Amazon today announced that it is acquiring the popular Wi-Fi eero mesh company, with a focus on the integration of its smart home technology. This announcement comes almost a year after Apple officials left the router business, disrupting their AirPort hardware line.
With eero now owned by Amazon, what options are left for Apple fans? Did Apple miss a great 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 in terms of ease of use and configuration. Both have smart iOS apps and are easy to manage on a day-to-day basis, but they are far from perfect.
However, with now an Amazon brand, users are already raising privacy issues. Amazon says its goal with the acquisition of eero is to integrate the mesh network system with its existing smart home products. It is probably true, but it is difficult to ignore it when purchasing eero, Amazon also acquired incredible access to user data.
Our eero and eero application collects data to help us operate, maintain and improve your entire eero WiFi system. We may share anonymous data (bug reports, aggregated metrics) as we improve the product, but we never track 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 CablingAmazon said it has "no plans to change Eero's policy at this time." Of course, it remains to be seen whether that is true or not in the long term. Wired also notes the benefits that this type of data, even without a broader traffic information, could offer to Amazon:
But even having a little more information about the devices in their customers' homes and the performance of those devices could be advantageous for Amazon. Amazon already knows when you're buying from Amazon or streaming from a TV Fire device. Now, with routers added to your device line, you can get an even more complete picture of customer activity, even when you're not yelling at Alexa.
Eero also offers its popular eero Plus subscription service. This subscription costs $ 99 per year and focuses on features such as threat analysis, safe browsing for the family and integrates things like the 1Password password manager. This is one of the biggest selling points for many eero buyers, but it's not clear how Amazon will change things.
@nsweavesWill e-customers obtain any guarantee on how the information collected by our routers will be kept separate from Amazon? Better to talk about ethics now.
– Geoffrey A. Fowler (@geoffreyfowler) February 11, 2019
One of the other popular Wi-Fi mesh systems is Google Wi-Fi. There is an inherent distrust among many people when it comes to Google, whether justified or not. Netgear's Orbi line is also a good choice, 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 the line of Ubiquiti network equipment. Ubiquiti was founded by Robert Pera, who worked on Apple networking projects until 2005. However, Ubiquiti products are not as consumer friendly as AirPort products (generally). Amplifi is another popular option, but the design leaves a bit to be desired for some Apple fans.
A missed opportunity for Apple
It is not necessarily to acquire eero, it is a lost opportunity for Apple. However, the missed opportunity for Apple is not to be involved in the recent wave of apparently consumer-friendly Wi-Fi mesh systems. As Bradley Chambers argued last December, Apple left the home Wi-Fi market at the exact moment.
Apple officially abandoned the router business in April 2018, but the AirPort accessory line was stalled long before. A Bloomberg report in 2016 said that Apple had stopped developing AirPort products, moving employees to other initiatives. This suggests that Wi-Fi efforts at Apple's home died long before it officially made the announcement.
For Apple fans and those looking for a consumer-friendly, privacy-focused mesh network system, options are shrinking.
Currently, Apple relies heavily on the Linksys Velop and sells various combinations of the system through the Apple store. The Velop is similar in some ways to Apple's AirPort accessories, including its tower-like 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 brand mesh network system could improve the experience of Apple devices. The integration with HomeKit, HomePod and Apple TV could be incredibly perfect. The attitude centered on Apple's privacy would be a welcome voice in the Wi-Fi category for the consumer. Imagine a configuration process similar to HomePod or similar to AirPods for your router and several access points.
For me, I feel there is a hole in the Wi-Fi hardware market for consumers. There are good options available, but too many people rely on the rented hardware from their Internet service providers. I'm not sure if this is due to ease or lack of awareness that using your own hardware is even possible, or something completely different.
However, I believe that Apple had the opportunity to lead the way in mesh networks with a focus on privacy, integration with its ecosystem and design. One of the biggest attractions of Apple has always been the integration of its different product lines.
Having to use network hardware from Google, Amazon or most other companies not only complicates Apple's ecosystem, it also asks users to compromise their privacy standards. This goes directly against Apple's first privacy focus.
The Wi-Fi industry has improved dramatically in recent years, and I think it's a shame that Apple has retreated instead of adding its distinctive touch to a mesh network system. What you think? Let us know in the comments.
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