Here's the easy way to install a virtual private network on your iPhone and boost your privacy.
Rae HodgeFormer senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
There are limits to the privacy VPNs currently provide to iOS users, however. Recent independent research has emerged suggesting 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 will continue to update our recommendations as more information and research surface around this issue.
In the meantime, there are a few things to keep in mind when you're looking for the right VPN. First, browse CNET's list of the best VPNs for iPhone to get a look at the best performers we've tested in 2022. If your aim is just to browse on public Wi-Fi securely, look for a VPN service that has servers located in your current country. The general rule of thumb is the closer the hardware, the quicker the VPN connection.
1.On your iPhone, go to your home screen and tap to open the App Store.
2. Tapthe Search tab in the bottom right corner of the screen, then tap the Search box near the top of the screen.
3. Type in the name of the VPN you've chosen, and select it from the list that pops up. Then tap the Get button that appears to the right of the app's name. Like with any other app, you'll need to confirm the app installation with your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
4.Once your install has finished, close the App Store and go back to your Home screen.
5.Just as with using a VPN for the first time on Android, using a VPN on iPhone for the first time means you'll be prompted to create a new account and select your preferred subscription level. Make sure to check your email inbox for any confirmation links your VPN company sends you if you've signed up with an email address.
Nearly all VPN apps will prompt you to connect to an automatically selected VPN server based on your location to enable the fastest browsing. From here on out, any time you'd like to use your VPN, all you'll need to do is tap the VPN icon on your Home screen before you start browsing the internet, click the app's button to connect, then go back to the VPN app and turn it off once you're finished.
What's the best iPhone VPN right now?
Thanks to its impressive performance and unlimited device support, Surfshark is our current top pick for the best iPhone VPN. ExpressVPN is a close second among our picks and offers a simple and effective iPhone VPN app. It isn't the cheapest, but it's among the fastest of all the VPN options. NordVPN, our third choice, is a die-hard heavy-hitter. It costs more than Surfshark but less than Express, has a network of servers that's constantly getting faster and more secure, and is easily the most reliable service we've tested. No matter which VPN you choose, however, keep in mind that recent independent research has emerged suggesting iOS (and some MacOS) users' browsing and internet data may still be sent to Apple despite the protections offered by an encrypted VPN tunnel. We will continue to update our recommendations as more information and research surface around this issue.
Do I need a VPN on my iPhone?
Yes, you probably do. Apple's iPhones and other iOS devices are known for robust security protections, but their toughness against malware and viruses doesn't automatically protect your privacy. So If you want to prevent your internet service provider or mobile carrier from being able to see what websites you are looking at on your iPhone and what apps you are using, a well-tested virtual private network will do that. A good mobile VPN will also prevent websites you browse -- and most internet-connected apps on your phone -- from easily being able to determine your exact location. If you travel and frequently use hotel, airport or other public Wi-Fi, a VPN will protect your iPhone from the snooping of other users and potentially malevolent actors.
What is a mobile VPN?
A VPN app for your laptop is different than one for your phone. Use a mobile-friendly VPN app to avoid slower speeds and ensure greater data privacy for your whole device. Mobile VPNs generally have a smaller memory footprint and require less processing power than desktop VPNs, so they run faster and save more battery. Our top three VPNs listed above all have excellent, easy-to-use mobile app options for their services. Some VPNs will only work with one type of platform -- like Apple or Android -- and some are universally compatible. To find the right mobile VPN for you, check out our other mobile-specific VPN guides below. We routinely update them with our retesting information so check back often.