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The best VPNs for iPhone and iPad you can buy

ZDNET went hands-on with the best VPNs for your iPhone and iPad to find which can keep your Apple devices most secure.

While iPhones tend to have excellent connectivity, using your mobile data as a hotspot while working or while traveling abroad can be inefficient, or may result in additional fees imposed by your carrier. 

That might leave you turning to local hotel, airport, school, or coffee shop Wi-Fi networks to get online. However, connecting to public Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad is a major security risk, especially if you're traveling in a foreign country, since there's no telling who or what is monitoring your traffic. 

We recommend using a virtual private network (VPN) service that works with your iPhone and iPad to keep your data and browsing safe while on the go. We've analyzed and ranked the top VPN services we've tested and researched over the years that offer solid iPhone and iPad clients, good performance, strong security, and are suitable for the Apple ecosystem. 

Also: The best travel VPNs

Based on extensive testing, ZDNET's pick for the best VPN for iPhone and iPad overall is ExpressVPN, a service offering high speeds, reliable connections, and an expansive server network. Our pick for cheapest VPN for iPhone and iPad is Surfshark. It has an easy-to-use app that performs well and a great server network, and it won't break the bank if you sign up for longer plans, starting at $1.99/month.

Check out our picks for the top VPNs for iPhones and iPads below, depending on your needs. 

The best VPN services for iPhones and iPads of 2023

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Best VPN for server range and usability

ExpressVPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.7 average, 294k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 8 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and more | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 105 | 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 can use ExpressVPN. In addition to iOS, it supports all major platforms, including macOS X 10.11 and above. There are browser extensions for Edge, Chrome, and Firefox, and a VPN service for gaming is also available.

If you want the most options for countries to connect to, ExpressVPN has 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. 

Review: ExpressVPN

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 stated in ExpressVPN's privacy policy.

Overall, if you're looking for a set-and-forget VPN with decent speeds and user-friendliness, ExpressVPN is our top pick. The monthly plan is limited to five simultaneous devices, whereas six-month or annual plans offer up to eight connected devices.

Other subscription offers are $9.99 monthly for six months or $12.95 for one month of access. Alternatively, signing up for a 12-month plan is only $6.67/month, with three months of access for free. The iPhone app comes with a 7-day free trial.

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Surfshark VPN

Best VPN for iPhone overall

Surfshark VPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.9 average, 12.9k ratings | Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 100+, 3,200 servers | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

Surfshark VPN is an affordable and reliable service. When we reviewed Surfshark, we found no information leaks and it had fast connection times. 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. If you want protection for a macOS machine, you will need macOS 10.15 or later and an active subscription.

Review: Surfshark VPN

Surfshark has many features, including ad and tracker blocking, a data breach scanner, and multi-hop connections (connecting through two servers). This VPN is excellent for iPhone and iPad users because of its user-friendliness, uncomplicated and quick connection process, and reasonable price point.

That said, specific tools aren't available for iOS devices, which is the case across the board. If you want to use the Bypasser tool (Surfshark's split tunneling feature), you must use the Windows or Android app. 

Surfshark often runs promotions to lure new consumers to its plans, and it's worth noting that promotions of around 80 - 85% off appear frequently, so take the discount as the VPN provider's typical price range. 

Currently, you can pay $13.99 for a month of access, $3.99 per month on a one-year plan, or only $1.99 if you are happy to remain a subscriber for at least two years. The VPN provider has also thrown in three months of free access on 24-month plans.

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Best VPN for speed

NordVPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.7 average, 6.5k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 60 | Servers: 5,900+ | 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, and the service is compatible with iOS 13.0 or later.

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.

Review: NordVPN

In addition to iOS, NordVPN runs on all the most popular platforms, including macOS 10.15 or later. Prices start from $3.79 per month on a two-year standard plan to $4.49/month on a yearly subscription. If you only want to try out NordVPN for a month, prices begin at $12.99/month. New users can subscribe to a one or two-year plan -- standard, plus, or complete -- and will receive three months of access for free.

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IPVanish VPN

Best configurable VPN for iPhone and iPad

IPVanish VPN features: Apple App Store rating: 4.5 average, 6.3k ratings | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, FireTV, and Kodi | Logging: None, except billing data | Servers: 2000+ | Locations: 75 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

IPVanish has depth and plenty of configuration settings for those who want to control almost every aspect of their VPN connection.

While it's not the most stylish VPN with the best interface, 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. The service is also independently security audited. 

Review: IPVanish VPN

IPVanish supports devices back to iOS 14 and clients for macOS are available from 10.11/10.12 and later. 

We found IPVanish to be impressively fast and quick to connect. However, it couldn't hide that we connected 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. 

