These virtual private networks are the top performers we've tested for Apple users looking to boost browsing privacy.
Surfshark boasts an impressive suite of privacy and security features, unlimited simultaneous connections, easy-to-use interface and expansive global network. And it's still significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. That's what helped Surfshark earn CNET's Editors' Choice for Best Value VPN.
Along with standard VPN features such as a kill switch and DNS leak protection, some of the more notable Surfshark features include camouflage mode (which hides the fact you're using a VPN), split-tunneling, NoBorders mode (which lets you use Surfshark in regions where VPNs are restricted) and multihop VPN connections. You'll also get access to Surfshark's CleanWeb technology, which blocks ads and malware and helps you avoid phishing attacks.
One innovation we're excited to see Surfshark roll out over the next year is its Nexus network, which connects the VPN's entire network of servers together and allows you to choose multiple servers to route your connection through. The functionality is somewhat similar to Tor, but Surfshark says it's faster. With its Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator functions, the Nexus network can give you a few extra layers of protection while you use the VPN -- which can be particularly beneficial to users with critical privacy needs.
Surfshark says it doesn't log any user activity. And although no-logging claims are virtually impossible to prove with 100% certainty, German cybersecurity firm Cure53 declared Surfshark's security to be "solid" in its 2021 security audit of the VPN. Surfshark says a new audit is forthcoming by the end of this year.
Surfshark rates consistently as one of the fastest VPNs available. Which is why we were surprised that one of the only issues we had with Surfshark came in our speed test. While it still ranks as one of the fastest VPNs we've tested -- with an internet speed loss of just 19% -- we were disappointed with the inconsistent speed results we got to certain locations. Speeds to Europe and Singapore were erratic (dipping as low as 9Mbps to Singapore), while speeds to New York were slower than speeds to the UK and even Australia. Surfhark is in the process of significantly expanding its server network, now offering more than 3,200 servers in 99 countries. The continued expansion of its server network could potentially help bring some more consistency to the VPN's speeds.
In our tests, Surfshark had no problems unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content, but we did run into a fair bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus. After testing various servers in the US and other countries where Disney Plus is available, we were finally able to access the content when we connected to a server in Boston. You may need to test a few servers yourself before gaining access to Disney Plus content with Surfshark.
Surfshark offers cheaper introductory prices that jump after the first billing cycle. Even so, Surfshark manages to keep its prices lower than most other VPNs -- helping it earn CNET's Editors' Choice for Best Value. The yearly plan starts out at $48 for the first year, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you'll pay $60 up front for the initial two years combined, then $60 per year for any additional years. Surfshark's monthly plan stays constant at $13 a month. If you're not satisfied with the service for any reason, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN is currently the fastest VPN we've tested, causing us to lose less than 2% of our total internet speeds. Its apps for iOS and Android are designed with a streamlined approach aimed at connecting fast without a fuss. A single button on its landing screen directs you to connect quickly, with the only accompanying option a drop-down server location selector with your fastest nearby city selected by default.
ExpressVPN's other options -- its security and privacy tools, account and setting iOS's options, and support page -- are all kept neatly tucked away under a garden variety three-bar icon in the screen's top left corner. And they're worth checking into. ExpressVPN has included an on-board IP address checker, along with two leak testers and a password generator.
In the past year, ExpressVPN increased its independent third-party audit count, published details about its TrustedServer deployment process, joined the i2Coalition to call for improved VPN industry ethics, and released an open source Lightway encryption protocol.
All of our top-rated VPNs have wide compatibility across platforms and operating systems, but ExpressVPN's collection of setup guides, detailed FAQs and troubleshooting articles give it a clear advantage for users. So does its 24/7 customer support, and its no-questions-asked, 30-day money back guarantee.
The company has been in business since 2009, and ExpressVPN has a substantial network of more than 3,000 RAM-only servers spread across 160 locations in 94 countries. ExpressVPN's best plan offers five simultaneous connections for $100 a year (which includes three extra months, for a limited-time deal totaling 15 months of service). You can also opt for a $13 per-month plan, or pay $60 for six months.
NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, for those looking for a different level of VPN connection, and the ability to VPN into Tor. More than half of Nord's 5,000-plus server fleet is optimized for peer-to-peer sharing, though Nord has blocked torrenting in 14 countries.
In our latest test rounds we noticed a few hiccups in Nord's killswitch when using its iOS app, which could be a concern for torrenters. However, Nord has a sideloaded iOS available on its website that it recommends for users. In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN's performance recovered from middling speed scores of 2021 and zoomed back into the ranks of the fastest VPNs we've tested, causing us to lose just 13% of base internet speeds.
NordVPN doesn't accept PayPal payments, but you can purchase a subscription with any major credit or debit card, AmazonPay, Google Pay or ACH transfer. If you'd rather pay anonymously, you can pay with a variety of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether and Dogecoin. NordVPN has also partnered with a handful of retail stores like Staples, BestBuy and Walmart where you can even purchase your VPN with cash.
A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. With its iOS app, IPVanish manages to pack the same extensive suite of digital knobs and dials into a smaller screen to impressive effect.
If you're looking for the ability to do some precision-tuning to your VPN connection, IPVanish is a solid bet. From generating visual graphs of your internet activity to a bevy of switches controlling split-tunneling, LAN connection allowance and more -- IPVanish is an iOS app for the methodical tech tweaker who enjoys having exact control over their mobile traffic.
While IPVanish isn't the fastest VPN, the 58% speed loss we measured in our most recent speed tests is about on par with most VPN providers. However, we noticed that IPVanish's Quick Connect feature doesn't always connect you to the best available server, so you may need to optimize your speeds by connecting manually to a server showing a lighter load. In IPVanish's iOS app, you can check the current load of each server by tapping on Locations and tapping the number next to each city.
IPVanish's monthly plan costs $11 per month, but you can get a discount on its yearly plan now for $40 for the first year. However, that yearly plan jumps to $90 for any subsequent years of service. You can also opt for a quarterly plan that costs just over $13 for the first three months, then $30 for each three-month period thereafter. The provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, but only if you purchase the yearly plan -- which could be a disappointment to anyone who purchased a monthly or quarterly subscription and decided they didn't like the service. That said, the company gets kudos for allowing unlimited simultaneous connections. We also liked its connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about protecting their privacy while surfing.
Apple puts a strong emphasis on security, knowing that it's tantamount to a good user experience. The company has a reputation for the strong security of its products, so most people who purchase an iPhone expect a certain level of protection. Still, that base protection can always be improved upon if it's simply not enough for you or you're looking to bolster your privacy.
That's where using a solid, well-tested VPN, or virtual private network, comes in. Without a VPN, your internet service provider can still track your browsing habits on both MacOS and iOS, and websites can collect your IP address. By itself, an iPhone can't stop either of those things from happening, but the best VPN for iPhone can.
While not every VPN service is going to pair flawlessly with iOS, Apple-focused VPN apps are becoming more and more popular among the top VPN providers. That means your iPhone VPN options are better than ever before.
Over the past few years, the market for mobile VPNs has been booming, according to the most recent trend reports available. The VPN market was estimated at $49 billion in 2022 by Precedence Research, which expects that market to grow to $359 billion by 2032 -- an increase of seven times over the next 10 years. We strongly urge you to avoid using a free VPN, as they almost always come with unforeseen risks and they're limited in their usefulness. Instead, it's in your best interest to stick with a tried-and-true paid VPN whenever possible. That's what you'll find here in our guide to the best iPhone VPN apps.
One caveat is that there are currently some limits to the privacy that VPN clients provide to iOS users. Recent independent research showed that iOS (and some MacOS) users' browsing and internet data may be sent to Apple despite the protections offered by an encrypted VPN tunnel. We'll continue to update our VPN recommendations as more information emerges about this issue.
This list is essentially a subset of our main best VPN list, but specifically focuses on VPN clients for anyone looking for mobile browsing protection for their iPhone or other iOS device. If and when a service is ranked higher here than on our main VPN list, it's because the mobile app experience was superior. (You can check out our recommendations for the best Android VPNs, too.) Keep in mind that this is an evolving list: We're actively working on more research and hands-on testing, so check back regularly as we expect this list to change periodically. Here are the top VPN apps for iPhone that we've tested.