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Are free iPhone VPN apps worth downloading?

free iphone VPN apps
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For any iPhone user conscious about their privacy and security online, virtual private networks (VPN) are key. They secure your internet connection and encrypt your data when you browse the web, while allowing you to access blocked websites among a range of other benefits. 

There are hundreds of iPhone VPN apps available on the App Store, many of which are free. While their aim is to protect you as you surf the web and use online services, are these free apps any good and should you download one?

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 Free iPhone VPN apps: what are they?

Like anything in life, premium comes at a cost. Free VPNs are great if you’ve never tried one before and want to one a go. But with only limited data usage available and often slow servers, they’re only really suitable for light use.

You’ll find no shortage of free apps available for iPhone in the App Store. One of the best is Hotspot Shield Free, which can be downloaded by iOS users and provides you with 500MB of data to use every day (so around (or 15GB per month). It’s also easy to use, security-focused and gives you access to most of the premium features at the compromise of ads. 

The free version of ProtonVPN even gives you unlimited data to use, something pretty unprecedented for a non-premium service.  So there are definitely plenty of great free VPNs available for the iPhone.  

 The downside to free iPhone VPN apps

But while some free iPhone apps offer great value and are perfect for non-intensive use, there are many factors that make you question if they’re actually worth downloading in the first place - some are not so good and can pose real risks. 

Research from Top10VPN shows that 86% of free VPN apps for Android and iOS have unacceptable privacy policies, which includes sharing and tracking user activity, having no policies at all and policies lacking VPN terms. The same report also found that 64% of apps didn’t have a dedicated website, 52% of customer support emails were personal and 83% of customer support requests were completely ignored. 

What’s perhaps ironic is that mobile VPN apps are supposed to be all about improving security for users, although it’s been shown that they can do more harm than good from a security perspective. Many free VPN apps don’t offer significant levels of encryption, sell your data to third-party organisations, use dodgy servers and contain malware.

The downsides of free apps don’t stop there, though. Often, they’re filled with adverts (some that even contain malware), are limited when it comes to server location, will affect the speed of your internet connection, can’t be used to unlock some websites (unlike any decent VPN for Netflix) and in some cases are actually completely fake. 

These things don’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use a free service, as many are genuine and represent great value. But doing your research is important if you’re to avoid using a service that puts you at risk. Of course, you pay for what you get. So if you want unlimited data, seamless performance, a wide range of locations, great security and the ability to secure more than one device, premium is the way to go via our guide to the best iPhone VPNs

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Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!