Newer routers support faster speeds and often have less boring shapes and designs, but generally the functionality hasn't changed: it's still confusing when they don't work well, and the little blinking lights certainly don't tell you enough.
Google recognizes that the average consumer isn't being well-served by these essential pieces of home hardware, so it has partnered with TP-LINK to create OnHub. It's a router that emphasizes simplicity of use (and setup), easily understandable feedback on problems and how to address them, and attractive design so you don't feel compelled to hide it.
It's a cylindrical device that looks much like Amazon's Echo, but OnHub is not a personal voice assistant. Instead, it's a router that you can set up and manage entirely via an Android or iOS app, which shows you how many devices are connected, how fast they're going, and also helps you troubleshoot issues. You can even prioritize devices for speed allocation, in case you need extra bandwidth for streaming or a download.
OnHub doesn't have little flashing lights, but rather a single dimmable light ring that can show four different colours, each clearly indicative of its status. Automatic updates mean the OnHub will keep improving over time, and since routers perform best when they'll not hidden in cabinets or on the ground, the more stylish look should provide incentive to keep it out in the open.
Even the circular antenna design should allow this AC1900 router to give you more reliable coverage throughout your home, plus it's built for the expanding connected home, putting Google's Brillo operating system to use in concert with the Google On app.
Preorders opened up today in the United States and Canada at US$200 for the device, although both the Google Store and Amazon are sold out as of this writing. The device is slated to ship on 31 August, and hopefully an international launch - and better availability - will follow before long. Google also says a second router with Asus is due later this year, so it sounds like OnHub is only the tip of the iceberg for Google's home hardware ambitions.