Rejoice: Google Just Created a Stupidly Simple Wi-Fi Router
It’s actually pretty easy to deal with your wireless router. All you need to do is plug in an Ethernet cable, go to a very particular IP address, remember a username and password (it’s probably “admin” for both), find your settings in a dial-up-slow interface that wasn’t even impressive in the 80s (when it was presumably last updated), and then hope against hope you don’t cause thirty more problems every time you fix one.
OK, fine. Dealing with your wireless router is horrible. That’s what Google found out over the last year or so, as it started dropping into people’s homes to talk about Wi-Fi.
“We spent a lot of time with people who were having all kinds of trouble with their Wi-Fi,” says Trond Wuellner, a Google product manager. Wuellner’s been at the company for eight years, most of it spent working on wireless connectivity for Chromebooks. He knows your Wi-Fi sucks, and he thinks Google can help.
OnHub supports the latest in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, plus Google’s new Weave language, which is designed to help appliances and connected-home devices talk to each other.
Today, the company is launching a new device called the OnHub, in partnership with router-maker TP-Link. There’s another, Asus-made device in the works. For $199, it promises to make your Wi-Fi faster and more reliable, and to give you the ability to update and fix your connection. (You know, for the rare times unplugging it and plugging it back in just won’t do.) Presales start today, and devices will ship in the coming weeks.
The most striking thing about the OnHub is the way it looks. It’s not your average router, with wires and antennas poking out from every side; it’s a large cylindrical device with a blinking light on the top, shades of the Amazon Echo or Apple’s Airport Extreme router. Its outer shell is removable, and comes in either blue or black (more colors are coming, Wuellner says, to better suit your room). It’s pretty, in its way.
This is intentional: Google doesn’t want you to crawl behind your desk every time you need to get at your router. It wants the OnHub right in the center of everything. This itself is a boon to your connection; hiding your router behind closed doors or underneath your TV is horrible for your signal. (Yes, people do that.)
“We discovered that when you put a router on the floor,” Wuellner says, “versus on the shelf, the one on the shelf performs twice as well as the one on the floor.” Wuellner’s team also discovered that making it a tall cylinder made users less likely to stack things on top of it, which also destroys signal.
If step one was to build a router people want on their shelf, not in the closet, then step two was to make it work really well. The OnHub has 13 antennas inside, 12 for casting signal and one for measuring congestion on your network. The device’s software is constantly monitoring channels and frequencies, making sure you’re connecting in the most efficient way. Wuellner says Google didn’t just want to blow your mind with antenna power, but figure out how to use it properly. “Imagine yourself in a battle with your neighbor about who can listen to their stereo,” he says. Most routers just keep cranking the volume to try and drown out the other; the OnHub wants to help everybody share.
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