Routers have never been particularly exciting pieces of technology, but now Google is trying to change that. It announced today that it's created a router called OnHub. OnHub is supposed to be easy to set up and manage, have high performance, and be able to tie together smart home accessories. The device looks a lot like an Amazon Echo — an unremarkable cylindrical tower — but the two devices aren't otherwise alike; OnHub is purely a router, not a speaker or a way to access Google Now. It's supposed to go on sale starting August 31st for $199.99.
Google plans on bringing more features to OnHub over time
OnHub's key selling point really seems to be that it's easy to set up and painless to troubleshoot. It connects to iOS and Android phones through what looks like a clean and stylish app, which tells owners how many devices are connected to OnHub and what kind of speeds they're getting. Google says that the router's circular design should allow it to have better penetration throughout a home (there are 13 antennas inside of it); the router will also automatically detect the best channel to broadcast on and includes support for 802.11ac and 5GHz Wi-Fi. Those features aren't necessarily unique, but OnHub certainly seems like it'll be easier to use for anyone who doesn't care about arcane features like port forwarding. OnHub was built in partnership with TP-LINK. According to Wired, a second router made in partnership with Asus is also in development.
Google is also promising to bring new features to the OnHub over time. It's strange to see any hardware advertised by the fact that it'll get software updates, but that is kind of a change from the existing router market. Though you can expect most home routers to get firmware updates every so often, installing them is usually a pain; OnHub is supposed to handle it all automatically. Right now, it doesn't look like the router has any other surprising software features, but the way Google talks about OnHub makes it seem like there may be some interesting experiments to come.
Among the more interesting features that Google brushes over is that OnHub also supports Bluetooth LE and Weave — Google's new smart home language — which could eventually allow OnHub to serve as a smart home hub. In that sense, it's likely that OnHub has more in common with Echo than it lets on: Echo was a simple device that got Amazon into homes, at which point it could expand and start to offer more services. OnHub is likely going to do the same over time, it just isn't clear what its focus will be beyond tying your devices together.
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