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The best iPhone VPN 2021

Best iPhone VPN
(Image credit: Neirfy / Shutterstock.com)

Admittedly, when it comes to producing secure devices, Apple has a good reputation for ticking this box. Still, iPhone users are seeing more of a need for a strong VPN that gives them that added layer of online security - and those nifty features and geo-spoofing qualities, too.

As well as providing some reassurance in maintaining online anonymity while you surf the internet on your smartphone, an iPhone VPN can also offer other benefits, like the already mentioned ability to hop over geo-restrictions and access certain online content. From streaming to going on social media while in the office or at school.

Before you rush off to search through the App Store, though, keep reading to find out our recommendations for the best iPhone VPN provider. More importantly, secure a way better price for your subscription when signing up directly with the provider you decide to opt for. Putting multiple services to the test across platforms, these are the top five iPhone VPN services that we deemed the best.

How to choose the best iPhone VPN app

There’s no shortage of iPhone VPN options with excellent iOS support, with many providers offering dedicated apps for iPhone and iPad - obviously a main consideration here. The app should be just as easy to use as on desktop, and yet provide enough options for more advanced users to be able to tweak things.

Other important considerations include tight security and a favorable privacy policy. The number of simultaneous connections allowed is a good thing to look for, as the more you have the more of your (and your family's) devices can be covered by one single subscription. And the ensuing speeds you get from the VPN provider are also well worth considering, especially if you plan to have your VPN running in the background on your iPhone at all times.

Today's top 3 best iPhone VPNs:

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1. ExpressVPN - #1 best iPhone VPN
The quality of ExpressVPN's iPhone VPN app is exactly what you'd expect from the world's overall best provider. It's a doddle to download, simple to use and boasts almost all the ace features you get on desktop. Sign up via TechRadar and you'll get 3 months extra and a year of secure cloud backup for free!

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2. NordVPN - an iPhone app that genuinely adds value
It's one of the biggest names in VPN, so it's no surprise that NordVPN has such a well-honed iPhone app. We love an app that has obvious 'quick connect' widgets and Nord really delivers on the security side, too, with Double VPN protection and a no-logging policy audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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3. Surfshark - mixing quality and affordability
One of the cheapest iPhone VPNs is also one of the best. And as an added bonus, one sub covers you for as many devices as you can handle - including Windows PCs, Macs, Androids, tablets, TV streaming devices and more.

The best 5 iPhone VPN apps in 2021:

ExpressVPN is the best iPhone VPN

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

A fantastic iPhone app from the world's best overall VPN

Dedicated iPhone app: Yes | Also available for: Windows, Mac, Android. Linux | Maximum devices: 5 | Integrated kill switch: No | App Store review: 4.6

Really easy-to-use iOS app
Terrific overall performance
Doesn't want for features
High user rating, too
No kill-switch as such

Best iPhone VPN 2021 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan

ExpressVPN is our top pick for all-round best VPN, and we're just as happy to recommend it for iOS devices. The top-rated provider has a large server network (with 160 server locations in over 90 countries) that managed to provide very good speeds throughout our testing. In fact, it's brilliant on every platform and browser we tested it on - Android, Windows 10, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Firefox...the lot!

TechRadar Editor's Pick - ExpressVPN iPhone VPN app

Its iPhone VPN is very easy to set up and boasts a user-friendly interface that focuses on smart server selection via different filters. Users can connect with a single tap and use the VPN seamlessly, plus it's simple to switch servers without manually closing the current connection first.

There are some unusual extras too, like the ability to switch protocols. Its Privacy and Security Tools menu adds some useful features to help you check your connection, with options to display your current IP address and location, check for DNS and WebRTC leaks and generate secure passwords - so lots of functionality common to ExpressVPN's awesome desktop clients.

ExpressVPN also has no trouble helping you access streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Hulu, making it ideal for streaming. Its custom traffic obfuscation will allow you to achieve better connectivity in censorship-heavy regions like China and the Middle East.

ExpressVPN offers 24/7 customer support through live chat or email, to help users with any questions or issues they may encounter. The provider has an excellent privacy policy and doesn't collect or log traffic data, connection IPs, or browsing activity.

The main drawback is the lack of a kill-switch, so that might be an issue for some (especially, to be frank, those using their iPhone for slightly dubious means like torrenting) although it does include an auto-reconnect option which will try to re-establish the tunnel if your connection drops. And the prices aren’t the cheapest, but may be worth the added cost for those who want the best experience for iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads - especially with the extra value-adds you get with an annual plan...

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Get the best iPhone VPN 2021 with two freebies
If you're still making up your mind, there's a 30-day no quibbles money back guarantee to take advantage of, too. But for the ultimate value on our #1 app, opt for a one year plan - you'll get 3 months extra free and one whole year of completely unlimited secure cloud backup from Backblaze.

