- While an iPhone is comparatively more secure from online threats than an Android smartphone, the same only holds true till the data stays on the phone.
- Using a virtual private network (VPN) on your iPhone prevents your ISP from keeping a tab on your online activities and allows you to access geo-blocked websites and stream geo-restricted content from various online streaming services
- Similar to how VPNs prove useful for laptops, installing one on your iPhone adds an extra layer of security to your online communications and reduces the chances of getting your data compromised.
It is pretty well-established today that an iPhone, with its iOS operating system, is comparatively more secure from online threats than an Android smartphone. A large share of the credit for which can widely be attributed to Apple’s stand on user privacy over the years, along with their decision to abide by this stance to offer users a better sense of security on their iPhones. However, that said, those claims and practices are relevant till the data stays on the phone. Because, as soon as one connects to a website on the web and the data leaves their iPhone to go on to a public network, a lot of it can be subject to various vulnerabilities lingering on the internet, which could put their privacy and security at risk despite using an iPhone.
To ensure you have better security on the internet, irrespective of the operating system your smartphone is running and that your data stays protected, you should use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for all your online communications. In fact, not just smartphones, you should have a VPN client on all your devices, be it tablets, computers, or even smart TVs.
But what exactly is a VPN, how does it protect your data, and which is the best VPN service for your iPhone? Here are answers to these and a few more queries, along with our recommendations for the best iPhone VPN apps.
What is a VPN, and what purpose does it serve?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a service that allows you to access sensitive or personal data over a public network on your iPhone (or any other device) in a secure manner. To do this, it creates a virtual tunnel between you and the destination server (of the service/website you are trying to access) and routes the internet traffic across over an encrypted tunnel (between you and the VPN server). By routing user data through a secure tunnel, a VPN ensures that your data stands protected from the prying eyes of those with evil intentions.
To help you better understand the use case of a VPN, consider a scenario where you visit your local coffee shop every day, and while you are there, you connect to their network (a public Wi-Fi network) to access the internet and perform your online activities. However, when you use the cafe’s network, little do you realize that whatever network activity you perform on their (coffee shop’s) network can be monitored by someone spying/eavesdropping on that network. As a result, all your website visits, service requests, communications, and everything else in between that goes through their network stand the risk of being intercepted. This risk amplifies by manifold if you are on a non-secure website — one that uses HTTP rather than HTTPS — since now, all your network traffic goes in plain text (non-encrypted manner), posing the risk of your personal data (passwords, banking information, and the likes) to end up on someone’s (person intercepting the traffic) machine/server.
However, throughout this time, if you had a VPN enabled on your device, you would be less vulnerable to such attacks and stand a higher chance of having your online communication secure and private.
VPN on iPhone
Similar to how VPNs prove useful for laptops, installing one on your iPhone adds an extra layer of security to your online communications and reduces the chances of getting your data compromised. Not just that, a VPN can also conceal your information from your Internet provider (ISP) to prevent them from tracking your online activity and collecting data about your internet usage.
Apart from securing your access to the internet and enhancing your privacy, you can also use a VPN on your iPhone to bypass geo-restricted content in your region. That way, you can unblock content geo-restricted content from platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, or any other online streaming services and access it on your device.
What are some of the advantages of using an iPhone VPN?
In today’s time, ensuring the privacy and security of your data is paramount. Irrespective of your purpose of use, personal or professional, keeping a check on the essential security measures and using the web wisely is something you should always practice. While there are a few different ways to do that, one that does not require the absolute knowledge of the know-how and is perhaps the easiest is using a VPN. Here are a few advantages of using a VPN for iPhone.
1. Masking your identity to stay anonymous (kind of)
One of the biggest advantages of using a VPN is that the service comes in handy when you want to protect your identity from ISPs and ad trackers across different websites. When you have your connection route through a VPN, your IP address is masked with that of the VPN provider’s IP address. By doing so, you can browse the web anonymously (kind of) and improve the overall security. Needless to say, you can also protect your browsing activity from your ISP or the ad trackers across various websites. Be it while using public Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi at work, a VPN connection comes as a boon.
