that cherished privacy, to one that so many people stopped caring about.
  • Google's privacy policy is very clear and detailed, unlike Apple's which is very fuzzy about certain aspects such as recording voices. Out of the three major voice activated assistants, it is only Google who don't automatically store your voice recordings on their servers; Apple and Amazon do.
  • Where does it say Apple store voice recordings? Not that I'm saying it isn't true, but it would seem strange given Apple's strong stance on privacy. I've been looking at this page:
    https://www.imore.com/e?link=https2F2Fc2F4... (iMore has mangled this link somewhat, it's specifically the "our approach to privacy" section I was looking at) It looks like any info that is given to Apple isn't personally identifiable, I can't find anything about storing voice recordings, I can see that it's sent to Apple, but not that it's stored
  • Last I checked, Google didn't leak out thousands of private celeb photos from cloud storage accounts because Google has supported multi-factor authentication for account logins for years ...
  • Neither did Apple, if you read what actually happened from a technical point of view rather than a sensationalist one
  • Bingo! The unique and significant value add that Apple has is for security devices, such as cameras/door locks, etc. No company can come close to their ability to create the combination of security, privacy, usability and design. In fact, it's actually a massive world-wide market where people are willing to pay a premium for what Apple can uniquely offer.