Remember, you won't get this added extra if you go and download straight from the App Store. You need to click on of the links on this page to benefit.

NordVPN - best iPhone VPN app

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

An app that genuinely adds value to an already excellent VPN

Dedicated iPhone app: Yes | Also available for: Windows, Mac, Android. Linux | Maximum devices: 6 | Integrated kill switch: Yes | App Store review: 4.6

Dedicated kill switch
Highly rated by users
Feature-filled
Fast connections
We'd love to see a bit of a redesign

NordVPN’s iPhone app is up there among the very best. It's a user-friendly application where everything is well organized, with at-a-glance information displayed by the ‘quick connect’ widget which details the closest server, availability, load percentage and so on. It's basically got everything you could ask for in an iPhone VPN.

On the security front, NordVPN supports the industry standard 256-bit encryption, and offers an automatic kill switch (a real boon), along with double data encryption, which passes your data through two separate VPN servers. This provider also has a ‘no logs’ policy, which is good to see - indeed, it's audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers to ensure that it holds water.

The app includes an auto-connect feature to automatically connect the VPN when it detects you're using an untrusted network or Wi-Fi. There's added Siri capability, too (if you're in to that kind of thing). And all the in-depth features you'd demand from even the best desktop clients: a fully featured protocols menu, speciality server lists, the list goes on. 

NordVPN offers way above average performance, too - especially now that speeds are cranked up via its WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol - and the network boasts a plentiful amount of servers of more than 5,000 in all. Perhaps our only real niggle would be that the default map view when you open the app is a bit fiddly to use. But you can see that we're really struggling to pick holes here.


Surfshark iPhone VPN app

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark

Very affordable iPhone VPN app - but high on quality, too

Dedicated iPhone app: Yes | Also available for: Windows, Mac, Android. Linux | Maximum devices: Unlimited | Integrated kill switch: Yes | App Store review: 4.4

Unlimited connections from one sub
Super affordable pricing
Kill switch included
Time for a full privacy audit

Surfshark has made waves (geddit?) in the VPN market in recent times. That's largely thanks to its rock-bottom pricing while also promising unlimited VPN connections to as many devices as you wish.

Its iPhone VPN app is more or less the same as what you get from Surfshark's desktop experience. There's 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. There's a dedicated kill switch as well, which may sway you towards this provider if that's a function you think will be useful on your iPhone.

More recently, small changes to the iOS app have included being able to change your preferred language within the app, and the ability to reset your VPN profile to resolve any connectivity issues.

Surfshark's relative simplicity will be either a pro or a con, depending on what you want to get from your VPN and how many features you want. But you still don't lack multiple protocols to choose from (OpenVPN/ IKEv2 and Shadowsocks) and 24/7 support with the company's live chat operatives in case you do run in to any trouble when using or installing.

But if Surfshark really wants to start hanging with the big boys over at Nord and Express, we'd like to see it put its money where its mouth is and bring in an independent auditor to verify the provider's privacy claims.


Private Internet Access iPhone VPN app

(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

4. Private Internet Access

Nice balance of performance and price

Dedicated iPhone app: Yes | Also available for: Windows, Mac, Android. Linux | Maximum devices: 10 | Integrated kill switch: Yes | App Store review: 4.7

Easy-to-use streamlined app
Effective kill switch
Favorable pricing
Not the best for streamers

In our performance tests, Private Internet Access yielded some great results, which is a great start for any VPN. And if you're after a really usable option for your Apple device, PIA offers a very affordable iPhone VPN app. What's more, it's loved by Apple users, awarded a 4.7 rating on the App Store.

On the security front, the provider supports OpenVPN, IKEv2 and the speedy WireGuard protocol, with the 256-AES encryption, with improvements to authentication handshakes now using SHA-4096, and data authentication on OpenVPN CBC making use of SHA-256. A kill-switch is also available which works admirably and the provider states that it doesn't have logging of any kind.

There are some attractive added extras that genuinely add value. The Favorites system, for example, enables connecting to commonly used servers, while a new Automation Rules system allows for auto-connect when on certain networks. And there's bonus ad and malware blocking, too. 

For those that are fully integrated into Apple's ecosystem, you'll appreciate the ability to add Siri shortcuts. And then there's PIA's InBrowser, which is a private browser for iOS (and its Android VPN app) with tabs and video support.

If your main reason for getting one of these apps is as a streaming VPN, then we think you're better off with one of the other providers on this list. While it did manage to unblock Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus, iPlayer put up too much of a fight. Those wanting to access US Netflix are in luck, while our testing in other locations only allowed us access to Netflix Original titles.

The multi-year plan is the best choice here if you don't mind committing that long. But it only seems that PIA is on the up and up... it recently added an extra 15,000 or so servers to its network, making it the biggest out there of any mainstream VPNs.


