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While iPhones and other modern smartphones today tend to have excellent connectivity, using your mobile data abroad or as a hotspot can be inefficient or may result in additional fees imposed by your carrier.
Mobile hotspots or limited mobile plans just aren't always feasible options when you are traveling. Whether you are working online during the day in a conference room or need to stay entertained for a few hours in a hotel lobby or coffee shop, sometimes local Wi-Fi hotspots are your only real option.
However, connecting to a local hotel, airport, school, or coffee shop Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad is a risk, especially when traveling in foreign countries.
There's no telling what or who is monitoring your traffic. Even if the hotel has encrypted Wi-Fi, you never know what's running on that network. You should avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi whenever possible, but having a good VPN is essential if you have no other option.
I recommend adopting a VPN service that works with your iPhone and iPad. In this article, I've analyzed and ranked the top VPN services I've come to know over the years that offer solid iPhone and iPad clients and good performance. Let's take a look at each below.
If you're looking for a quality option for all intents and purposes, check out our best VPNs overall page.
Also: The best travel VPNs
ExpressVPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.7 average, 261k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 5 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and more | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 94 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
The ExpressVPN app supports iOS back to iOS 12. So as long as your iPhone or iPad runs on iOS 12 or higher, you'll be able to use ExpressVPN. In addition to iOS, it supports all of the major platforms. There are browser extensions for Edge, Chrome, and Firefox, and VPN for gaming is also available.
If you want the most options for countries to connect to, ExpressVPN has 160 servers located in 94 countries. ExpressVPN ranks among the fastest VPNs, so it shouldn't reduce your connection speeds as much as the average VPN.
Overall, if you're looking for a set-and-forget VPN with decent speeds and user-friendliness, ExpressVPN is our top pick.
Subscription costs begin at the equivalent of $9.99 monthly for six months or $12.95 for a month of access. Alternatively, signing up for a 12-month plan will give you a discount of 49% off at $6.67 monthly and three months for free. The iPhone app comes with a 7-day free trial.
NordVPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.7 average, 6.9k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 60 | Servers: 5,000+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
NordVPN is one of the more popular VPN offerings on the iPhone App Store. Installing NordVPN on the iPhone is a simple, painless way to secure predictable performance across regions.
It has many tools in addition to a standard VPN service. NordVPN's Onion over VPN is a special category of NordVPN servers that enables Tor capabilities, supports peer-to-peer file sharing, and allows you to connect through a second server for an added layer of protection. You can also set up a dedicated IP address for an additional fee.
In addition to iOS, NordVPN runs on all the most popular platforms. NordVPN performed sufficiently well during testing, with a small reduction in speed that you'd expect to see with any VPN service.
Prices start from $3.99 per month on a two-year standard plan to $15.69 per month on a full, one-month subscription. For a limited time, NordVPN is also running a promotion. New users can subscribe to a one-year or two-year plan -- standard, plus, or complete -- and will receive up to 59% off. Users on these plans will also receive three months of access for free.
IPVanish VPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.5 average, 92.8k ratings | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, FireTV, and Kodi | Logging: None, except billing data | Servers: 2000+ | Locations: 75 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
At first glance, IPVanish VPN may seem like a generic VPN service, but there's more than meets the eye. IPVanish has depth and plenty of configuration settings for those who want to control almost every aspect of their VPN connection.
IPVanish VPN has many protocols, so you'll always know what to expect regardless of what you're connecting to. The app has an abundance of configuration options, and there's an extensive range of server selection options.
Review: IPVanish VPN
IPVanish supports devices back to iOS 14. We found IPVanish to be impressively fast. However, it couldn't hide that I was connecting through a VPN, which could be an issue in countries where internet connectivity and activities are monitored at the state or ISP level. That said, IPVanish's data transfers were secure and provided a good user experience.
As long as you're not trying to obscure your VPN connection, IPVanish is an excellent option, and it's currently on sale. You can sign up for a two-year plan for $2.96 per month or a yearly subscription for $3.33 per month. Alternatively, if you don't want to sign up for the long haul, you can pay $11.99 for a month of access.
Surfshark VPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.8 average, 34.3k ratings | Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 100+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Surfshark VPN is an affordable and reliable service. In our review of Surfshark, we found no information leaks and it had fast connection times. However, download speeds were average.
Luckily, the company doesn't skimp on security. It offers AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, and Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption. Surfshark supports devices running iOS 10.3 or higher.
Review: Surfshark VPN
Surfshark has a solid array of features, including ad and tracker blocking, a data breach scanner, and multi-hop connections (connecting through two servers). That said, certain tools aren't available for iOS devices. If you want to use the Bypasser tool (Surfshark's split tunneling feature) you'll need to use the Windows or Android app.
Surfshark often runs promotions to lure new consumers to its plans. Currently, you can pay $12.95 for a month of access, $3.99 per month on a one-year plan, or only $2.30 if you are happy to remain a subscriber for at least two years. The VPN provider has also thrown in two months of free access on 24-month plans.
Proton free VPN iOS features: Apple App Store rating: 4.6 average, 18.8k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 1 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: None | Customer service: FAQ, email | Data limit: None | Countries: 3 | Free servers: 100+ | (Paid plans: 1,900 servers in 65+ countries)
Proton VPN has an excellent paid service that ranks as one of the fastest VPNs and best VPNs overall.
