This question was prompted by a spirited discussion between a friend and I over the various pros and cons of Apple versus Android. One point that was made was that Android needs a third-party VPN for security while Apple has Private Relay.
This, of course, raises the question: is Apple's Private Relay a proper VPN?
In short - no. It’s more like a simplified TOR or proxy than a VPN.
If you have an iCloud+ account, you’ll get a feature called Private Relay. It isn’t part of iOS but can be installed as part of the service.
What Private Relay is, is more security. It falls short of a full VPN though. It can obfuscate your IP address like a VPN can, but only if you use Safari. If you use another browser, it won’t protect you.
Private Relay uses a pair of private servers that act like a proxy to hide your real IP address. It integrates geo-spoofing to hide when you’re surfing from too.
This is a big selling point for Private Relay as it can enable you to access geolocked content without requiring a VPN. That being said, it doesn’t encrypt or protect your traffic anywhere near as securely as a VPN though.
If you're more curious about VPNs, what they are, and how they work, check out this article we wrote about that very topic!
We would suggest you do need a VPN for your iPhone, for any type of phone in fact.
VPNs are designed to protect your privacy. They not only hide your IP address like Private Relay, they also encrypt all your traffic, prevent you being tracked or followed online and anomymizes your traffic as much as possible.
Some VPNs offer added extras such as dedicated IP addresses, multiple-hop connections, split tunneling, VPN kill switches and other neat tools. However, it’s the encryption you really need. Especially if you regularly use open WiFi in coffee shops, airports and other public spaces.
You never know when somebody is watching and only a VPN can keep you properly secure. If you're curious about which VPNs are the best, check out this article we wrote awhile back!
Private Relay is a useful feature for sure, but it’s no replacement for a VPN. Fortunately, it isn’t marketed as one so there should be no confusion.