Google One VPN is a simple VPN which comes bundled with the tech giant’s premium subscription service, Google One.
When we say ‘simple’, we really, really mean it. There are barely any options, settings or features. You can’t even choose a location: hit the Enable button and the app automatically connects to a server in your country, then goes to work encrypting your internet traffic.
Oh, and talking of apps, the VPN only works on Android and iOS, and you can’t manually set it up on anything else.
If you’re hoping to unblock US Netflix, protect your laptops, set up the VPN on a router, or anything even faintly advanced, then we can say absolutely, definitively, and without question, Google One VPN isn’t the service for you.
But if you’re looking for a lightweight and easy-to-use mobile-centric service, solely to protect your internet activities on public Wi-Fi, then it might be a different story. In this review, we’ll look more closely at what Google One VPN offers, what it doesn’t have, and find out whether this could be a smart choice for you.
What is Google One VPN?
Although it’s more basic than just about anything from the big VPN names, Google One VPN is a real virtual private network (VPN) which delivers the same fundamental security benefits.
Turn it on, and the app directs all your device traffic through a secure encrypted tunnel. Snoopers aren’t able to access your data on even the most insecure of public Wi-Fi hotspots, and with your real IP address replaced by Google One VPN’s server, it’s more difficult for companies to track you online.
The big omission is Google One VPN doesn’t allow you to choose a new virtual location (pretend to be in the US when you’re actually in Australia, for instance). As a result, it can’t help you access US-exclusive Netflix shows, say, or any other content which isn’t normally available in your country.
There aren’t a lot of features elsewhere, either, particularly on Google One’s iOS app. You can connect, disconnect, or allow the app to display notifications when its state changes, but that’s it. Okay, the notification feature is useful as it’ll raise an alert if the VPN accidentally drops, but otherwise that’s extremely limited.
The Android app is a little more interesting. It includes a kill switch, for instance, a handy tool which blocks your internet if the connection drops, shielding your identity and preventing you transferring data without the VPN’s protection.
A Bypass option acts as a simple split tunneling system. If an app won’t work when Google One VPN is active, you can set it up to use your regular internet connection instead. You may never need this, but it’s a handy usability plus and we’re glad to see it here.
Once you are connected, the Android app gives you a ‘Snooze for 5 min’ option. This pauses the VPN’s protection for five minutes, then automatically reconnects (you can repeatedly hit an ‘Add 5 min’ button while paused if you need more time). If you don’t need to use the VPN for a while then you could just disconnect, of course, but then you might forget to reconnect later. The value of Snooze is it does this for you.
That’s where the Android app feature list ends, unfortunately. That’s still on the short side, but it covers some of the basics, and could be enough for not-so-demanding users.
Does Google One VPN store any logs?
Connect to most VPNs, and your login and user traffic is sent through the same server. That single computer knows your identity and where you’re going online, allowing a malicious VPN (or anyone who can compromise the server) to log your activities and link them to your account.
Google One VPN is designed so that you log in using one server, but your browsing is routed through another. This way, the first computer knows who you are, but not what you’re doing; the second knows what you’re doing, but not who you are. Even Google can’t see which sites you’re visiting (which means it can’t log them, either).
The service does log some very general data about VPN use: how many connections you’ve made in the last 28 days, for instance, and how many connections your account has active right now. But that’s not unusual – most VPNs monitor the number of active connections to enforce ‘maximum device’ limits – and there’s nothing here that can link you to any action online.
Google doesn’t have the best of reputations for looking after user privacy, but fortunately you don’t have to take its VPN claims entirely on trust. The company has open-sourced some reference libraries for its apps, allowing anyone with technical expertise to take a look at how it works, and in 2021 the VPN was audited by NCC Group.
The conclusions were generally positive, with NCC Group finding that the VPN worked as promised, and explaining how Google had taken measures to prevent the system being compromised (malicious employees can’t simply install a backdoor on their own, for instance).