Windscribe iPhone VPN

(Image credit: Windscribe)

5. Windscribe

An iOS app that has more going on than many desktop clients

Dedicated iPhone app: Yes | Also available for: Windows, Mac, Android. Linux | Maximum devices: Unlimited | Integrated kill switch: No | App Store review: 4.6

Stylish, configurable app
Fast connections and WireGuard supported
Extra features if required
Support could do with improvement

Download Windscribe to your iPhone and you'll enjoy an app that's as chic as the handset itself. But this is far from style over substance, as Windscribe has packed in loads of features, too.

Some will likely only appeal to iOS power users (custom OpenVPN configuration and setting preferred protocols for different networks, for example), but the basic functions for accessing blocked apps and sites is excellent, too. The Windscribe iOS app really will appeal to all users.

Thanks to the fact the app supports the shiny new WireGuard protocol, connection speeds here are fantastic. That means that you can confidently leave Windscribe running in the background when you're out and about using public Wi-Fi and cellular data, without being concerned by your iPhone being slowed down while you stream or surf.

And on the subject of streaming, Windscribe was more than a match for the geo-restrictions than the likes of YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ try to put in place.

If you want to give Windscribe a try, it has a free version (rather than a money back guarantee). But note that if you are a complete VPN novice, the service's support articles are a little lacking and there's no live chat support that most other big providers facilitate these days.


iPhone 12

(Image credit: Apple)

iPhone VPN FAQ

What is the best iPhone VPN

With so many iPhone VPNs out there, this is no easy answer. Luckily, ExpressVPN stands out above the rest. It combines pretty much everything that we like to see in a virtual private network app: stacks of servers all over the world, excellent encryption, a knack for unblocking restricted apps, friendly interface, and it's remarkably easy to set up and use.

Do I really need an iPhone VPN?

Even Apple's App Store is not devoid of its own share of dodgy apps (although truth be said, Google Play is a far more dangerous place to be). In terms of harmful activities, the argument that iPhone users have less to worry than other (especially Android) users certainly has some merit. However, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't still be careful. 

What does a VPN do on iPhone?

There's a multitude of reasons why you might want to download a mobile VPN app on to your iPhone. First and foremost is security - the encrypted tunnels through which all data will be exchanged when connected to Wi-Fi would be a garbled mess to any hackers that do somehow manage to get hold of it.

But it's a VPN's IP spoofing that's where things get really interesting. By jumping on to a server in another location, you can effectively change location and kid your Apple iPhone into thinking that it's in another country altogether. A country or location, for example, where you can stream a wider variety of Netflix shows, and where you can get cheaper prices on services and products. And super handy if you're struggling to use WhatsApp in China or login to Facebook at your school.

Best iPhone VPN - iPhone 12

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Are free iPhone VPN apps worth it?

Free VPNs have their place - there's no doubt about that. An extra layer of security while using public Wi-Fi is no bad thing at all - especially if you're shopping or having private interactions.

But for the most part, it's a total false economy. Many free apps limit the amount of data you can use each day or month, so you can pretty much forget about using them for streaming and torrenting. But more than that, you're likely to get an ad-heavy app experience where the provider is probably making back cash by selling your details to third parties. Our advice...avoid, especially when the best iPhone VPN apps on this list are so affordable anyway.

Do iPhones have a built in VPN?

While iPhone doesn't currently have a built-in VPN, it does offer excellent VPN support for both manual and automatic configuration when downloading any number of VPN apps. All you'll need to do, then, to install a VPN on your Apple smartphone, is select which iPhone VPN you want to sign up to, install the client, and you're away.

Don't be fooled by the announcement of Private Relay at the WWDC 2021 conference, either. While the new privacy feature - which will launch as a part of iCloud+ accounts - does allow users to withhold their IP address, it only does this when browsing on Safari or through apps with insecure connections. 

By forgoing a VPN and replacing one solely with Private Relay, you also miss out on location duping, and subsequently being able to unblock geo-restricted content. While it's an interesting feature, then, it certainly doesn't constitute as an iPhone VPN.

How do I manually configure a VPN in my iPhone settings?

To add a VPN manually, go to Settings > General > VPN > Add VPN Configuration > Type.

You will then choose between a number of protocols: IKEv2, IPSec, or L2TP.

You'll then need to enter a server address, as well as your username and password, and a remote ID. All this should be found in your account of your chosen VPN provider.

Once set-up, you'll find VPN under Mobile Data and/or Personal Hotspot immediately when you go into settings, or under Settings > General > VPN & Device Management.

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Adam is the Editor-in-Chief of Subscriptions and Services at Future, meaning that he oversees many of the articles TechRadar produces about antivirus software, VPNs, TV streaming, broadband and mobile phone contracts - from buying guides and deals news, to industry interest pieces and reviews.