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Best iPhone VPN apps 2020: Browse securely and unblock streaming services

Maintain your internet privacy and unblock streaming services abroad with our best iPhone VPN services

At a time when just about everyone wants to keep an eye on where you go and what you do online, using a good iPhone VPN service can give you a baseline of privacy and security, protecting you from spying eyes on public Wi-Fi networks and concealing your activities from corporate snoopers, state surveillance and even your ISP.

What’s more, a VPN service can give you access to sites and services that might be blocked in your home country, or locked to anyone attempting to connect from outside a specific region. This is obviously hugely important to people in countries with restricted Internet access, like parts of the Middle East or China, but useful to anyone concerned about online anonymity and privacy, whether at home or abroad.

Meanwhile, unblocking features can empower you to watch US TV streaming services and even the US Netflix, which has the largest library of Netflix content compared to any other region in the world.

READ NEXT: Best VPN services | Best VPNs for Mac | Best Android VPNs

How to choose the best iPhone VPN for you

On one level most VPNs (short for ‘virtual private network’) are all basically the same. Each one sets up a secure, encrypted link between your iPhone (or iPad) and a remote server operated by the VPN provider.

All the internet traffic between your iPhone and the apps or websites you visit runs through this link, and because your real IP address and location is masked by the VPN’s IP address and location, it becomes near-impossible for anyone to track what you’re doing online.

The encryption foils any snoopers, and by selecting a VPN server based in a specific country you can also access services normally blocked to those located living outside it. Sounds complicated? Don’t worry. Once you’ve installed and launched the VPN app, the whole process is pretty much transparent, and you can turn the VPN on and off as you please.

Of course, just because all VPNs work the same way, it doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Some have better apps with a stronger set of features, while a lot depends on the servers and network infrastructure the VPN provider has put in place.

Using a VPN nearly always has an impact on your internet speeds. As a general rule, countries with servers further away will have lower speeds. So, for example, if you’re based in the UK and connecting to a server in France your speed will be much faster than if you were connecting to a server in Australia or India, for example.

That said, most VPN services we’ve mentioned below have multiple high-speed servers spread generously across the globe. This means that your speed may only drop minimally, meaning you probably won’t even notice the drop in browsing, downloading and streaming speeds.

How much does an iPhone VPN cost?

It doesn’t have to cost you anything. Several big VPNs have a free tier for smartphone users, while a few are completely free. We’d still take that with a bit of caution, though, as there’s often a catch. Sometimes that means intrusive advertising that’ll push you to upgrade, while other services work on a peer-to-peer network, using your phone’s bandwidth and processing power to move traffic to and from other users.

This might seem a fair exchange, but there can be costs and privacy concerns involved. Luckily, even the best VPN services aren’t that expensive, especially if you’re prepared to pay for a year or more upfront; the discounts can be high. Often this means there’s little price difference between a two-year and a three-year subscription for a reputed VPN service.

All the VPN services we’ve mentioned below work across devices and can be used on at least five devices simultaneously, making it a great way to secure all your devices and even your entire family on one good VPN subscription. Some of them (like Surfshark and Windscribe) even support unlimited simultaneous connections. Most VPNs can also be installed on your Amazon Fire TV and even your home router to protect all your home devices at once.

What should I look for in an iPhone VPN?

Price counts, but the really important factors are security, speed and privacy. All our recommended VPNs use 256-bit encryption to protect your data while in transit – the same level of encryption used by government and military agencies around the world. This gives you an excellent level of security.

As for speed, you’ll find most VPNs deliver good performance over short-range links, for example, if you’re connecting to a server in Spain from the UK, but struggle more with long-range connections, for instance, to East Asia and Australia from the UK. That’s partly why we test VPNs across a transatlantic link to check they can run HD video smoothly and with minimal buffering.

In terms of privacy, we’d usually recommend going with a VPN that has a strict no-logs policy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t record any data about their customers, but that they don’t retain any ‘identifiable’ information on when you use the service, the sites you visit or what you do on them beyond the most basic, anonymous data they might need to monitor and improve their own services. For example, this could include information like which servers you tried connecting to but didn’t work, or which server connections dropped.

The gold-standard VPN services (ExpressVPN and NordVPN) have gone one step further, conducting independent audits by reputed Big Four auditing firms to prove that they don’t store or log any user data whatsoever when you’re using their service. Others like CyberGhost publish yearly transparency reports so you know exactly what they’re doing with user data. As a general rule, you should always check the provider’s privacy policy for details – though some can be more transparent and vague than others.

