Remember the Airport Express? The little base station that could, Apple’s Airport Express was the size of a power adapter, but inside it packed a Wi-Fi base station, plus the ability to attach a set of speakers via a headphone jack and receive streaming music from iTunes running on your computer. The feature was dubbed AirTunes, and was a precursor to AirPlay, which lets you share video and sound from an iOS device to an Apple TV.
Well, it looks like Apple is about to refresh the Airport Express, perhaps giving it a signal boost like its other stablemates. The Airport Extreme base station and Time Capsule devices both received quiet updates in June, with some changed components and a marked increase in signal strength.
According to AppleInsider, a source says that in the release notes for the new version of Airport Utility 5.6, it refers to “support for the AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) base station.” Retail availability of the current Airport Express model is also constrained, with retailers like DataVision showing the device as discontinued. It is still available from Apple’s online store, but Amazon shows availability as between 2 to 5 weeks.
The original Airport Express was released in 2004, featuring an 802.11g chipset. The newer 802.11n model was released in 2008, and otherwise was functionally identical to the first model, featuring an analog-optical audio mini-jack output, a USB port for printer sharing, and an Ethernet Port.
My own Airport Express has been sitting in a drawer for the last few months, but maybe it’s time to take it out of storage and use it again. I originally intended to use it for music streaming, but since I got my iPhone it’s been easier just to plug that in to a set of speakers.
What do you think? Do you have an Airport Express that you use and love? How are you using it? And what about this: if Apple were to discontinue the Airport Express, would you miss it?
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