Apple has effectively abandoned HomeKit Secure Routers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 22

Apple's HomeKit Secure Routers were announced in 2019 but never really taken up by manufacturers, and now some vendors are claiming Apple is no longer pursuing the technology.

Craig Federighi gestures towards a large graphic showing a simplified, outlined house connected by dotted lines to stylized clouds, representing secure router technology
Craig Federighi introducing HomeKit Secure Routers at WWDC 2019



HomeKit Secure Routers were introduced by Craig Federighi at WWDC 2019 and in the same breath as HomeKit Secure Video. The latter took time to reach the market, but it was used, and many manufacturers adopted it, even if others would not.

During CES 2024, two router vendors separately told AppleInsider that Apple is no longer accepting new routers into its program. If that claim is correct -- and it probably is, since it came from the same rejected manufacturers -- given the lack of HomeKit Secure Routers on the market, it appears that Apple has abandoned the idea.

Note that AppleInsider cannot absolutely confirm what the vendors claim. And Apple still has active support pages on the matter.

But, it still has support pages on AirPort routers too, and those are as dead as a doornail.

Apple's original proposition



The idea was that "with HomeKit at the router, we'll automatically firewall-off each of your accessories." So "even if one were to be compromised, it wouldn't be able to access your other devices."

"Many accessories don't just connect via HomeKit," Federighi said in 2019, "they also connect via the internet and through your router, and unfortunately, this can leave them open to attack."

"We want to make sure that this can't happen," he continued. "And so we're bringing HomeKit to routers."

At this 2019 launch, Apple said that "the first HomeKit-enabled routers will be coming from Linksys, eero, and internet service providers like Charter Spectrum."

HomeKit Secure Routers have been abandoned in all but name



Even if these unrelated vendors were both mistaken, and Apple has not abandoned HomeKit Secure Routers, it effectively has.

More than four years later, Apple currently lists two HomeKit Routers on its site. They are the Linksys Velop AX4200 and the AmpliFi Alien.

Currently, eero has a notice saying that its eero Pro 6E and eero 6+ do not support Apple Home Kit," and also that "we have no plans to offer Apple Home Kit's router functionality on eero Pro 6 E and eero 6+.

White rectangular Linksys Wi-Fi router with a dotted grille on top against a white background.
LinkSys Velop AX4200 router



Linksys has so far ignored requests to comment. An eero spokesperson did offer a comment, but didn't answer AppleInsider's question.

"HomeKit devices can connect to eero over Wi-Fi and Thread," said the eero spokesperson, "but we do not offer Apple's HomeKit router functionality on our latest devices"

While eero will not say why it has dropped HomeKit Secure Routers, there doesn't appear to be any plan to reintroduce them.

We asked Apple directly about it. We got a response -- but we weren't allowed to use in any way, and it didn't contain any substance about the product line as a whole anyway.

Of Apple's two remaining HomeKit Secure Routers listed on its site, the Linksys Velop AX4200 and the AmpliFi Alien, AmpliFi's own description doesn't mention HomeKit. The current Linksys listing does state that it works with HomeKit, but doesn't mention HomeKit Secure.

So that's one of Apple's 2019 launch partners gone and another reduced to a single under-promoted product. Even at that 2019 launch, the Charter Spectrum partnership seemed a bit of a stretch, and today it's hard to prove it ever released a product.

That's an abandoned standard, right there.

Apple hasn't closed the program, but it is effectively dead and stinks of vendor disinterest. Perhaps there could be more vendors signing up, or maybe Apple has big plans.

After all these years of the line being inert, though, it seems unlikely.

Apple could itself make such a router, since it used to make them long before the idea of HomeKit Secure Routers was announced. However, it discontinued its last such AirPort in April 2018, the year before it announced this HomeKit Secure Routers program.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,772member
    As the single point of entry into homes with everincreasing networking needs, routers are the perfect firewall shield point. 

    Abandoning Airport based product development was a weird move back in the day. It's even weirder now. 

