The Best VPN Apps for iPhone or iPad

The Best VPN apps for iPhones and iPads can be difficult to choose. Between looking for VPN apps that don’t track you, that provide good server coverage, good customer service, and all the different features, there is a lot to check up on. We’ve written before about what a VPN is and what to look for when shopping for a VPN, but here we’ll list our favorite VPN apps, with a special emphasis on ease of use and simplicity rather than feature bloat. 

Related: Do You Need a Password Manager? Hint: Yes you do. Here's Why & How to Get a Password Keeper App

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What’s In This Article:

What Does VPN Mean on My iPhone?

In brief, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a way of opening an encrypted tunnel through the internet to reach a private, protected network somewhere else. For example, say you are at an internet cafe in St. Louis and activate a VPN app to connect to a server in Colorado, then you use Google to do a search. In this situation Google will associate your searches with the address of the server in Colorado, not with the internet cafe in St. Louis. This is more secure than the internet cafe’s open Wi-Fi would be normally, since the connection will be encrypted. If you want to know more, check out our guide: VPN: What Is VPN, How Does It Work & Which Is the Best VPN Service for You.

Now let's dive in to the Top iOS VPN apps, and if you can say that ten times fast then you might be an iPhone expert!

4 Best VPN iPhone Apps

1. NordVPN ($71.99/year)

One of the most popular iPhone and iPad VPNs and for good reason. The company maintains great privacy and security practice, its servers are fast and numerous, its app is easy to use, and it does everything you need it to, including Netflix. Their commitment to privacy and security extends to having their services, servers, and apps audited extensively by neutral third parties to verify that they are in fact living up to their claims. NordVPN is a premium service.

vpn iphone: NordVPN's splashscreenvpn app: NordVPN is a best-in-class VPN app for iOS and iPadOS. This image shows a map of its server locations

2. SaferVPN ($65.99/year)

I’ve used Safer VPN for years and stand by it. Safer’s connection speeds are excellent, its server network is solid, and its reliability in accessing streaming services from abroad is first-rate. It also offers a very helpful little first-time walkthrough of how to use the app, great for beginners! As one of the most widely used VPNs, it’s a great option.

best vpn for iphone: SaferVPN is a great paid VPN service. This image shows its main screen.iOS VPN: This image shows SaferVPN, a high quality paid service VPN.

3. PIA VPN By Private Internet Access ($39.99/year)

Private Internet Access cuts back on features to offer a reliable service that is truly, yes, private. You won’t get the same speeds as Nord or Safer, and you may not get full access to Netflix, but if what you’re after is privacy while browsing and the security of a solid encryption, then PIA is a safe and affordable option.

What is VPN on my iPhone: Private Internet Access makes a great paid VPN app and service.VPN App for iPhone: the server list for the Private Internet Access iOS app.

4. ExpressVPN ($99.99/year)

With a truly vast array of servers, stellar connection speeds, and a great no logging policy ExpressVPN is one of the premium contenders. Its high cost is what you pay for the best.

How to get VPN on iPhoneVPN connection iPhone

Best Free VPN for iOS

We advise against Free VPNs because if a service is offered for free on the internet then the company is really making its money selling you: either by channeling your web traffic past a haze of advertising or by harvesting your use patterns and selling it on to advertisers, both of which somewhat defeat the point of using a VPN for privacy. But if you need a VPN in a pinch, consider the following options:

1. ProtonVPN (Free or $96/year). 

Proton was founded by academics and scientists at CERN. The company has a solid reputation for privacy and integrity and represents the exception to prove the rule about avoiding free VPNs. ProtonVPN’s free mode is slower, doesn’t allow torrenting, and only has servers in three countries, among other restrictions. On the other hand, it’s free, and has no ads, no logs, and no tracking whatever. They will try to upsell you on the paid plans, but the upsale is not intrusive. Truly, if you need a free VPN, this is the one to get.

