7 things you need to know about Google VPN

Google One app on a phone in a jeans pocket
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google is always extending its tech empire with new apps and services, but the most interesting addition for a long time is its shiny new VPN.

Signing up for the company's 2TB+ Google One plans not only gets you cloud storage and phone backup: there's now a bundled Android VPN, too.

Sounds good, but can you really trust a VPN from a company that makes its money by collecting your data? Does the service have the features you need, and how does it compare with the big providers? We've got the details you need to decide whether this is the VPN for you.

1. It's designed to prevent logging.

Using a VPN normally means trusting the service to keep your browsing history private, but Google's VPN is different. The company doesn't just promise not to log your details, it's designed the service to make that impossible.

Log into most VPNs and the server handles your credentials and can see every site you visit. It can be relatively easy to build a browsing history.

Log into Google One VPN and the company uses a technique called blind signing to protect you. Google's authentication system knows who you are, but doesn't see your traffic. And the VPN server sees the sites you're visiting, but doesn't know who you are. The end result: Google can't log your browsing history because there's no way to link your online activities to your account.

Apple's Private Relay also uses blind signing, but it's not an approach we've seen from the other big VPN names yet, and that gives Google a definite privacy advantage.

2. It's open source and audited, too.

Don't trust Google? Smart move: you shouldn't take any provider at its word. That's why Google has open-sourced its Google One client code (opens in new tab), and had the client and other service components independently audited by security consultancy NCC Group (opens in new tab).

It's good to see any VPN opening itself up to this kind of scrutiny. And if you're the technical type, go read the report for yourself: it's crammed with low-level detail on what the auditors checked and everything they found.

Google One VPN interface in landscape form

(Image credit: Google)

3. It doesn't allow changing your location.

One common reason for using a VPN is to change your digital location. If you're in the UK, for instance, connecting to a US VPN server gets you a US IP address and might allow you to unblock local Netflix content.

Google One VPN doesn't support changing countries. It doesn't even have a location list. All you get is an Enable option which connects you to the nearest server in your current country.

That's often all you'll need, and for instance Google One VPN protects you on local Wi-Fi as well as anyone else. But it's not going to help you unblock websites, and as Google needs to work with content providers like Netflix, our guess is it never will.

4. It only works in supported countries.

Google's strict policy on location changing has a side-effect you might not expect: it won't work outside of Google One VPN's supported countries (currently Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.)

Connect to most VPNs when you're in Amsterdam, for instance, and even if the provider doesn't have a server in the Netherlands, it'll route you to the nearest location in another country.

Try to access Google One VPN when you're in Amsterdam, or anywhere else not on Google's supported list, and it won't connect to another country. It just won't connect at all. This isn't a VPN for globetrotters.

Google One VPN screens showing the Enable button and Connected message

(Image credit: Google)

5. It's (mostly) very easy to use.

The VPN is a great addition to Google One, so we weren't surprised to find the 'Enable VPN' button prominently placed at the top of our One app screen.

Tap Enable, then tap the switch and you're generally connected in a few seconds. Don't need it any more? Tap the switch again to disconnect.

We noticed a small potential gotcha in the VPN's error handling. If you try to use it in an unsupported country, or you've got another VPN connected, One won't display any kind of error message: it just won't work. Turn off the other VPN, though, and Google One returns to its smooth-running self.

6. It's more powerful than it looks.

Google One can't match the likes of ExpressVPN for features. Apart from the lack of a location list, there's no option to automatically connect when you access insecure Wi-Fi. No support for different protocols (you must use Google's own custom offering). No DNS settings, no bonus extras like blocking of malware and phishing sites. And of course, it's currently Android-only.

Checking the Settings page reveals a major privacy bonus, though, in a kill switch to block your internet access if the VPN drops.

Split tunneling support is a handy extra which allows some apps to bypass the VPN and use your regular connection.

And if you need to turn the VPN off briefly, no need to disconnect. A Snooze feature disables the VPN for 5 minutes, then automatically turns it back on again, so there's no chance you'll forget. That's a welcome plus, and not a feature we see with most VPNs.

The Google One app in the Play Store

(Image credit: Google)

7. It's decent value and easy to try.

Google's VPN is included with the 2TB and higher Google One subscriptions, priced from $9.99 a month.

That's good value, especially for monthly billing. Most monthly billed VPN plans cost from $10 and up (although you can often get huge discounts if you sign up for longer).

Plus, of course, most regular VPN plans don't get you 2TB of storage or more, shareable with up to 5 family members, and 10% Store credit on Google Store purchases.

Google's VPN can't compete with the power and lengthy feature lists of providers like NordVPN or Surfshark, and probably never will. It handles simple tasks very well, though, and if you need a little extra Android protection (and can use the storage space) it's well worth a try.

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.