It’s easy to think that Apple’s new Private Relay feature is a VPN…but it most certainly IS NOT. So if this new privacy feature introduced with iOS 15 is not a VPN and it’s not Tor…what is it? Here’s a better explanation.
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Of all the new privacy features that come with Apple’s iOS 15, Private Relay is one of the most interesting. And confusing.
Most people tend to associate the new feature with a virtual private network (VPN) or The Onion Network (Tor), and while it certainly borrows certain features and characteristics from each of these, it is entirely different.
At its core, Apple’s Private Relay feature – a paid feature which requires an iCloud+ subscription – is an added privacy measure that disassociates your IP address (identifiable information) with your internet activity (which websites you’re visiting).
Private Relay disassociates your IP address with your internet activity.
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Differences Between Private Relay and a VPN
There are a number of differences between Private Relay and a VPN. These include:
- Private Relay Doesn’t Let You Choose a Server: Unlike most commercial VPNs which offer many server locations around the world (ExpressVPN, for example, has 160 server locations in 94 countries). This new Apple feature gives you only two options: a general location IP address or a country/time zone IP address.
- Private Relay isn’t Supported in Every Region: In countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Thailand, the feature is not able to be turned on. For this reason, the idea of using it in the same way as a VPN – as a way to evade censorship or to hide from the prying eyes of the government – is not possible.
- Private Relay Only Works on Safari: When it’s on, it doesn’t encrypt and privatize all of your internet traffic. It only does so for your activity in the Safari browser app. If you don’t use Safari, or if another app on your iPhone/iPad connects to the internet, it will not be protected. A VPN, on the other hand, does encrypt all of your internet traffic.
- Private Relay Doesn’t Unlock Geoblocked Content: If you’re wanting to watch Netflix, Disney+, BBC or any other streaming service from outside your region, this new iOS 15 feature will not help you. That’s where a VPN works really well.
If this isn’t what you had hoped it would be, you can easily subscribe to a VPN like ExpressVPN that will allow you to choose a server, encrypt all your traffic, and unblock all kinds of great content.