    Routers and associated network gear (home storage/NAS) are perfect candidates for modern day, easily upgradeable solutions with simplified user facing configurations. They are also perfect candidates for AI based protections and superior hardware resources (a perpetual failing of consumer routers). 



    muthuk_vanalingamOferskytouchcommand_fstarof80appleinsiderusertenfingers
  • Reply 2 of 33
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,988member
    I hope not but this off to the side tech which is non glamorous back of house tech at that will draw the ire of the EU or the Justice Dept and it would be unfair to Apples future competitors if pursued. :smile: 
    edited March 22 command_fbonobobjas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 33
    This is why I recommend to my clients more advanced, professional routers, like the ones from Netgate, running pfSense software. Combined with VLANs and separate Wi-Fi access points that allow the configuration of multiple SSIDs, I set up my clients’ main LAN, a guest network and an IoT network. Unfortunately, I am not sure, whether having full access from the main LAN to the IoT subnet and none in the reverse direction is sufficient firewalling. I would like to see Apple provide concrete guidance.

    Isolating IoT from the rest of your home network is a best practice and should be standard in this day and age. Apple, let’s be open about it, so that any router manufacturer can implement these best practices without requiring certification.
    egold44command_ftmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 33
    quote: “But, it still has support pages on AirPort routers too, and those are as dead as a doornail.”

    Maybe… the reason why AirPort routers have pages is… because it was an Apple's product.
    command_fwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 33
    command_fcommand_f Posts: 422member
    danox said:
    I hope not but this off to the side tech which is non glamorous back of house tech at that will draw the ire of the EU or the Justice Dept and it would be unfair to Apples future competitors if pursued. :smile: 
    Not to mention that it would be unfair to those who would like to use our networks and devices but don't want to bother us by telling us they're there.  :)
    jas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 33
    command_fcommand_f Posts: 422member

    quote: “But, it still has support pages on AirPort routers too, and those are as dead as a doornail.”

    Maybe… the reason why AirPort routers have pages is… because it was an Apple's product.
    Yes, I retired my AirPort Extreme 'tower' because I was concerned that it was becoming unsupported, it was working fine. It's good that the documentation is still available but I worry that it might not receive security updates in future.

    A new Apple router would be very welcome.
    danoxjas99zeus423watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 33
    kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 433member
    I don’t imagine routers were a significant revenue generating proposition for Apple which is why they don’t bother with them 

    but this is a shame because they are critical infrastructure and Apple has the resources to make an excellent product if they wanted to 

    edit:

    also I would much prefer an advanced/excellent router vs a fancy VR gimmick 
    edited March 22 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 33
    It is worth noting that the prior eero and eero 6 models haven't had HKSR support removed, despite multiple firmware updates and the addition of other new features such as PPPoE support (finally) since the release of the later 6E models.

    It's still working well enough on my eero 6 Pro mesh setup, and it's ideal for those devices I want to lock down entirely, such as forcing Eufy cameras to use only HKSV rather than Eufy's own cloud. However, the "automatic" mode has always been nearly useless as few manufacturers ever provided Apple with the necessary firewall rules. Of the dozen or so different HomeKit devices I have, only Logitech, ecobee, and Hue ever offered specific rules, and a few months ago, my Hue bridge stopped accepting the automatic mode — the Home app just keeps saying it won't apply the settings anymore. 


    roundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 33
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,347member
    I think the time is right for Apple to make its own secure home routers again. I’d certainly buy one.
    kkqd1337Alex_Vdanoxeightzerojas99appleinsideruserzeus423lordjohnwhorfinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 33
    Apple has a natural mesh wifi option which would be to take a page out of Amazons book for their Echo smart speakers that can act as wifi extenders. 

    Eero and other mesh wifi devices are slowly encroaching on smart home connectivity such as being thread hubs or zigbee hubs. This is a slow constriction of Apples home aspirations and I see no gameplan to remain relevant.

    Why not have the HomePods act as mesh wifi? Clearly the trend is to have the computational horsepower and add some augmented wifi circuitry and antennas. Not ideal likely but could potentially work.

    Apple with its gross margin targets will unlikely compete successfully with dedicated mass market mesh wifi.
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 33
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,795member
    Makes sense. If no one is adopting it, why pursue it? 

    On the other hand, Apple could be developing a new router of its own. Resirrecti g the Airport would be amazing. The old one was the best router I e had up to this point. 
    danoxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,869administrator
    Makes sense. If no one is adopting it, why pursue it? 

