- Best VPN for iPhone 2021
- Choosing the Best VPN for iPhone
- 1. Best VPN for iPhone: ExpressVPN
- Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
Apple devices are deceptively simple. Though it’s easy to write them off as status symbols, iPhones have a lot of functionality hidden under the hood. In particular, iOS interfaces with VPNs well, allowing you to install, sign up and set up a VPN with a few taps.
In this guide to the best VPN for iPhone, we’re going to run through the providers that make this process even easier. We’ll go over why we think each provider is a great choice for iPhone, why they are a good pick overall and their pros and cons.
If you’d rather go easy mode, we recommend signing up for ExpressVPN. It’s our highest rated VPN for its excellent security, privacy and ease of use. There’s even a week-long free trial on iPhone, so there’s no risk in downloading and trying it.
Best VPN for iPhone 2021
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Paymentwall
- : Unlimited
Choosing the Best VPN for iPhone
Apple connoisseurs are spoiled with one of the easiest operating systems to use in the world. That’s something a lot of VPNs struggle with. Providers such as AirVPN prove that (read our AirVPN review to learn about its excellent security, though). Despite attempts by other providers to modernize the VPN experience, they still have a long way to go.
We started our search with ease of use in mind, particularly for technophobes or those who are otherwise unfamiliar with the world of VPNs. In order to be included, the VPN had to allow you to connect with a single tap.
Those types of connections are generally subpar, though, because the VPN application is attempting to find the best server for your location. “Attempting” is the key word, as the VPN will often get close but fail to find the absolute best option for your location. Read our Ivacy review for an example.
Because of that, a solid navigation system is also necessary. The idea is that the VPN can get you connected with a single tap, but configuring your connection only requires a few more. Though we’re focusing on server navigation, a solid settings page doesn’t hurt, either.
Speed was also a big concern because the fastest VPN providers seem like a natural fit for iOS users. Unlike our best VPN for gaming guide, though, we weren’t concerned with latency, just download and upload rates.
Finally, we considered price, but it was a background issue more than anything. Price, refund periods and payment options are all important, but not as important as value. Our top pick is one of the most expensive options on the market, but the features, usability, speed and security more than justify its price.
1. Best VPN for iPhone: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN ranked first in our best VPN guide, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that it ranks first here, too. One of the main reasons we love it so much is the streamlined interface that doesn’t sacrifice power for its simplicity. For Apple fans, it’s an almost perfect fit.
Once you’ve signed up for an account and downloaded the app, all you need to do to connect is tap the large “on” button in the center of the interface. ExpressVPN will use one of its smart locations by default, which usually does a pretty good job of guessing the best server for you.
It’s not perfect, though. During our review, it would generally get the geographical location right, but not the best server in that location. Thankfully, choosing your own is simple. Below the “on” button, you’ll find “choose location.” All you have to do is swipe through the options, which ExpressVPN has organized by continent and country.
There are useful tools in the iOS app, too. Under the “help & support” menu in the settings screen, you’ll find an IP address checker, DNS leak test and WebRTC leak test. Though there are plenty of tools online to handle those, having links in the application is nice.
iOS users have an advantage with ExpressVPN. Normally, it doesn’t offer a free trial, but a 30-day money-back guarantee. On iOS, though, all you need to do is enter your email address to get seven days of service for free.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
We like ExpressVPN’s interface a lot, but no amount of glitz and glamour could make up for poor speeds or lackluster security. Thankfully, with ExpressVPN, you can have your cake and eat it, too. It’s among the fastest and most secure VPNs on the market, which makes the easy-to-use interface look all the better.
You can choose to use OpenVPN, IKEv2 or IPSec, each of which offer AES 256-bit encryption, which takes around a billion or so years to decrypt. While some iOS VPNs restrict you to using IKEv2 — see our VPN protocol breakdown to learn why — ExpressVPN allows you to use all the protocols that are in its desktop application.
As far as speed goes, there are few providers that can touch ExpressVPN. It has transfer rates that can support high-definition and, sometimes, 4K streaming, which is good considering it can get into Netflix around the world. We ranked it first in our best VPN for Netflix guide.
ExpressVPN can handle almost any task (even being our best VPN to access Al Jazeera) and comes with the price tag to match. It’s expensive, which is one of only a few downsides we found in our ExpressVPN review. Even so, it’s worth it. You can sign up risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee on desktop or take advantage of the week-long trial on mobile to see if you think it’s worth it, too.
- Easy to use
- Large server network
While we’ve always been fans of CyberGhost, the update to version 7 made its low price even more enticing. One of the few problems before was a clunky interface, which the most recent edition resolved. iOS users get the updated interface, too, making it easier than ever to get connected.