IPVanish is an excellent option for iOS and Mac devices. You can sign up for a two-year plan for $2.49 per month or a yearly subscription for $2.99/month, and each option comes with three months of free access. Alternatively, if you don't want to sign up for the long haul, you can pay $12.99 for a month of access.

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Proton VPN

Best free VPN for iPhone & iPad

Proton VPN iOS features: Apple App Store rating: 4.6 average, 24.8k ratings | Simultaneous connections: 1 free) Up to 10 (paid) | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: No-logs policy | Customer service: FAQ, email | Data limit: None | Free countries: 3 | Free servers: 100+ | Paid plans: 2,700+ servers in 69 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

ProtonVPN requires iOS 14.0 or later.

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 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 plan at $4.99/month, a 12-month subscription at $5.99, or a one-month agreement at $9.99. 

While ProtonVPN is a Swiss company, you can make payments in US dollars.

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What is the best VPN for iPhone and iPad?

We consider ExpressVPN as the best VPN for the iPhone and iPad, and it's one of the most popular VPNs for Apple devices overall, with good customer ratings. ExpressVPN has an easy-to-use app and a great server network.

Best VPN for iPhone and iPadStarting priceKill SwitchApple App Store ratingSimultaneous connections
Surfshark VPN$1.99+ per monthYes4.9Unlimited
IPVanish VPN$2.49+ per monthYes4.5Unlimited
NordVPN$3.79+ per monthYes4.7Up to 6
ExpressVPN$6.67+ per monthYes4.7Up to 8
Proton VPNFree with limited services or $4.99 per monthYes4.61 or up to 10

Which is the right iPhone and iPad VPN for you?

Although we have our own opinions 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 NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

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...
SurfsharkA top VPN that can just about do it all, and for an affordable price. Surfshark performs well in speed tests, earned solid customer reviews, and has an easy-to-use mobile interface.
ExpressVPNA stable choice for iOS. We've found that ExpressVPN connections are usually reliable and speedy, although, on occasion, you have to switch servers if table connections drop. 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.
NordVPNA solid, feature-rich VPN. NordVPN's speeds are impressive, but the price point for this reliable, secure VPN on shorter plans might be offputting for some.
IPVanish VPNA 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.
Proton VPNA free VPN. This Swiss VPN provider takes security seriously, and while the free version is limited, it is still an excellent choice -- but the paid option removes all limits.

How did we choose these iPhone and iPad VPNs?

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, which all these VPNs have. 

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.

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

  • Performance: Our top VPNs must have a minimum level of performance. After all, there's no point in using a VPN while streaming if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable.
  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to a 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.
  • Security: There's no point using a VPN unless their security protocols and encryption levels are up to scratch. We also ensured the development team behind each recommended VPN cared about making security improvements over time and patching reported bugs.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection and is an important feature for a VPN to have, as it protects by preventing a return to a default Wi-Fi connection should your internet connection unexpectedly drop.
  • Geoblocks and streaming: We know VPNs can be key to accessing local content and services while you're away from home. We ensured that our top recommendations perform well when it comes to these factors and are unlikely to slow down your connection while you are streaming. 
  • Platforms: What systems and devices can you run the VPN on? Our iPhone and iPad VPN recommendations, naturally, have to run easy-to-use and intuitive mobile apps. 
  • Countries & servers: In how many different countries does the VPN have servers? This can include physical and virtual servers, and whether or not there are enough -- at least 50 or so -- to provide variety.
  • Trial length & price: Each VPN we recommend has a solid money-back guarantee. 

How do I set up a VPN on my iPhone?

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 Apple App Store. Once you've created a login and started your subscription, you are ready to securely connect!

Ensure you do not download any apps from untrusted sources.

Mobile device management (MDM) solutions utilizing VPNs can be configured in iOS settings

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

Perhaps. 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.

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

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.

Is a free VPN worth trying?

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 trials you can test for free

What is the best VPN for travel?

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.

What is the best VPN overall for different operating systems?

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. 

Are there alternative iPhone & iPad VPNs worth considering?

Other than our 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:

Best alternative for affordability

Private Internet Access - $2.11 per month, three months free

A budget-friendly iOS long-term VPN option for $2.19 per month with three months of access thrown in for free.

View at Private Internet Access

Best alternative for a cheap, long-term plan

Atlas VPN - $1.82 monthly, three months free

This quality, cheap VPN is one of our top picks if you're looking for an affordable option.

View at Atlas VPN

Best alternative with a long money-back guarantee

CyberGhost - $2.11 monthly on a two-year plan, three months free

CyberGhost is a strong VPN with one of the best money-back guarantees on the market, giving you 45 days to decide if you want to continue with the service.

View at CyberGhost

Best alternative for data privacy laws

Mullvad VPN - €5 per month

Based in Sweden, externally audited, and anonymous accounts make Mullvad a highly secure VPN.

View at Mullvad
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