The report warned that the technical protections ‘did not categorically eliminate the opportunity for Google to violate its privacy claims’, but any audit of any VPN could make a similar point: things look great now, but it’s possible a provider could cheat the system later.
Overall, although the system design, open sourcing and audit report will never win over the biggest Google skeptics, the reality is Google One VPN has more support for its no-logging claim than most of the competition.
How much does Google One VPN cost?
Google One VPN is available with the Google One Premium plan and higher, to users in these countries:
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
(After signing up, you can travel to other countries and Google One VPN should still work. But it may not connect to a server in that country, which could lead to problems. If you use Google One VPN in Hungary, say, and it connects to a server in Germany, then websites may not serve you with the local content you expect.)
Google One Premium includes the VPN and a host of other features and services. It offers 2TB of online storage; a 10% discount in the Google Store; and various premium video calling features (livestream video calls on YouTube, Google Meet noise cancelation, video recording and up to 24-hour group video calls). Also, Google Experts are on hand for support, providing instant answers to questions about Google products and services, and more.
Google One Premium plan is priced at $9.99 billed monthly, which is cheaper than many big names (ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, Hotspot Shield and others charge around $13 for their monthly plans).
Sign up to Google One Premium for a year and you’ll pay $8.33 a month, which is significantly more expensive than some. For example, Private Internet Access is just $3.33 a month on its annual plan, $2.03 over three years, for a far more powerful VPN service.
How easy is Google One VPN to use?
The Google One app doesn’t even try to match regular VPNs for visual style. It’s really just a web page, with different sections on the VPN and Google One’s other features, and you browse it for whatever you need.
This still isn’t difficult to use: all you have to do is hit the Enable VPN button, then an Enable VPN switch, and typically you’re connected in around a second. Standard VPN apps usually require one tap rather than two, but that’s the only significant difference.
Android users can make life even easier by adding Google One VPN to their Quick Settings menu. After that, there’s no need to even launch the app. Connecting or disconnecting is then as easy as swiping down a couple of times and tapping the Google One VPN button.
What does Google One VPN unblock?
Most VPNs let you connect to servers in different countries, perhaps allowing you to appear as though you’re in Manhattan when actually you’re in Melbourne. This may allow you to access content which isn’t normally available in your country.
Google One VPN’s apps automatically choose your server, though, usually one based in your own country. If you can’t change your region, you won’t be able to unblock anything at all.
One issue with streaming sites in particular is they often look out for VPN connections, and block access if they detect you’re using one. Might using Google One VPN prevent someone from accessing the big streaming platforms, we wondered?
We connected to One VPN, then watched Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and BBC iPlayer without any hassles. Looks like Google One VPN’s ‘we don’t unblock anything’ stance has at least one advantage: you’re less likely to be blocked while legitimately accessing sites in your own country.
How fast is Google One VPN?
We tested Google One VPN’s performance by installing the app on a Samsung Galaxy Tab A7, then connecting to the service using a Three UK 5G router.
With the VPN turned off, the Three 5G router achieved average speeds of 250-260Mbps.
Activating Google One VPN reduced speeds, but only minimally, to 200-225Mbps.
To get a feel for how this compared to other VPNs, we installed and ran apps from ExpressVPN, Surfshark, IPVanish and Mullvad on the same setup. They all averaged speeds of around 125-150Mbps, significantly slower than Google One VPN.
Don’t take these figures as any kind of guarantee, though. There are a huge number of variables involved in measuring mobile VPN speeds, and you may see very different results depending on your network, device, router, location, ISP, time of day and a whole lot more.
Final verdict: How good is Google One VPN?
Google One VPN is missing some hugely important features, and the inability to change location, unblock anything, or run on Windows or Macs will rule out the service for many users. But if you only need the VPN for occasional mobile use while accessing public Wi-Fi, and you’ll make use of the 2TB online storage space and other Google One extras, then it’s definitely worth a try.
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