As with ExpressVPN, all you need to do is sign up for an account, download the app and tick the “on” switch. It will use a recommended server based on your location, which, like our top pick, gets most of the way there.
Server navigation is simple. Toward the bottom of the main screen, tap on the down arrow to open the server list. CyberGhost shows the countries where it has presence and tapping on one will automatically connect you to a server in that country. You can select a specific server by tapping the three dots next to a country.
Servers and countries can be favorited, and you can find your favorites by using the tabs at the top of the server navigation screen. Next to the favorites tab is a tab for streaming, which is one of the best additions to version 7. CyberGhost has around 50 servers optimized for different streaming platforms, with everything from BBC iPlayer to Channel 4 available.
Though ExpressVPN still takes the crown as the best VPN for streaming, CyberGhost is an excellent alternative.
One of our favorite features in the desktop application is the ability to automate CyberGhost across certain networks. That feature is, thankfully, present in the iOS, too.
It allows you to set networks to always connect, never connect, ask to connect or stop connecting. With a dual-band router, you could, for example, have your 2.4Ghz band automatically connect to the VPN and your 5Ghz band automatically disconnect.
While it seems more like a novelty than anything, the automation helps ease of use a lot. Instead of navigating to your app, choosing a server and connecting, all you have to do is switch the network you’re using.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
CyberGhost is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, but it’s still a peg below ExpressVPN because the initial connection suffers too much. Still, if you can deal with the initial drop in speed, CyberGhost is surprisingly resilient around the world.
Even with the slick, new interface, fast speeds and clear dedication to privacy, CyberGhost’s biggest strength is its price. The monthly rate is bad, as is typical of top-shelf VPNs, but the annual and 18-month plans have immense value.
For a little more than $50 for both durations, you can install CyberGhost on up to seven devices, take advantage of the top-of-the-line NoSpy servers and even nab a year of McAfee Total Protection for free. As you can read in our McAfee Total Protection review, though, the latter might be more of a curse than a blessing.
Plans are backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee, too, which is the longest refund window we’ve seen from any VPN. You can learn more about that, as well as the new features in version 7, in our full CyberGhost review.
- Specialty servers
- VPN automation
- Large decline in speed on initial connection
3. Private Internet Access
We called Private Internet Access a “fast, no-frills VPN” the last time we used it, which is a perfect description for iOS users. As if ExpressVPN and CyberGhost weren’t minimal enough, PIA shows you can get by with even less. The main screen simply shows a toggle switch, location and public IP address.
As with the others, you can get started by toggling the “on” switch. PIA will use its recommended location, which you can change by tapping the location box near the bottom of the screen. You can also open the server list by using the hamburger menu and tapping “region selection.”
The settings menu looks like the standard VPN fare at first. You can adjust your protocol, level of encryption, socket and port, which is typical. There are advanced settings that other VPNs don’t have access to, though, including the data authentication algorithm and handshake cipher.
Two mobile-specific functions are also in the settings. There’s a “dark” theme, which switches out white for black in the user interface for a different look. Though that just seems like an aesthetic preference, the dark theme serves a practical purpose on mobile devices. Because the theme isn’t producing light on the dark surfaces, it can save your battery life.
The iPhone X, and even leading Android phones such as the Pixel 3 and Galaxy S9, use an OLED display, which doesn’t produce light on black surfaces. PIA is taking advantage of that tech to try to solve battery life issues while using the app.
There’s also a content blocker for Safari, which we can only assume is based on MACE, an ad blocker included in the desktop app. During our testing, MACE worked like a charm, which is something not all VPN ad blockers can say. Read our StrongVPN review for an example.
Other Reasons We Like Private Internet Access
Though PIA is great in its ease of use, it falters in other areas. It’s not feature-rich, it struggles with streaming platforms and the desktop application leaves a lot to be desired. Even so, the pros outweigh the cons, making PIA one of the best budget options on the market.
It’s cheap, even on the monthly end. PIA usually changes the same price as other VPN providers for twice the duration. The two-year plan is a few dollars more than an annual plan at CyberGhost, for example, and the annual plan is less than half the price of an annual plan at ExpressVPN.
PIA is quick, too. There was only a slight drop on our initial connection, giving up around 20 percent of download speeds. After that, it was resilient. That’s due, in part, to the lower level of encryption PIA is set to. By default, it uses a 128-bit key, which takes less time to encrypt and decrypt than a 256-bit key.
Though still considered secure, AES 128-bit may freak out some people. Thankfully, you can bump up to a 256-bit key in the settings. If all that was gibberish to you, make sure to read our description of encryption.
PIA only offers a week-long refund window, which isn’t too big a deal considering how cheap it is. You can easily sign up in the iOS app, too. All you need to do is enter your email and confirm your subscription using your Apple account. You can learn more about the sign-up process in our Private Internet Access review.