2. Accessing (unblocking) geo-restricted content
As a consequence of masking the IP address, you can also unblock and access geo-restricted content from anywhere in the world using a VPN. So, if there’s a particular website, TV show, or anything else that’s blocked in your region, you can use a good iPhone VPN app to unblock the same. For this, all you need to do is select the server (of the region you want to access the content) and click on the connect button. For example, in case you want to access BBC iPlayer, just choose the location as the UK in your iPhone VPN app or use one of the popular Netflix VPN apps to access country-specific Netflix content. The VPN will then create a tunnel between you and the server (you selected). By doing so, it dupes the content provider/website into believing that the request is originating in the same region, and in turn, gives you access to the requested content/website.
3. Working remotely
Again, another added advantage of using an iPhone VPN, in addition to anonymous browsing and bypassing geo-restrictions, is the ability to work remotely. A lot of the corporates limit access to the data to their internal network. If you happen to work in such an organization, and for some reason, you need to access them while working from home, your safe bet is to use a good iPhone VPN service. For, it is highly unsafe to access the confidential information of an organization on a public network. And with an iPhone VPN, you can minimize those concerns to a greater degree.
How to use a VPN on an iPhone?
There are two ways to use a VPN on an iPhone. You can either find a VPN of your choice, download its app on your iPhone, and follow the steps to configure it. Or, in case your preferred VPN of choice does not have an iOS app, you can manually configure the VPN. If you are just getting started, using a third-party iPhone VPN service from the App Store is a safe and hassle-free option.
At the time of writing, Apple supports three protocols: IKEv2, IPsec, and L2TP, which you can select and add configuration for accordingly within the settings.
Configuring a VPN on your iPhone or iPad is easier than you think. Here’s how to add an iPhone VPN manually.
1. Open Settings and head to General.
2. Scroll down and select VPN.
3. Here, click on the Add VPN Configuration and add fill in the necessary details. In some cases, you might also require a certificate, details for which will be provided by the organization asking for its implementation.
4. Once set up, you can toggle the switch next to Status on and have your connection routed through the VPN.
On the other hand, an easier way to get a VPN on your iPhone is to download a third-party VPN client from the App Store. With this approach, once the app is installed, you need to follow the on-screen instructions to configure the VPN on your iPhone. And when done, you can enable/disable the service by going into Settings and toggling the button next to VPN. Besides, if you have multiple VPNs configured on your iPhone, you can select the one you want to use from the list.
Best iPhone VPN apps
One of the best free VPN services, TunnelBear, offers a client for iOS. The app comes with a clean interface and offers one-tap connect functionality. It has servers across 22 countries, which should help you access various apps and websites. As for security, the service promises AES-256 bit encryption by default and suggests having a no-logging policy. So you can access the internet without having to worry about compromising your privacy. Each TunnelBear account allows up to five simultaneous connections to the TunnelBear network.
With the free plan, TunnelBear offers 500MB of data per month. In case you use a VPN extensively, you might feel the need to upgrade to the premium plan, which gives you unlimited data, with support for up to 5 connected devices. No wonder, TunnelBear is amongst the most popular iPhone VPNs.
Plans: Free, Paid
2. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is another popular VPN app on the App Store. It has a pretty clean and easy-to-use interface. The app suggests offering over 115 locations and promises military-grade encryption between your device and the service’s servers to secure traffic. Similar to TunnelBear, you get 500MB of data per month with Hotspot Shield with a 7-day free trial. One of the best things about the service is that it allows you to use the VPN with limited functionality during the trial period, without having to sign in.
To do away with the restrictions, you can upgrade to the premium plan, which offers a few more features and access to servers across more locations. What’s more, the premium plan also gives you access to 1Password: to better manage your passwords, Identity Guard: to protect yourself from identity theft, and Robo Shield: to block spam calls. That’s more than a simple iPhone VPN app.
Plans: Free, Paid
If you are strictly looking for a free VPN for your iPhone, Windscribe is one of the best and safest free VPN for iPhone. It offers a generous 10GB of data per month, which is sufficient for someone with moderate usage. In addition, it promises to offer the same level of security on the free plan as it does with the premium plan. However, the one aspect that you might have to compromise with a bit is the total number of available servers — you get access to a total of 10 servers across different countries. With Windscribe, one tap is all you need to hide your IP address, encrypt your traffic, and enjoy the internet. Windscribe offers unlimited simultaneous connections which is super unique in this segment.
What’s more, you can also use custom OpenVPN configurations to connect to any server of your choice. If you upgrade to the premium plan, the service gets you unlimited bandwidth and connections, along with support for around 110 different servers. Below is the link to download Windscribe VPN for iPhone from the app store.
