Apple iCloud Private Relay vs. VPN: Which is Better for Privacy?

· 8 min read
iCloud Private Relay vs. VPN

iCloud Private Relay and VPNs are two of the most popular online security measures used today. Both have their unique benefits and drawbacks, but which one is the best for your needs? In this blog post, we will compare and contrast iCloud Private Relay vs. VPNs to help you decide which option is best for you.

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iCloud Private Relay

Apple's new iCloud Private Relay is a great way to keep your web browsing more private and secure if you use Apple Devices.

The service is available for all Apple operating systems, and it allows the users to connect to and browse the web more privately and securely.

It protects users' browsing in Safari, and DNS resolution queries, and it also protects HTTP traffic. It also prevents basic information related to their web traffic, such as their IP address and DNS records, to be collected by network providers and websites they visit.

However, it only works on iOS devices, and it only protects browsers that are using Safari.

Nevertheless, this is a great new service that will help keep your web browsing more private and secure.

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A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a technology that provides many benefits for users who are looking to protect their online privacy on multiple devices for all the applications on the device.

First, a VPN can be used across a wide range of devices and operating systems, making it a versatile tool for online privacy.

Second, a VPN uses multiple protocols, most of which have been proven to be reliable over time.

Third, VPNs are easy to install and use for most users, making them a convenient option for online privacy. Finally, VPNs also protect web browsing, DNS resolution, and HTTP traffic from being monitored by third parties.

As such, VPNs are a tried and tested method for protecting one's online privacy.

Let's see how these two technologies compare in terms of their benefits and drawbacks.

VPN vs iCloud Private Relay

How they compare


Both iCloud Private Relay and VPNs need a subscription to take advantage of their features. However, VPNs are available for a wider range of devices and operating systems.

This makes them a more versatile tool for online privacy. In contrast, iCloud Private Relay only works on Apple devices that use Safari.

Furthermore, even though we don't recommend free VPNs, they are sometimes a good cost-effective way to improve your online privacy if you're on a tight budget.

For this category, the VPNs win the point since they can be installed virtually on any device you may have.

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iCloud Private Relay is a part of the iCloud+ plans and the pricing starts at $0.99 / month for 50 GB of storage space. In addition to the storage space, iCloud+ offers some additional benefits such as email privacy tools, custom domains, and more.

iCloud+ is an excellent value for the money for the iPhone user. It provides a great way to keep your data private and secure, while also providing some additional benefits that are extremely useful.

Regarding VPNs, there are many free VPNs available, but I would not recommend any of them. In general, free VPNs have fewer features and slower speeds than their paid counterparts. They also tend to be less reliable, with several studies finding that many free VPNs collect user data and sell it to third parties.

In terms of value for money, a VPN will only provide you with one thing, but it will do it very well – online privacy. However, since iCloud Private Relay is part of the iCloud+ offering, then we'll have to pay a lot more for a VPN and their add-ons, to match what Apple is offering.

NordVPN, for example, offers NordLocker and NordPass along with its VPN service. However, its annual price is higher than that of iCloud Private Relay.

iCloud Private Relay gets a point for pricing. So far, they both have one point each.

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Privacy and security comparison

Privacy and security

iCloud Private Relay uses Apple's servers to route traffic, which means that your IP address and DNS requests are not visible to third parties. However, Apple is an American company that can be persuaded by the government to hand over user data, since they operate in the US.

VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt your traffic and route it through their servers. This means that your IP address and DNS requests are not visible to third parties. However, since VPNs operate in multiple jurisdictions, they may be subject to different laws and regulations and if you choose wisely, those jurisdictions will be more privacy-friendly than the US.

For example, NordVPN operates from Panama, which has no data retention laws. This means that NordVPN cannot be forced to hand over user data to the government.

In terms of privacy and security, VPNs are the clear winner since they provide more protection for your online activities.

So far, VPNs have 2 points compared to 1 for iCloud Private Relay.

Ease of use

iCloud Private Relay is straightforward to use since it's integrated into the Safari browser on your Apple device. You don't need to install any additional software or configure anything, which makes it extremely user-friendly.

VPNs can also be easy to use, but this depends on the VPN you select. Some VPNs require you to install additional software, which can be a bit more complicated than using iCloud Private Relay.

In terms of ease of use, iCloud Private Relay is the winner.

At this point, we have a tie.


Since iCloud Private Relay is in beta, it does not have too many settings to choose from. You just have to enable or disable the service and hope that Apple does the right thing behind the scenes and provides you with a good enough service.

On the other hand, VPNs have many features that can be configured to your liking. For example, NordVPN has a CyberSec feature that blocks ads and malware, as well as obfuscated servers, a feature that makes it harder for governments and ISPs to track your online activities.

In terms of features, VPNs are the clear winner, and they have now three points compared to iCloud Private Relay's two.

Internet Speed Chart


iCloud Private Relay is extremely fast since it uses Apple's servers, which are some of the best in the world. It's so fast that since I've turned it on my iPhone, I did not even realize that it's active!

VPNs can also be very fast, but this depends on the VPN you choose and your internet connection. In general, paid VPNs are faster than free ones, but they still cannot compare with Apple when it comes to their network and global reach.

In terms of speed,  iCloud Private Relay is the winner.

So far, both iCloud Private Relay and VPNs have three points each.

It's a close call, but I think VPNs are better than iCloud Private Relay when it comes to privacy and security. They are also more configurable, which means that you can tailor them to your needs. However, iCloud Private Relay is easier to use, and it's also faster.

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Overall Verdict

It's a close call, but I think VPNs are better than iCloud Private Relay when it comes to privacy and security. They are also more configurable, which means that you can tailor them to your needs. However, iCloud Private Relay is easier to use, and it's also faster.

So, which one should you choose? It depends on your needs. If you value privacy and security above all else, then a VPN is the way to go. However, if you want something easy to use and fast, then iCloud Private Relay is a good choice.

I hope this post was helpful to you in deciding between iCloud Private Relay and VPNs.

Frequently asked questions about iCloud Private Relay and VPNs

Is iCloud Private Relay secure?

No one can guarantee that any online service is 100% secure, but iCloud Relay is designed with privacy and security in mind. All data passing through iCloud Relay is encrypted, so your information is safe from snooping eyes. In addition, iCloud Relay routes all traffic through a secure server—meaning your IP address remains hidden.

Is Private Relay safer than VPN?

Both iCloud Private Relay and VPNs offer the same benefits – they conceal your IP address and prevent others from tracking your internet usage. However, VPNs offer greater protection, as they can safeguard all of your internet activity, not just your activity in Safari. In this way, VPNs provide a more comprehensive solution for ensuring your privacy online.

Do I need a VPN if I use Private Relay?

A VPN is always a good idea, even when using iCloud Private Relay. A VPN will keep your traffic private and ensure that no one can spy on your activities. It's also a great way to protect yourself from hackers and Identity theft.

Does Apple have a built-in VPN?

No, Apple does not have a built-in VPN. However, they do have iCloud Private Relay which is similar to a VPN.

Can Private Relay work with VPN?

Yes, they can work together. If you use both a VPN and iCloud Private Relay, your internet usage will be double protected when you use Safari.