You’ll often find that the iOS version of a VPN misses some of the features of the Windows or Mac version. This might mean doing without a ‘killswitch,’ which shuts down your Internet connection if your VPN fails, or split-tunnelling, where you can set specific apps to use the VPN without slowing down others.

However, some iPhone VPNs still cram these in, while others have extra security features to protect you from malware or potentially risky websites where you might pick something nasty up. What’s more, iPhone VPNs tend to go big on Wi-Fi Auto-Protect features, ensuring you’re protected when you connect to unknown and insecure Wi-Fi networks, but discreetly getting out of the way when you’re on a secure network at home or in your office.

On Windows or MacOS, you’ll find VPNs that go further to guard your anonymity, adding speciality servers that route your traffic through the Onion network or obfuscation options to further hide your IP address and location. Such features aren’t unknown on iPhone, but they’re definitely harder to find. They’re a bonus, though, especially if you have serious reasons to disguise your identity and location.

What about streaming and torrents?

Some use a VPN to access US Netflix outside the US, or BBC iPlayer from outside the UK, and we’ve noted where a VPN has successfully managed this in our tests. Just be aware that the streaming services are always working to block VPNs from doing this, and what worked when we tested may not necessarily work in the future.

The best VPN services (like ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost) have their own internal teams dedicated to circumventing geoblocks by these big streaming services, but for other smaller VPNs, the effort is just not worth it in the long run.

Often, if you notice that you can’t unblock streaming services on the three aforementioned VPN services, you can simply speak to their 24/7 customer support who guide you how to unblock them. In some cases, you may need to restart or even reinstall a streaming app in order to get it up and running with your iPhone VPN.

It’s also important to note that while you might be excited about running HBO Now or Hulu from the UK, you’ll find it a challenge to even sign up without a US address and credit card.

Another popular use is to conceal your identity while using BitTorrent or other file sharing services. Obviously, this isn’t a problem if what you’re doing is legal, and using a VPN will make it harder for copyright holders to track copyright violators down. However, not all VPN services support file-sharing, and using a VPN can slow your torrent speeds right down.

The best iPhone VPN apps 2020

ExpressVPN: The best iPhone VPN for speed

Read our Express VPN review

ExpressVPN’s iPhone app lacks some of the features of the Android version – let alone the desktop clients – but no other app makes it so easy to get a fast connection wherever you’re connecting to around the world.

Not only does ExpressVPN have over 3,000 servers spread across 94 countries, but you can trust its Smart Location feature to pick the best server near to you. And while it doesn’t have specialist servers for streaming purposes, we had no problems connecting to either US Netflix or the BBC iPlayer through this VPN.

Speed is this one’s real strength. With close-range links to servers in the UK or Belgium the drop in download speed is under 5%, and that doesn’t grow significantly even when you connect to the US, though upload speeds took a larger hit in our tests.

Security is strong, with 256-bit AES encryption and no issues in our leak tests, and ExpressVPN has one of toughest logging policies around, with a range of operational and technical measures to guarantee your privacy. Want an easy-to-use iPhone VPN that delivers great performance? Look no further!

ExpressVPN Key Specs

Location: British Virgin Islands
Servers: 3,000+ servers in 94 countries
Speed: Fast
Maximum simultaneous connections: 5
Logging policy: Zero logs
Killswitch: No
Split tunnelling: No
Auto Wi-Fi Protect: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

ExpressVPN – Save 49% on the one-year plan

Surfshark VPN: The best budget iPhone VPN

Read our Surfshark VPN review

Surfshark is hard to beat on value. While an iPhone subscription through in-app-purchases costs £44 a year, you can sign up for as little as £1.59 a month if you’re prepared to pay up two years in advance. You’re not paying for a cut-cost service, either. It has a killswitch and an auto-connect feature for use on unknown Wi-Fi networks, along with a CleanWeb tool that blocks trackers, ads and malware.

There aren’t any security or privacy headaches, either. Surfshark proved faultless performance in our leak tests and is based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention or information-sharing laws.

The app’s easy to use, with a one-tap Quick Connect, then easy access to the fastest server or the best in a neighbouring country or the full list of 800 servers in over 50 countries.