Plans: Free, Paid
ProtonVPN is one of the popular iPhone VPNs out there. It comes from the people at ProtonMail: an end-to-end encrypted email service. What sets the service apart from some of the other VPNs is that it is based out of Switzerland, which is known for its strong privacy laws. As for what you get, ProtonVPN offers unlimited data with support for only one connection. You get access to servers in 3 countries with medium transfer speeds.
Like most other VPN services, to get rid of the restrictions on ProtonVPN, you can upgrade to its premium plan, which gets you access to more servers, faster servers, and multi-device support. The premium plan gives you VPN connection speeds that are hard to beat. ProtonVPN also offers DNS leak protection, Tor over VPN, disk encryption, and a no-logs policy. We also liked its connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing. Head over to the app store to download and start using.
5. Nord VPN
It is very likely that, at some point in time, you must have come across NordVPN, be it via an ad or an article. And rightly so, since the service offered here is definitely one of the best out there. The VPN client has a pretty clean interface for the iPhone, with a plethora of features. To begin with, the service supports a range of VPN protocols and promises a strong encryption standard. It claims to have over 5500 servers worldwide with fast transfer speeds. Furthermore, you can use up to 6 devices with a single account.
Unlike some of the other iPhone VPNs, NordVPN, unfortunately, does not offer a free trial anymore. So, you need to pay upfront for its subscription before you can use it. However, in case you are not content with their offerings, the service has a 30-day moneyback guarantee, which you can use to get a full refund. Just as the desktop client does, Nord’s iPhone app opens to a familiar blue-scale landing screen map where an iPhone user can opt to either select a country or connect to the fastest server automatically.
The VPN Kill Switch continuously monitors your connection to the VPN server. If the connection accidentally drops, the Kill Switch blocks your device (or the apps you have specified) from accessing the web. Kill Switch is integrated into all NordVPN iOS and macOS apps and prompts a system-wide network lock in case a VPN connection drops. One NordVPN account enables six simultaneous connections on different devices.
6. Express VPN
The iPhone app is totally plug-and-play. Besides, there is the usual set of essential privacy and security measures like the use of better encryption standards, auto-reconnection, and support for up to 5 simultaneous devices. When you install the Express VPN client for the first time, you get a 7-day free trial to check out the service for yourself. After this, you need to subscribe to the service using a 1, 6, or 12 months subscription plan. It is considered amongst the best iPhone VPNs for a reason.
Plans: Free (7-day trial), Paid
7. Surfshark VPN
Last on the list, but certainly not the least when it comes to features and functionality, Surfshark VPN is one of the most affordable VPN for iPhone. Over the last year or so, the service has managed to get a stronghold among users for its offerings at an affordable price point. But, despite being affordable, Surfshark VPN does not compromise on security in exchange for a lower subscription cost. You get access to over 800 VPN servers spread across 50+ countries, with strong privacy measures including protection against attacks like DDoS (distributed denial of service). Furthermore, the company also has a strict no-log policy, so you can rest assured on that part.
Just like the desktop version, SurfShark’s iPhone VPN app has the same location list, multihop connections, ad and malware prevention, and split tunneling for apps and websites that let you have your VPN connected only when using selected other apps.
Surfshark offers a 7-day free trial to help you decide if this iPhone VPN suffices your requirements. In case it does, you can subscribe to the service, with a 30-day moneyback guarantee, similar to Nord VPN, upon unsatisfactory experience. There’s a dedicated kill switch, which may sway you this provider’s way if that’s a function you think will be useful on your iPhone.
Plans: Free (7-day trial, Paid)
We need to provide an honorable mention to Private Internet Access (PIA) as well. It is a good iPhone VPN and amongst the most trusted as well. Private Internet Access has support for P2P apps and can block ads and ad trackers. But the pricing is on the higher side. We could have easily added many more VPN apps like Cyberghost but that would only add to the confusion while diluting the “Best VPN apps” list.
Those are some of the best iPhone VPN apps, paid as well as free, which you can use on your phone or iPad to improve your privacy and keep the device secure against certain online threats. Since these services are trusted and have a good reputation, you can use them without having to worry about getting your identity compromised. For, there are numerous VPN services free ones (in particular) that have been caught logging user information and selling them online. Needless to say, hoax claims full of marketing fluff to dupe users into believing that the service they are subscribing to is actually reliable and secure.