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The 4 best VPNs for iPhone and iPad: Which is right for you?

What is the best VPN for iPhone? NordVPN is ZDNET's top pick! We analyzed the number of simultaneous connections, servers, and countries in addition to kill switch functionality, logging, speed, and price below.

My iPhone has pretty good connectivity but tends to be hamstrung by the limits imposed by my cellular carrier. Even though I have an unlimited data plan, using my phone as a hotspot is limited to a very short amount of time before I start to rack up extra fees. When traveling, working for a few hours every night in a hotel lobby or coffee shop, or wanting to stream shows, my so-called unlimited hotspot service just won't cut it.

That means I've had to rely on local Wi-Fi for both my iPhone and iPad. Let me put it bluntly: using a local hotel, airport, school, or coffee shop Wi-Fi is terrifying, especially when traveling in foreign countries. There's no telling what's monitoring traffic, and even if the hotel has encrypted Wi-Fi, you never know what's running on that network. That's why having a good VPN is essential, and I've long recommended having a VPN service that works with both your iPhone and iPad -- I tend to use both extensively while on the road.

In this article, we analyze and rank four top VPN services we've come to know over the years that offer solid iPhone and iPad clients and good performance. Let's take a look at each.

NordVPN specifications:

  • Apple App Store rating: 4.6 average, 322k ratings
  • Simultaneous Connections: 6
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 59
  • Servers: 5,000+
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

NordVPN is one of the more popular VPN offerings on the iPhone App Store. Installing NordVPN on the iPhone is simple, painless, and predictable performance across regions.

Also: Our review of NordVPN

It has a number of tools in addition to its VPN service. NordVPN's Onion over VPN enables TOR capabilities, it supports peer-to-peer file sharing, and its Double VPN service allows you to connect through a second server, adding an extra layer of protection. You can also set up a dedicated IP address for an additional fee.

Also: Our interview with NordVPN management on how they run their service

One shortcoming of its iOS (and macOS) app is that you'll have a bit less flexibility with the kill switch. For Android and Windows devices, you can disable the NordVPN's kill switch, but with Apple products, it's always running in the background. Also, Apple devices don't have access to split tunneling, which allows you to include or exclude specific apps or sites from the VPN connection.

In addition to iOS, NordVPN runs on all of the most popular platforms. NordVPN performed sufficiently well in testing with a reduction in speed that you'd expect to see with any VPN service.

Pros:

  • Simple, straightforward app installation
  • Consistent speed and performance
  • No logs

Cons:

  • No split tunneling for iOS
  • Only six simultaneous connections

ExpressVPN specifications:

  • Apple App Store rating: 4.7 average, 204k ratings
  • Simultaneous Connections: 5
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: A lot. Here's the full list
  • Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs
  • Countries: 94
  • Trial/MBG: 30 days

The ExpressVPN app supports iOS back to iOS 12. So as long as your iPhone or iPad is running on iOS 12 or higher, you'll be able to use ExpressVPN. In addition to iOS, it supports all of the major platforms, and there are also browser extensions for Edge, Chrome, and Firefox. Gamers can even set up ExpressVPN on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

Further reading:

If you want the most options for countries to connect through, ExpressVPN has server locations in 94 countries – more than any other service provider on this list. In terms of performance, ExpressVPN ranks among the fastest VPNs, so it shouldn't reduce your connection speeds as much as your average VPN. 

ExpressVPN doesn't maintain browsing history logs, but it does keep track of some information, such as the dates you connect and the location of the VPN server you connect to. The details of what is and isn't logged are clearly stated in ExpressVPN's privacy policy.

Top offer: Get 3 extra months free.

Pros:

  • Works on an exceptionally large number of platforms outside of iOS
  • Speedy connections
  • Lots of countries to connect through

Cons:

  • More expensive than competitors
  • Limited to 5 simultaneous connections

IPVanish VPN specifications:

  • Apple App Store rating: 4.5 average, 91.3k ratings
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, FireTV, and Kodi
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Servers: 1,900+ 
  • Countries: 50
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

At first glance, IPVanish VPN may seem like a standard generic VPN service, but there's more than meets the eye. IPVanish has depth and plenty of configuration options.

Also: Our IPVanish VPN review

IPVanish VPN has a large array of protocols, so you'll always know what to expect regardless of what you're connecting to. Its app has an abundance of configuration options, and there is an extensive range of server selection options.

IPVanish provides even more iOS support than ExpressVPN, supporting devices back to iOS 11. That provides support for iPhones back to the iPhone 5s, the iPad mini 2, and the original iPad Air.

We found IPVanish to be exceptionally fast. However, it wasn't able to hide that I was connecting through a VPN. That said, IPVanish's data transfers were secure, and it provides a good user experience as long as you're not trying to obscure your VPN connection.

