Mystery Apple network adapter surfaces in FCC filings

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 23
Apple is working on a "Network Adapter," FCC filings reveal, a mysterious add-on that has unusual properties, including a built-in battery and that it probably runs on iOS.




Filings with the FCC that were published on May 19 describe an unusual device that Apple is testing. Put through tests for Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth, the unnamed hardware is named "A2657" and as a "Network Adapter."

While there are no images to see in the report that would hint at what the Network Adapter looks like, a description of the hardware's connectivity is included.

The description defines it as a "Network Adapter," but includes an integral battery, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB-C connector, USB-A port, and an antenna. On the wireless side, it supports up to 802.11n Wi-Fi but notably not 802.11ac. It also has an unspecified Bluetooth radio and NFC.

The description of the hardware in one FCC filing.
The description of the hardware in one FCC filing.


While it includes a battery, the device is described as needing to be "connected to a host computer and receive its power through a USB-A port during normal use." The test report added that the test required the use of an iMac.

Intriguingly, and first spotted by 9to5Mac, the hardware also has 32GB of storage and 1.5GB of memory. It also used firmware "19F49" which could be a version of iOS, borrowing a concept used by the Studio Display.

It is plausible that the device could be some form of connectivity add-on for a Mac, but the selection of connections seems odd, since Apple's Mac lineup usually has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, though not NFC. The iMac used for testing may be an Intel model, or USB-A adapted from USB-C. However, if intended for a wide array of presently-shipping Apple devices, USB-C is more ubiquitous, and it's not clear why the power would be supplied from USB-A.

Apple has used external hardware to offer wired networking, such as the Ethernet port in the power brick of the 24-inch iMac, but certainly not with this amount of extra connectivity.

The power brick of the 24-inch iMac can include an Ethernet connection.
The power brick of the 24-inch iMac can include an Ethernet connection.


The selection of connections may mean the device is intended to provide those elements where the host doesn't offer them, or that it is intended for a highly specific situation. Rather than being a consumer-oriented device, this has more chance of being internally-used hardware, most likely for Apple's in-store service department, or retail displays.

While Apple does submit hardware for testing as per regulations, there is no guarantee that the device will ever enter production, or even be introduced to the public at all.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    Could this be a new “Airport” device? 
    If so the range of connections suddenly makes sense. Perhaps NFC is used for “ tap 2 connect”
    scatz
  • Reply 2 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,363member
    Very intriguing.  
  • Reply 3 of 14
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,339member
    Could this be a new “Airport” device? 
    If so the range of connections suddenly makes sense. Perhaps NFC is used for “ tap 2 connect”
    I'd definitely put my money on tap to connect. 
  • Reply 4 of 14
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,024member
    Interesting and odd that it specifically calls out that it receives power through a USB A port. Not just a "USB" port.
  • Reply 5 of 14
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 856member
    The article suggests this device could be for retail displays and I agree with that.  I think the battery could be part of an anti-theft feature.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 14
    maltzmaltz Posts: 340member
    Could this be a new “Airport” device?

    Only supporting 802.11n?  No way.  It's almost certainly designed to be a client device on a WiFi network, not an AP.  While it's kind of outside Apple's wheelhouse, a credit card reader would fit the described some of the features pretty well, and it might explain why it has a battery backup and independent network interfaces rather than using the computer's that it's connected to.  But then, why would it need gigabit networking (100Mbps hardware is cheaper and WAY more than adequate), much less two of them.  I'd also think it would also have some kind of cellular capability, and the "network adaptor" description wouldn't make much sense..

    It is mysterious, indeed.
  • Reply 7 of 14
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,807moderator
    Could this be a new “Airport” device?
    It's a bit unusual to limit it to 802.11n but it could be a replacement for the Airport Express that was used for music streaming and wireless printing:



    I expect they will want to have a device to stream content to wireless AR products but that would definitely need more bandwidth than 802.11n.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    riverkoriverko Posts: 158member
    Network adapter for Studio display? :)
    Gaby
  • Reply 9 of 14
    My guess: HomeKit hub for all who doesn't have an extra iPad / Apple TV for remote access of his smart home. The "host computer" can be a router. 802.11n is enough for communication between smart devices. USB-A power, so that old 5W Apple chargers could be utilised. Battery, so that locks can be utilised.
    welshdogMBear
  • Reply 10 of 14
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,573member
    My guess.... An Pay POS peripheral for PC/Macs.
    tokyojimu
  • Reply 11 of 14
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,990member
    I wish Apple would get back into the router business.  The Airport Extremes were such solid devices.  I still have about a dozen of them running 24/7 for almost 10 years without a hiccup.  They're just so reliable and solid.  The rest of the industry never could match that.
    opiniondarkvader
  • Reply 12 of 14
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 889member
    mike1 said:
    Interesting and odd that it specifically calls out that it receives power through a USB A port. Not just a "USB" port.

    So they're using a USB cable wrong?  The A connector is the original USB computer side connector, the device side is a B connector.

    That seems extraordinarily stupid even for Apple.  Maybe it's a misprint.
  • Reply 13 of 14
    maltzmaltz Posts: 340member
    sflocal said:
    I wish Apple would get back into the router business.  The Airport Extremes were such solid devices.  I still have about a dozen of them running 24/7 for almost 10 years without a hiccup.  They're just so reliable and solid.  The rest of the industry never could match that.

    Apple routers were VERY reliable, but not uniquely so.  And their feature list was atrociously poor, even for their time, and especially for their price.  I bought one as my first WiFi router, when I didn't know any better, but when I actually tried other devices, I was stunned at what they could do (for far cheaper) that Apple's could not, and after I made the switch, some of them had up-times measured in years as well, apart from firmware update reboots.  I was also skeptical about the infrequency of firmware updates, especially in later years.  Going a year or two without a security patch makes it very unlikely that they're really keeping up as new vulnerabilities are discovered.

    These days, I recommend ASUS as the consumer brand I've personally had the best experience with across multiple models, and they continue to support some surprisingly old models.  I've had good luck with most Netgear stuff as well.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    Here's a radical thought. What if it's a device for ingesting data from non-apple devices into the cloud and mac/ios ecosystem? Something like the old Canon Connect Station CS100 for importing photos and videos. For example, tap to connect your nfc equipped camera or android device and your photos show up in the Photos app.
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