    On the other hand, Apple could be developing a new router of its own. Resirrecti g the Airport would be amazing. The old one was the best router I e had up to this point. 
    I would very much like an Apple-made mesh router system.
    jas99appleinsideruserzeus423lordjohnwhorfinwilliamlondonbeowulfschmidtStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 33
    Makes sense. If no one is adopting it, why pursue it? 

    On the other hand, Apple could be developing a new router of its own. Resirrecti g the Airport would be amazing. The old one was the best router I e had up to this point. 
    I would very much like an Apple-made mesh router system.
    Absolutely. Still running on Airport Extremes too, fantastic kit.
    jas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 33
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 246member
    Only Apple's abandoned car project has been more rudderless than Apple's home/IoT strategy.

    The early potential that HomeKit provided was squandered by the reluctance to re-enter the hardware market again, and inability to give attention to anything but the iPhone.

    Relying on partners to make HK a strong competitor was a failed strategy, but despite years of proof, and the second chance that Thread/Matter have provided, the company still has no offerings to satisfy a void for reliable, well-integrated, and privacy-minded IoT products that would provide users an alternative to the Google- and Amazon-controlled IoT ecosystems.

    What makes it even sadder is that IoT hardware could fit hand-in-glove with Services, and complement the overall Apple ecosystem.

    Imagine an Apple router/hub/base station or gateway-type device that could interface with various home devices, and seamlessly integrate with iCloud services, while maintaining respect for users' privacy and security.  Who doesn't want that, as opposed to the data mining Google and Amazon products, or worse, liars like Eufy who promised false security for their cameras, or borderline incompetent companies like Wyze, which has had repeated security gaffes?

    It would be right in Apple's wheel house, but instead, it spent Billions and countless man-hours on a car project that was outside of the company's core competency, low margin, and where it had no prior experience.
    edited March 22 jas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 33
    maasjmaasj Posts: 13member
    Smart home tech abandoned after a few years?? I’m shocked. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 33
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,988member
    Apple has a natural mesh wifi option which would be to take a page out of Amazons book for their Echo smart speakers that can act as wifi extenders. 

    Eero and other mesh wifi devices are slowly encroaching on smart home connectivity such as being thread hubs or zigbee hubs. This is a slow constriction of Apples home aspirations and I see no gameplan to remain relevant.

    Why not have the HomePods act as mesh wifi? Clearly the trend is to have the computational horsepower and add some augmented wifi circuitry and antennas. Not ideal likely but could potentially work.

    Apple with its gross margin targets will unlikely compete successfully with dedicated mass market mesh wifi.

    Apple is needed to support the last mile Mesh routers and servers I know it's unfair to Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta and the DOJ will assigned blame to Apple.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/1bkzvjy/doj_lawsuit_says_failure_of_amazon_fire_phone_end/ Mind blowing (Gobsmacked) I can't believe they actually put that in writing. My fear is that the more stupid it is the greater the chances of it being successful to a jury in the current world.......The concept of Apple being its own Grandpa (a Monopoly of its own product), and Apple is to blame for trying to make a better product in comparison to the competition is incredible.
    edited March 23 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 33
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,293member
    danox said:
    Apple has a natural mesh wifi option which would be to take a page out of Amazons book for their Echo smart speakers that can act as wifi extenders. 

    Eero and other mesh wifi devices are slowly encroaching on smart home connectivity such as being thread hubs or zigbee hubs. This is a slow constriction of Apples home aspirations and I see no gameplan to remain relevant.

    Why not have the HomePods act as mesh wifi? Clearly the trend is to have the computational horsepower and add some augmented wifi circuitry and antennas. Not ideal likely but could potentially work.

    Apple with its gross margin targets will unlikely compete successfully with dedicated mass market mesh wifi.

