Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google OnHub

I was not expecting to write about new $200 WiFi router from Google today, but here I am. Out of the box, it uses Google’s DNS servers or your ISP’s — Google’s is often way faster — and collects some data, which you can opt out of. That’s giving some people a mild case of the heebie-jeebies, but if you read through the list of items they’re collecting data on, it’s all very reasonable and typical; there’s nothing nefarious going on.

Like Apple’s AirPort devices, the OnHub is controlled via an app on your phone, and it looks really good. It’s probably my favourite feature of the AirPort — well, that, and its lifespan — and I’m happy to see the same approach with the OnHub.

But, if I didn’t own an AirPort, would I buy one? Probably not. My ISP’s router comes with all the WiFi trimmings built in, as do the routers of most people I know. (I use my AirPort Extreme so I can connect a hard drive and not deal with the crappy built-in software.) Are non-enterprise WiFi routers really a big market? The OnHub probably has an advantage over the AirPort, insomuch as the latter — amongst some people I know — has the unfortunate reputation of being proprietary. It isn’t, but that’s the kind of rep Apple’s products sometimes get; Google’s products are not seen in a similar way.

The above paragraph really only makes sense if the OnHub is viewed as a WiFi router, though. That’s not really what it is: as Google alludes to in the second part of the name, it’s a hub. It’s probably going to be doing a lot more very soon. Still doesn’t answer the question of whether anyone will buy one, but it would be a lot more compelling argument if it wasn’t just a WiFi router.