The iOS 15.3 update release will fix iCloud Private Relay warnings on T-Mobile plans

The iOS 15.3 update release will fix iCloud Private Relay warnings on T-Mobile plans
Last week, a number of iPhone users complained that they have trouble using the iCloud Private Relay feature on carrier networks. The option is available to iCloud+ subscribers and its purpose is "to help prevent websites and network providers from creating a detailed profile about you."

Apple's iCloud Private Relay is a VPN of sorts that encrypts the network traffic from your iPhone and sends it through two separate internet relays, hence the naming. Just like with a VPN, websites are in the dark about your true IP address or location and carriers can't aggregate your browsing activity and connect it with your persona.

The iCloud Private Relay feature is still in a beta state and a useful tool for the privacy-oriented, but it can be turned on and off at will if the user notices that it is slowing their connection down too much, or if it doesn't work as intended. 

That's what happened earlier in the week, as iPhone users with iCloud+ subscriptions found out that messages like the one on the T-Mobile network below that warned them the service isn't supported by their plan:

Cue all major U.S. carrier lining up to explain they aren't the ones blocking the iCloud Private Relay service for some nefarious reason. While Verizon and AT&T's statements were in that vein, T-Mobile mentioned that it may have found the culprit.

The iOS 15.2 update isn't what broke iCloud Private Relay

According to the Un-carrier, Apple's iOS 15.2 update had switched iCloud Private Relay off and returned it to its default state. Apple, however, denied that the iOS 15.2 update is behind the iCloud Private Relay issues with the statement that it simply hasn't tinkered with the feature at all in the update:

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T-Mobile conceded and confirmed for 9to5 Mac that they were wrong to blame iOS 15.2 for turning off iCloud Private Relay: "Apple doesn’t change customers’ settings when they update to iOS 15.2. Customers may see an error message if they previously toggled iCloud Private Relay or Limit IP Address Tracking off in their Cellular Data Options Settings."

It turns out that the carriers' restrictions might have something to do with the iCloud Private Relay switch and warnings, after all, as a few of T-Mobile's cell phone plans do feature a content filtering option that may clash with what Apple offers on its end. 

How to turn iCloud Private Relay back on

Here's how to enable iCloud Private Relay if you are an iCloud+ subscriber and it had been switched off, either by an update or by a carrier's plan settings:

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options on your iOS device.
  2. Turn on the "Limit IP Address Tracking" option.
  3. Go to Setting > iCloud on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.
  4. Turn on Private Relay.

The iOS 15.3 update will fix the iCloud Private Relay carrier switch warning

In any case, the next iOS 15.3 update for your iPhone may dispose of the cryptic wording that iCloud Private Relay clashes with your carrier plan altogether to avoid the brouhaha that emerged around the service this week. In the latest iOS 15.3 update beta 2, Apple is making the game plan for reaction when an iCloud Private Relay switch-off occurs much clearer. 

Instead of the initial wording that you see in the warning on T-Mobile's network displayed above, the message will now say that "Private Relay is turned off for your cellular plan. Private Relay is either not supported by your cellular plan or has been turned off in Cellular Settings. With Private Relay turned off, this network can monitor your internet activity, and your IP address is not hidden from known trackers or websites."

This way, Apple advises to first go into your Cellular Data Options menu in Settings and turn on the feature that explicitly allows iCloud Private Relay to function, like the "Limit IP Address Tracking" option in some of T-Mobile's data plans.

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