    Apple is needed to support the last mile Mesh routers and servers I know it's unfair to Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta and the DOJ will assigned blame to Apple.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/1bkzvjy/doj_lawsuit_says_failure_of_amazon_fire_phone_end/ Mind blowing (Gobsmacked) I can't believe they actually put that in writing. My fear is that the more stupid it is the greater the chances of it being successful to a jury in the current world.......The concept of Apple being its own Grandpa (a Monopoly of its own product), and Apple is to blame for trying to make a better product in comparison to the competition is incredible.
    Off-topic much?  :/
  • Reply 18 of 33
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 3,087member
    I've thought that networking products would be a natural for Apple to get back into. Perhaps the strategy described in this article has now failed, and Apple will reconsider what to do next (or perhaps they already have.)

    FWIW, I do still run apple airports, and as others have mentioned, worry that they will be a security risk (or perhaps already are.) However, I also do think that if a vulnerability is discovered, it would be widely known, and such a black-eye for the privacy champion Apple that they would perhaps be proactive with a fix. Maybe not, given the age of these devices they vintaged/ obsoleted quite long ago. 

    But while we're on the subject here in this thread, I can think of many products apple could make that would be successful and popular, not the least of which is a simple mesh router system with an on-board VPN they offer for a subscription (and make open to other VPN providers to keep the DOJ happy.) I sort of wonder if these devices could take the same form factor as an Apple TV. And given that ATSC3.0 has some interesting features for OTA communications, maybe an Apple TV box with a coax cable connector for an antenna, and on board tuners? Yes, this is all a pipe dream, but isn't that what we are here for? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 33
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,425member
    All companies have resource limitations and must strategically prioritize how they allocate their limited resources to different initiatives. In addition to resources there are also strategic goals and the matter of focus. It comes down to deciding where they want to apply their focus and how they want to invest in everything they've decide to go after. It's not a case of everything in their focus getting the same level of support. It's a prioritized, tiered system where the most strategically important things get top priority for resources while lower priority things get lower priority for resources. At some point lower tier things may get no priority and are abandoned or postponed indefinitely. There is no such thing as "everything we do is top priority." Saying that is like saying "we have no priorities."

    It's pretty clear where Apple's priorities are today and where their priorities were leading up to today. Products like Apple TV and HomeKIt are still alive, as is the iPad mini and iMac, but they certainly aren't getting the kind of love that iPhone, Apple Vision Pro, "AI," Apple Silicon, and MacBook Pro/Air are getting. My guess is that Apple puts its highest priority on products that can dominate the markets they serve. In my opinion, HomeKit is probably in a slow burn mode because of open standards based initiatives like Matter and Thread. Apple can certainly play in an open standards based market, but can they dominate such a market? In terms of Matter/Thread compatible devices, Apple doesn't really have a big footprint when it comes to the number and variety of devices it sources into that market. My guess is that Apple will keep their finger on the pulse of what's happening in the open standards area, but they probably feel no compelling reason to try to drive that market. They'll jump in when an opportunity presents itself where they can differentiate their offerings from the crowd and reap the benefits with a relatively low investment in resources, but the bulk of their strategic investments will continue to be areas where they become the de facto standard by driving the market and dominating when it comes to profitability. 

    I'd say the market for general purpose networking gear like AirPort routers is not even on Apple's lowest level of funded initiatives. They currently have no need to play in that market.
    edited March 23 eightzeroStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 33
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,048member
    Apple has a natural mesh wifi option which would be to take a page out of Amazons book for their Echo smart speakers that can act as wifi extenders. 

    Eero and other mesh wifi devices are slowly encroaching on smart home connectivity such as being thread hubs or zigbee hubs. This is a slow constriction of Apples home aspirations and I see no gameplan to remain relevant.

    Why not have the HomePods act as mesh wifi? Clearly the trend is to have the computational horsepower and add some augmented wifi circuitry and antennas. Not ideal likely but could potentially work.

    Apple with its gross margin targets will unlikely compete successfully with dedicated mass market mesh wifi.
    I thought at their initial introduction that HomePods would also be mesh routers. They weren’t, of course, and on further thought it probably isn’t a great idea. HomePod placement will always be about the best place for music playback and the best place for issuing Siri voice commands. 

    Mesh router placement is about maximizing backhaul to the primary router while also maximizing WiFi coverage. 

    If HomePods were also mesh routers, users would still prioritize audio for placing them and then complain about spotty WiFi coverage. A combo device just isn’t ideal. 
    watto_cobra
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