Amazon today announced that it is acquiring the popular Wi-Fi network of the eero company, with a focus on the integration of its smart home technology. This announcement comes almost a year after Apple officials abandoned the router business, interrupting the line of AirPort hardware.
With eero now owned by Amazon, what options remain for Apple fans? Apple lost a huge opportunity?
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In recent years, Wi-Fi mesh systems have become incredibly popular. Options like Eero and Google Wi-Fi are generally easy to use for the consumer in terms of ease of use and configuration. Both come with iOS slick apps and are easy to manage day by day, but they're all but perfect.
With eero now an Amazon brand, however, users are already raising doubts about privacy. Amazon states that its goal with the acquisition of eero is to integrate the mesh network system with its existing smart home products. Probably true, but it is difficult to ignore it by acquiring eero, Amazon has also gained incredible access to user data.
Our eeros and eero app collects data to help us manage, maintain and improve the entire WiFi eero system. We may share anonymous data (reports on abnormal crashes, aggregated measurements) while we improve the product, but we will never monitor the websites you visit or collect the content of your network traffic. We do not sell our customers' data and we do not sell ads based on this data.
In a statement to Wired Amazon said he did not "intend to change Eero's policy at this time." Obviously, it remains or not what remains true in the long run. Wired also finds the benefits that this type of data, even without more information on traffic, could offer to Amazon:
But also having slightly more information about devices in the homes of its customers and how these devices are working, it could be advantageous for Amazon. Amazon already knows when you're shopping on Amazon or streaming from a Fire TV wand. Now, with the routers added to its gadget line, it could collect an even more complete picture of customer activity, even when you do not yell at Alexa.
Eero also offers its famous eero Plus subscription service. This subscription costs $ 99 a year and focuses on features such as threat scanning, safe browsing for the family and integrating elements such as password manager 1Password. This is one of the biggest selling points for many eero buyers, but it's not clear how Amazon will change things.
@nsweaves will eero customers have any guarantee as to how the information collected by our routers will be kept separate from Amazon? Better to talk about ethics now.
– Geoffrey A. Fowler (@geoffreyfowler) 11 February 2019
One of the other popular Wi-Fi networked systems is Google Wi-Fi. There is an inherent distrust among many people when it comes to Google, whether it is justified or not. Netgear's Orbi line is also a good option, but in our full review we noticed that "you can easily imagine how an Apple approach to Wi-Fi mesh would be superior."
Another interesting option is Ubiquiti's line of networking tools. Ubiquiti was founded by Robert Pera, who worked on Apple networking projects through 2005. Ubiquiti products, however, are not as easy to use as AirPort products (usually). Amplifi is another popular choice, but the design leaves a little to be desired for some Apple fans.
One missed opportunity for Apple
It is not necessarily the acquisition of eero which is a missed opportunity for Apple. What is a missed opportunity for Apple, however, is not involved in the recent wave of apparently consumer-friendly Wi-Fi mesh systems. As Bradley Chambers claimed last December, Apple abandoned the domestic Wi-Fi market at exactly the wrong time.
Apple officially left the router business in April 2018, but the AirPort line of accessories was stagnant long before then. A 2016 Bloomberg report said that Apple had stopped developing AirPort products, shifting employees to other initiatives. This suggests that Apple's Wi-Fi home efforts had died long before the official announcement.
For Apple enthusiasts and those looking for a consumer-focused, privacy-focused mesh network system, options are shrinking.
Apple currently relies heavily on Linksys Velop and sells various combinations of the system via the Apple store. The Velop is similar in some ways to Apple's AirPort accessories, including its tower design. On the other hand, it lacks the integration with the Apple ecosystem that users want.
In 2019 there are many ways in which an Apple-branded mesh network system could improve the experience of Apple devices. Integration with HomeKit, HomePod and Apple TV could be incredibly simple. The attitude aimed at Apple's privacy would be a welcome entry in the consumer's Wi-Fi category. Imagine a configuration process similar to HomePod or AirPods for your router and various access points.
For me, there seems to be a hole in the Wi-Fi hardware market for consumers. There are good options available, but too many people rely on the hardware rented by their Internet service providers. I'm not sure it's for simplicity or lack of awareness that you can use your hardware or something else.
I believe, however, that Apple has had the opportunity to pave the way in mesh networking with a focus on privacy, integration with its ecosystem and design. One of Apple's biggest appeals has always been the integration of its various product lines.
Having to use the network hardware of Google, Amazon or most other companies not only complicates the Apple ecosystem, but also requires users to compromise their standard privacy. This approach goes directly against Apple's first approach to privacy.
The Wi-Fi sector has improved dramatically over the last few years and I think it's a pity that Apple has retreated instead of adding its distinctive touch to a mesh network system. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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