In general, we recommend you avoid free VPNs for several reasons. There are potentially serious security concerns with free VPN providers. How do these companies have the money to build and maintain a secure product? Likely, they don't. A free VPN service could even make money selling your data, which defeats the purpose of using a VPN to protect your identity, activities, and other information.
Review: Proton VPN
The only situation where using a free VPN wouldn't necessarily come with security concerns is when it's a free version of a reputable paid service, as is the case with Proton VPN. While limited to three countries and approximately 100 servers, some additional free features from Proton Mail, Calendar, and Drive exist.
If, however, you are interested in adopting the paid version of Proton VPN, you can sign up for a 24-month VPN Plus plan at $5.30 per month, or Proton Unlimited for $8.50 per month. (As a Swiss VPN, these prices are converted from euros).
I consider NordVPN the best VPN for iPhone and iPad, and it's one of the most popular VPNs for Apple devices overall. NordVPN has an easy-to-use app that reliably performs well. It also supports P2P traffic and has built-in features such as its Double VPN and an option to purchase a dedicated IP address.
|Best VPN for iPhone and iPad||Starting price||Kill Switch||Apple App store rating||Simultaneous connections|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67+ per month||Yes||4.7||5|
|Surfshark VPN||$2.30+ per month||Yes||4.8||Unlimited|
|NordVPN||$3.99+ per month||Yes||4.7||6|
|IPVanish VPN||$3.33+ per month||Yes||4.5||Unlimited|
|Proton free VPN||Free with limited services or $5.30 (approx) per month||Yes||4.6||1|
Although I have an opinion on the best VPN for iPhone and iPad, your personal preferences and your situation will also factor into the decision. If you need a VPN for more than five or six devices, you'll want to prioritize VPN services with unlimited connections, such as IPVanish or Surfshark. But if speed is most important, then you'll want to take a look at ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
The nice thing about the selections for the best VPN for iPhone and iPad list is they all have a 30-day money-back guarantee. A month should give you enough time to test any of these VPNs, see which features you love, and make a decision based on your personal experience.
Choose this VPN for iPhone and iPad...
If you want...
A top VPN. I've found that ExpressVPN connections are usually reliable and speedy, although on occasion you have to switch servers if connections drop on occasion. The mobile VPN is simple, user-friendly, and comes packed with different server options. You can also take advantage of a 7-day free trial.
A feature-rich VPN that can just about do it all. NordVPN performs well in speed tests and has an easy-to-use mobile interface. The price may deter some potential customers, though.
A solid budget VPN. Surfshark's speeds aren't always impressive, but the price point for this reliable, secure VPN certainly is, especially on longer plans.
A highly flexible VPN. IPVanish offers a range of security and connectivity settings for you to choose from, although if you want to take full advantage of different protocols, you will want some technical knowledge.
A free VPN. This Swiss VPN provider takes security seriously, and while the free version is limited, it is still an excellent choice.
I analyzed the best VPNs for iPhone and iPad below using the following criteria that were most important in helping you make an informed decision:
Many providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews by members of our ZDNET team. We've been talking about other VPNs for years, spoken with their management and their users, and developed a generally favorable impression.
ZDNET does test VPN services from multiple locations, but we can't test from all locations. Every home, every community, every local ISP, and every nation has a different infrastructure. It's essential that once you choose, you test for all your likely usage profiles and only then make the decision to keep the service or request a money-back guaranteed refund.
If you experience traffic slowdowns, check not only your VPN but also your Wi-Fi connection between your device and your router or access point. Sometimes connectivity issues begin at the source, and in other cases, switching your selected VPN server may be enough to resolve speed problems or connectivity drops.
Setting up a VPN on your iPhone is fairly simple. It requires you to download one of the apps mentioned on our list in the App Store. Once you've created a login and started your subscription, you are ready to securely connect!
Maybe. That depends on how much you trust your carrier. You're better off encrypting your data when it's in motion, whether you use Wi-Fi or a carrier connection. Overall, it's still recommended to use a VPN no matter the type of internet access you have in use.
Apple iCloud+ Private Relay is a feature of iCloud+. If you buy any iCloud storage, you'll get the iCloud+ features. But while Private Relay can hide your email address and location, it only does it when you're using Safari. If you're using Chrome (or any applications that use the Internet directly), you're out of luck. The service is also not available in all countries.
It also shows up as a proxy server. You also can't change or hide your location, as you can with a full VPN. Private Relay is a feature of iCloud+. A VPN is a full security solution.
A free VPN for an iPhone or iPad is not always worth trying. A good VPN is essential when using public Wi-Fi hotspots, but connecting to a local hotel, airport, or coffee shop Wi-Fi access point to your iPhone or iPad is a risk, especially when traveling abroad. Using a reputable VPN service is the best way to protect your privacy and security.
Also: The best VPN services (and whether it's worth trying free VPNs)
VPNs are important for establishing secure connections when abroad. Whether you're working from another country or simply want to stream your favorite TV show, we compiled a list of the best VPNs for travel.
You might want a VPN that works best with the iOS ecosystem or another operating system. If you're on the hunt for other trustworthy options, we've also created a guide to the best VPN services of 2023 with an explainer on free VPNs, and whether or not they're worth it.
Other than my recommendations for the best VPNs for iPhone and iPad, other services can get the job done. Here are a few alternative options that are secure and reputable:
This quality, cheap VPN is one of my top picks if you're looking for an affordable option.
Based in Sweden, externally audited, and anonymous accounts make Mullvad a highly secure VPN.