Google’s OnHub is a bit of a mystery. Google shipped us this box—well, this cylinder—but it won’t really talk about what’s in it or why it exists. Today, it’s a Wi-Fi router from Google; tomorrow it might be something totally different. But it’s also a funny glowing cylinder with way too much processing power for its own good, a boatload of antennas, and an ever-present cloud connection to a Google update server so that it can evolve at will. OnHub is a tiny bundle of potential and no one really knows what it will turn into.
Still, you’re paying $200 for a Wi-Fi router right now. That’s not an unheard-of sum of money for the director of your home network, but the price certainly puts the OnHub in the high-end of the market. For that money, it has mostly the hardware you would expect: dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi that goes up to 1900Mbps. The big downside is that you’re stuck with only one LAN port instead of the usual four, and the typical router settings have been reduced from pages and pages of options to just a handful of tweaks. OnHub is much more than a router, though—or at least, it will be, someday. To us, this looks like Google’s smart home Trojan horse.
Google’s branding conventions give us some insight into its plans. This little cylinder is called “OnHub, ” but the smartphone app is just called “Google On.” Also, on the underside of the OnHub, there’s a label that reads “Built for Google On.” If we want to start wildly speculating (and we do), we’d say that “Google On” is the name of Google’s smart home platform, making “OnHub” the hub for all of your Google On stuff. “Built for Google On” would be the certification process that OEMs go through to ensure their products work with Google’s smart home ecosystem.