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Google is bringing one of its best security features to the iPhone

Published Feb 10th, 2021 10:33AM EST
Google Fi VPN
Image: Kyodo/Newscom/The Mega Agency

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  • Google Fi VPN service is out of beta and available on all Android devices running on the Fi network.
  • Google announced that Fi VPN will launch on iPhone this spring, without noting a firm release date.
  • The Fi VPN service allows users to surf the web, download files, and stream video securely. Browsing history is also hidden from the user’s Google account.

Data security and user privacy have been hot topics for a few years now, and it’s thanks in part to Apple that we’re having all these conversations. Apple’s push to protect user data on its hardware is the reason why iPhones are end-to-end encrypted and why chat apps like iMessage, Signal, and WhatsApp have the same end-to-end encryption in place by default. Facebook’s major annoyance with Apple isn’t because Apple is putting a stop to Facebook’s ability to track users. It’s because Apple is forcing developers to come clean and ask permission to track users. This might be enough for some to opt-out of tracking, whether it’s Facebook or other companies doing the tracking.

Apple’s increased focus on privacy and security has also forced Google to follow suit. Android has been getting more secure and more privacy-friendly than ever, assuming you’re running one of the latest releases. Google might not like it but it’s going to follow Apple’s lead with iOS 14 when it comes to user privacy on Android, although its privacy protections might not be as strong. Google is also ready to provide additional privacy protections to customers who subscribe to its Google Fi cellular service, and it’s something Apple doesn’t currently offer. Google has been testing a built-in VPN tool for Fi, and the feature is now coming to all Android devices. On top of that, Fi VPN is also coming to iPhones this spring.

Google announced in a blog post that Fi VPN has exited beta on Android, so Google Fi subscribers who use Android devices can use Google’s VPN service right now. Google also said that it’s launching a new privacy and security hub in the Fi app on Android that will inform users about the privacy and security features available on Fi. Users will also be able to manage those settings “with just one tap.”

The Fi VPN tool will be also added to iPhones on the Google Fi network, although Google did not specify an actual launch date for the feature.

Google Fi VPN
Animation shows how to enable Google Fi VPN on Android. Image source: Google

VPN, short for virtual private network, is a service everyone should consider adding to their devices, whether they use Fi VPN or an alternative. VPNs can secure Wi-Fi and cellular connections, and anonymize the data sent by users. This would not just protect users against hacking but also prevent services from tracking them. VPNs can be used to download and stream content, with some services allowing users to circumvent geography-based restrictions this way.

Google says that its Fi VPN lets you “stream, browse and download on an encrypted, private connection — meaning that websites can’t use your IP address to track your location and you’re shielded against hackers, even while you’re using unsecure networks.” In a support document, Google explains that Google Fi doesn’t tie the user’s online activity to a Google Account, which could be another great reason to use Fi VPN.

Google seems to indicate that plenty of users are on Fi VPN already, with the service securing “over 226TB of data every day,” or enough data to stream videos for 107 years straight.

More information about the Fi virtual private network service is available at this link, including info on how to turn the service on and off. This applies to Android devices for the time being, but a similar process will be in place once iPhone users get access to Fi VPN.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.