Pros:

  • It supports iOS 11 and above
  • Unlimited connections
  • Highly configurable app

Cons:

  • Couldn't hide VPN connection
  • No two-year plan, price increases after just one year

Surfshark VPN specifications:

  • Apple App Store rating: 4.8 average, 20.7k ratings
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 95
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

Surfshark VPN is an affordable and reliable service. In our review of Surfshark, we didn't find any information leaks and, in our tests, it performed as well as NordVPN in terms of speed. But, anecdotally, we sometimes found the connection times to be a touch slower. The company doesn't skimp on security, it offers AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, and Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption. Surfshark supports devices running iOS 10.3.3 or higher.

Must read:

Surfshark has a solid array of features including, ad and tracker blocking, data breach scanner, and multihop connection (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. And its GPS override is currently only an option for Android devices.

Pros:

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Excellent pricing on two-year plans
  • Supports devices running iOS 10.3.3 or higher

Cons:

  • No Bypasser (split tunneling) for the iOS app
  • Slower connection times

What is the best VPN for iPhone and iPad?

We selected NordVPN as our best VPN for iPhone and iPad. With over 320k ratings in the Apple App Store, it's also one of the most popular VPNs for Apple devices. 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 iPadPriceKill SwitchApple App store ratingSimultaneous connections
ExpressVPN$6.67/mo w/1-year plan & 3-free-months dealYes4.75
Surfshark VPN$2.49/mo w/2-year planYes4.8unlimited
NordVPN$3.99/mo w/2-year planYes4.66
IPVanish VPN$3.33/mo w/1-year planYes4.5Unlimited

Which is the right iPhone and iPad VPN for you?

Although we have an opinion on the best VPN for iPhone and iPad, your personal preferences and individual situation can also factor into the decision. If you need a VPN for more than five or six devices, then 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.

The nice thing about all of the selections for our 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 iPadIf you want...
NordVPNA top VPN that can just about do it all
ExpressVPNA fast VPN
Surfshark VPNA solid budget VPN
IPVanish VPNA highly flexible VPN
Surfshark VPNSupport for an older device running iOS 10.3.3 or higher

How did we choose these iPhone & iPad VPNs?

We analyzed the best VPNs for iPhone and iPad below using the following criteria that we felt were most important in helping you make an informed decision:

  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to its service at the same time. If you have a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and possibly even a smart TV you want to connect to a VPN you'd need a service that allows at least 5 simultaneous connections.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection and is an important feature for a VPN to have. 
  • Platforms: What systems and devices can you run the VPN on?
  • Logging: What type of information (if any) does the VPN provider keep a record of?
  • Countries: In how many different countries does the VPN have servers available to connect to? This can include physical and virtual servers.
  • Servers: How many servers does the VPN service operate?
  • Trial length & price: How much does the VPN service cost? How long do you have to try the service out before you can't get a refund anymore?

What is the best free VPN for iPhone?

Based on our research, the best free VPN for iPhone is ProtonVPN (Free Version) due to its limitless data capacity. That being said, free VPN's are known as super risky. You can read more about this here.

How do I setup VPN on iPhone?

Setting up a VPN on your iPhone is fairly simple. It requires you to download one of the app's mentioned on our list in the App Store (example: NordVPN), once you have created a log in and started your subscription, you are ready to securely connect!

Do I need a VPN if I just use my carrier's data?

Maybe. That depends on how much you trust your carrier -- and wireless signals have been intercepted. You're better off encrypting your data when it's in motion, whether you use Wi-Fi or a carrier connection.

Isn't iCloud+ Private Relay a VPN? Why do I need another VPN?

So let's be clear. 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. It also shows up as a proxy server, so if you don't want anyone to know you're using a VPN, you're out of luck. 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.

What is the best VPN for travel?

VPN's are also important for a secure connection when abroad. Whether you are working from anther country or simply want to stream your favorite TV show, we compiled a list of the best VPN's for travel.

What is the best VPN for Mac?

Although Mac's are considered some of the most secure computers on the market, due to their built-in proprietary antivirus software, doesn't mean that your internet connection is private and encrypted. Therefore, we have recommended a list of the best VPN's for Mac, to keep your internet connection secure on all your devices.

Are there alternative iPhone & iPad VPNs worth considering?

Other than our four best VPNs for iPhone and iPad, there are other services that can get the job done. Here are a few alternative options that are secure and reputable, but didn't quite make our best list.

AtlasVPN is our top cheap VPN and at $1.89/mo, it's even less expensive than Surfshark. CyberGhost VPN has an extended 45-day money-back guarantee period. Proton VPN made our best VPNs of 2022 list thanks to its array of add-on features and strong reputation.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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