Airport Utility for iOS is extremely powerful - if you have an Apple 802.11n network

The new Airport Utility is the iOS equivalent of the Mac OS X tool by the same name. it's super-compelling because iPhones and iPads are great for Wi-Fi troubleshooting in the field.

This app falls squarely into the it's-about-time category.

Last week Apple released iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Alongside it Apple also launched a handful of completely new iOS apps, including Trailers, Cards and Find My Friends. In the melee I overlooked a fourth new iOS app from Apple that might be the best of the lot: Airport Utility (App Store, free).

Just like its name implies, Airport Utility is the iOS equivalent of the Mac OS X utility of the same name. It's a compelling experience on an iPhone because it's actually better suited for use in the field than a laptop -- especially when troubleshooting problematic AirPort devices.

But that's also its biggest limitation, Airport Utility for iOS only works with Apple-branded AirPorts (or "access points"), specifically the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and Time Capsule, and it doesn't support third-party access points from other manufacturers. (Hey, it was a big deal for Apple to change its beloved "AirPort" menu to "Wi-Fi" in Lion).

Another limitation is that Airport Utility for iOS only supports 802.11n devices. I verified this by testing 802.11n and 802.11g AirPort Express side-by-side and the app only picked up the 802.11n hardware. Planned obsolescence?

Airport Utility works as you'd expect: scanning the network its connected to and mapping the discovered Apple Wi-Fi hardware. From this graphical view you can change base station and network settings, or manage advanced features such as security modes, wireless channels, and more.

If you've got an Apple 802.11n network, this is a must-have app. Although I'm annoyed that it doesn't work with my 802.11g hardware from Apple.