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iPhones can now use Google's One VPN — but should you?

The Google One logo displayed on a smartphone screen that is sticking out of a pocket on a denim item of clothing.
(Image credit: dennizn/Shutterstock)

Users of iPhones and iPads can now use Google's virtual-private-network (VPN) service, Google said in a blog posting (opens in new tab) today (Feb. 1). But the real question is: Will iPhone users want to?

Google's VPN, officially named "VPN by Google One," comes bundled with the higher price tiers of Google's One online-storage service for consumers. To get the VPN, you have to pay $10 per month or $100 per year for Google One's Premium plan, which gets you 2 terabytes of online storage space. 

The service is available to customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico; the U.K. and Ireland; the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden); and most of western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland) except Portugal, Luxembourg and the European microstates. Google promises that the VPN will "expand to more countries over time."

Is Google One VPN worth the money?

However, unless you really need that online storage space, you can get service from some of the best VPN providers for far less than $100 year. Windscribe costs $49 per year, Mullvad costs 60 euros (about $67) per year, and NordVPN and Surfshark have introductory yearly deals of $59 and $78, respectively, although their prices go up after that.

Google's blog posting says that Google One Premium "members can share their plan and the VPN with up to five family members at no extra cost, so they can all use the VPN, no matter whether they're using an Android or iOS phone." All the other VPN services named above let you do that too.

There are other perks for Google One Premium subscribers, but they might not be so appealing to any iPhone users who are deeply embedded in Apple's walled garden, even if they have a Gmail address. 

You'll get a discount of 10% on Google Store purchases, "access to Google experts" for tech support, and vaguely defined "extra member benefits." (Super-Premium plans can pay even more for 5, 10, 20 or 30 TB of storage space.)

We subscribe to the much cheaper Google One Basic plan and our benefits are "extra Google Photos editing features," three free months of Stadia Pro and three free months of YouTube Premium. Hopefully the benefits are more exciting for Google One Premium subscribers. 

Overall, Google's VPN for iOS users might work for people who have a foot in both worlds, so as those use an iPhone but a Chromebook as well.

What Google One VPN offers and doesn't offer

As for Google's VPN itself, it seems to be a solid choice as far as features and reliability are concerned, with a kill switch (which Google calls "Safe Disconnect") and split tunneling so that only some apps use the VPN ("App Bypass"). 

Google One's explainer document (opens in new tab) says the VPN, at least on Android, initially used a proprietary protocol but was in the process of switching to IPSec; an independent audit done by NCC Group (opens in new tab) in 2021 indicates that the protocol used is indeed IPSec. Source code for the Android Google One VPN service is available on GitHub (opens in new tab).

However, our own assessment of Google One VPN points out that the service doesn't offer the main thing people really want to use VPNs for: the ability to access streaming content from other countries. You can't choose which Google One VPN server you connect to, and it's unlikely that Google would want to run afoul of Netflix and open itself up to lawsuits.

Google hasn't yet told us how the VPN will work on iOS, but we can assume it will involve the Google One app (opens in new tab), which has been in the App Store since late 2020. On Android, you open up the Google One app and tap on "Benefits," then "View Details" and finally "Enable VPN." 

That process is a bit clunky, but you can also add a VPN toggle switch to your Android phone's Quick Settings. We hope the iOS process will be smoother.

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.