Free vpn for iphone: showing ProtonVPNs free mode and tons of serversFree vpn for ipad: Showing ProtonVPN's free mode and server list

2. Buffered VPN (Free mode or $69.99/year) 

Buffered VPN allows you to keep a free account with them that grants sixty minutes of free use of their servers per month. It’s not much, but if you don’t need a VPN very often then it might be all you need! Buffered didn’t make our top-four list above because in our tests their connections proved a little less stable than the top contenders, but they’re a solid and very popular service nonetheless.

Best free VPN for iOSFree VPN for iPad

3. Hotspot Shield (Free, or $2.99/month) 

Hotspot Shield has a free option offering limited speeds. Again it's a freemium service, which means they will try to upsell you to their paid service. Also, in this case, you may also see additional advertising while you browse, since. This is not ideal, but it might prove necessary in a tight spot.

What is VPN on iPadbest privacy app for iPhone

Free Trial Periods

All of the Best VPN apps listed above have free trial periods. Sign up for one and use it for the trial period, then cancel your subscription. If you only need a VPN once in a long while, this may be your best option for free.

How to Get & Use a VPN on the iPhone or iPad

While picking the right VPN app for iPhone or iOS can seem daunting even for experts, once you've made your choice the setup process is easy as eating pie, and toggling the VPN on or off is even easier. To make it even better, VPN apps for iPhone privacy and security all basically work the same way. Here's how to download, set up, and use an iPhone or iPad VPN app.

  1. Pick a service. I will demonstrate with NordVPN.
  2. Open the App Store and search for that service by name.
  3. Tap Get  to download the app for your chosen service from the App Store.


     
  4. When you first open the app you'll be asked to create a username and password. If possible, I recommend using iCloud Keychain to generate a secure password. Or use a password manager.
  5. Pick a subscription plan. In this case, I'll just sign up for the free trial.


     
  6. Allow the app to modify your iPhone’s VPN settings. This is just a pop-up window, but you do have to allow it. It may not pop up until you select a server (next step) depending on which app you chose.
  7. Pick a server to connect to and tap the connect button, or let the app choose the fastest server by tapping auto-connect (or quick-connect, or something similarly named).

  8. Once connected, you'll see some statistics about your connection. When you’re done browsing, tap the disconnect button.
  9. If you’re going to use the VPN often, consider adding it as a widget to your today-view. Once there, you can toggle your VPN on or off with one quick button.

Every VPN for iOS that I have tested has worked almost identically. There are a few cosmetic differences, but generally speaking you should see similar controls with similar names in whatever app you choose. That said, some apps have more advanced features that it might be worth reading about, such as NordVPN's CyberSec toggle.

And that's it! I hope this article has helped you make your choice for which VPN to use. VPN services are a great help in keeping your data safe. Remember to always turn it on when using public Wi-Fi!

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Cullen Thomas's picture

Cullen Thomas is a Writer and Producer at iPhone Life, creating tips and guides to help users unlock the full potential of their iOS and iPhone. In addition to writing countless tip-of-the-day articles and many detailed guides, Cullen has spent nine years as an instructor in media and communications at Maharishi University, lecturing on technical and artistic subjects ranging from camera and audio hardware to story-plotting to how to manage a film crew. Cullen answers questions daily about iPhones and iOS as part of the Ask an Editor insider service, and designs curriculum for iPhone Life’s online classes. As a frequent contributor to iPhone Life magazine and occasional guest on the iPhone Life podcast, Cullen likes to talk about security and privacy news, tech, gadgets, and apps, even if nobody asked.

Cullen holds a master’s degree in Cinematic Arts from the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. Cullen also holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Maharishi University, one in literature with an emphasis in writing and the other in Communications and Media. Cullen’s short fiction has been featured in anthologies from Amphibian Press and TANSTAAFL, and Cullen co-owns a game design company, Thoughtspike games, which builds thought-provoking puzzle games. Cullen is a sci-fi author, a coffee connoisseur, and an iPhone expert.