Its only major drawback is speed. Even on a UK to UK connection we saw an 18% hit on download speeds, rising to 26% when connecting to the US. On a VPN link to India our connection speeds slowed to a crawl. This isn’t a disaster considering the price, and if you tend to use a VPN for browsing rather than downloading or streaming, it might be a non-issue.

Surfshark VPN Key Specs

Location: British Virgin Islands
Servers: 800 servers in 50 countries
Speed: Moderate
Maximum simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Logging policy: No usage data stored
Killswitch: Yes
Split tunnelling: No
Auto Wi-Fi Protect: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy Surfshark VPN now

CyberGhost VPN: The best iPhone VPN for US and UK streaming

Read our CyberGhost VPN review

CyberGhost makes streaming easier than other VPNs by providing specialist servers for specific streaming services, including BBC iPlayer in the UK and the major sports, news and entertainment networks in the US.

The service claims these VPNs are optimised and, certainly, we had no problems accessing a range of US TV services along with US Netflix, through BBC iPlayer still wouldn’t play ball. Throw in intelligent auto-protection and a simple, switch-based interface and it’s a very easy service to use, though it doesn’t have all of the settings or features of the Android or Windows apps.

CyberGhost is based in Romania and has a strict privacy policy, keeping any data it stores on its users to an absolute minimum. The company even has a detailed annual transparency report to reassure its users. Security seems tight and our leak tests didn’t reveal any flaws in the VPN.

And while speeds could be more competitive over long-distance links, with download speeds dropping by 39% in a UK to US VPN and a whopping 83% between the UK and India, they’re perfectly acceptable up close, and we didn’t experience any serious buffering or slowdown during movie playback. NordVPN and ExpressVPN are stronger overall, but CyberGhost is a solid alternative for streamers.

CyberGhost VPN Key Specs

Location: Romania
Servers: 5,000 servers in over 60 countries
Speed: Fast
Maximum simultaneous connections: 7
Logging policy: Zero logs
Killswitch: No
Split tunnelling: No
Auto Wi-Fi Protect: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy CyberGhost VPN now

NordVPN: The best iPhone VPN for privacy and security

Read our NordVPN review

NordVPN isn’t quite the fastest iPhone VPN or the easiest-to-use, but it goes the extra mile on protecting your privacy. Options include specialist servers that connect over the anonymous Onion network or are specifically designed for PvP use, while its CyberSec features blocks ads and protects against malware. Our leak tests failed to uncover any weak points, and with NordVPN based in Panama, you should be safe from state snooping. In fact, the company states that it doesn’t log any information that would leave you identifiable.

You can select your connection either from a map (slightly fiddly) or a list, or just trust the Quick Connect to pick the best option for your current location. We had no problems streaming from either US Netflix or BBC iPlayer in the UK, and NordVPN is no slouch when it comes to performance on short hop UK to UK or UK to Europe VPNs, even if it’s behind the best on transatlantic speeds.

NordVPN Key Specs

Location: Panama
Servers: 5,000 servers in over 60 countries
Speed: Good
Maximum simultaneous connections: 6
Logging policy: Zero-logs
Killswitch: No
Split tunnelling: No
Auto Wi-Fi Protect: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy NordVPN now

Windscribe VPN: The best free iPhone VPN

Read our Windscribe VPN review

Windscribe has become a favourite free VPN across PC, MacOS and Android, and while the iPhone app doesn’t have the full set of features, it’s still a top option here. The app provides two tiers of service, with the free version providing access to a smaller set of servers with 10GB of monthly bandwidth, while the subscription option opens more servers, including specialist streaming servers, along with unlimited usage.

The free service will be perfectly adequate for many users, though it’s not hugely expensive to upgrade. The service is based in Canada, but has a strict no-logging policy and can’t tie your online activity to your account. The link is protected with AES-256 encryption and our leak tests didn’t throw up any horrors.

We also like the way the app previews the performance of prospective servers through a ping count or latency bars. Windflix is even more competitive than you might think on speed; it can’t compete with the fastest services long-distance, but at closer range it’s in the same ballpark. It’ll even stream US Netflix, though there can be lengthy waits for buffering. You’ll get more features if you pay the extra, but this is a great free VPN which gets better when you subscribe.

Windscribe VPN Key Specs

Location: Canada
Servers: 450+ servers in 60+ countries
Speed: Good
Maximum simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Logging policy: No logs
Killswitch: No
Split tunnelling: No
Auto Wi-Fi Protect: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy Windscribe VPN now

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