- Easy to use
- A lot of settings on iOS
- Uses AES-128 by default
NordVPN is easy to use, too, which shouldn’t be a surprise. That said, unlike the other options on the list, it doesn’t use a standard layout of toggle switch, server selection and public IP. The application opens with a map and a small “quick connect” button. Tapping on that will set you up with NordVPN’s recommended server.
The map is the main form of server navigation, though, which makes it more stylish and intuitive to pick a location. The markers on the map are there to show countries where NordVPN has servers, not the individual servers themselves.
Tapping on a location will change the bottom “quick connect” window into a server selection screen.
All you need to do is swipe up. NordVPN will show you the servers in the country, along with load and distance from your location. There’s also a heart icon next to the servers, so you can mark your favorites.
If you deselect the country and swipe up on the “quick connect” button, you can browse the full server list. At the top of the server list, you’ll also find your favorites, a search bar and NordVPN’s specialty servers, which we’ll talk about in the next section.
However, NordVPN ranks fourth for a reason. Despite its superior navigation to PIA and ExpressVPN, the iOS app lacks any true settings. In the settings, you can log out, upgrade your plan, contact support and toggle the killswitch. That’s it.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
Even with the lack of settings in the iOS app, NordVPN is one of the best options on the market. One reason is that you get access to many specialty servers, some of which are usable on iOS.
On desktop, there are four options: peer-to-peer, Onion over VPN, Double VPN and dedicated IP. The Double VPN servers are the most unusual. Essentially, you use two VPN connections, hopping from one server to the next, which doubles your security. Only a few other VPN providers have that feature, including Windscribe and VPNArea (read our VPNArea review).
Unfortunately, iOS users are restricted to Onion over VPN and P2P servers. Those are strange choices for a mobile experience because Double VPN connections seem more important on mobile than P2P ones. Even so, the options are there.
Though it’s not inexpensive, NordVPN makes up for it with long-term pricing. You can purchase up to three years upfront, which gets the monthly price lower than almost every provider on the market. Plans come with six simultaneous connections and a 30-day money-back guarantee, too, so you can try it risk-free. You can learn how to sign up in our NordVPN review.
- Excellent UI
- Specialty servers
- Long-term options
- No settings
Windscribe is the best free VPN on the market, which isn’t easy considering most free VPNs are terrible and, sometimes, dangerous. Read our worst free VPN guide to see what we mean. It takes down TunnelBear easily, offering 10GB of data per month over a measly 500MB for free (read our TunnelBear review).
There are three options when you sign up: 2GB, 10GB or unlimited bandwidth. The 2GB and 10GB variants are free, but you’ll need to supply your email if you want the latter.
As with the others, Windscribe only takes a tap to connect. It sets a best location by default, but, unlike the other options, the server list is below the “on” switch. The list is seperated by region, and you can select the specific server you want from a region by tapping the down arrow next to it. On the free plan, most of the more exotic servers aren’t available.
That’s all there is to the iOS app. Windscribe manages to fit everything it needs to on a single screen without compromising the interface. You can use the hamburger menu to find support, upgrade your plan and change your preferences, but there are no additional settings.
As it is for NordVPN, that’s an issue. The iOS experience is good, but there’s a severe lack of settings and features. Our top three picks show that you can cram a desktop experience on to a mobile device. Though NordVPN and Windscribe are still excellent options, we hope they add more features in the future.
Other Reasons We Like Windscribe
The main draw of Windscribe is its free plan, which comes with 2GB of data by default, but 10GB if you verify your email. There are ways to earn more data, too, including tweeting with a Windscribe link, referring friends and family and even using leftover computing resources to solve hashes.
Paying subscribers get more features, though, in addition to unlimited bandwidth and access to the entire server network. There are servers specialized for streaming called WindFlix. They’re built to get around the dreaded Netflix proxy error, but we tested native servers in those locations and got through, as well.
Thankfully, subscriptions are cheap. Though the monthly rate is still more than PIA’s, the annual and biannual plans are among the cheapest we’ve seen. All plans come with unlimited simultaneous connections and the biennial plan even comes with six months of ”Dashlane
- Great free plan
- Gets into Netflix
- Limited iOS options
There are a lot of VPN options in the App Store, many of which are subpar. If you just search “VPN,” the only provider from our list that will show is NordVPN, and it’s about 20 results down. It’s not always best to trust App Store reviews.
While it’s somewhat slim pickings when it comes to high-quality iOS VPNs, there are other options, so if you didn’t find a provider you liked here, we recommend checking out other services if ExpressVPN or CyberGhost aren’t to your liking.
What VPN do you think is best for iPhone? Let us know in the comments below. Why not check out our best VPN for Mac piece and other VPN articles while you’re here, too? As always, thanks for reading.