Best VPN for iOS iPhone iPad

Best VPN for iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Apple’s iOS is a mobile operating system (OS) specifically for use with the company’s iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch, as well as the many variants of these devices. Since its initial release in 2007 on the original iPhone, iOS has been used by millions around the world and continues to grow in popularity.

After a brief overview of the history of iOS and some of its most attractive features, we’ll highlight some of the benefits of using a VPN for devices running iOS, as well as recommending the best current VPN providers specifically for use with iPhone and iPad.

Summary

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
IPVanish IPVanish Read Review
Visit Provider
$10
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.99
ibVPN ibVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$7.95
PureVPN PureVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
HideMyAss HideMyAss Read Review
Visit Provider
$11.52

Quick Links


History of iOS

During the initial development of the iPhone in 2005, Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs set out to ‘shrink the Mac’ to develop a mobile operating system with many of the benefits of a desktop computer.

With the release of the first iPhone two years later, Apple claimed that the phone used OS X – when in fact it used a variant – and it wasn’t until early 2008 that the tech giant clarified this difference with the release of the first Beta version, which they called the ‘iPhone OS’. In June 2010 Apple re-branded the operating system iOS, a name that had to be licensed from the tech firm Cisco, which had been using the trademark ‘IOS’ for its routers for over ten years.

Since its introduction, iOS has extended its reach from the iPhone to include iPod Touch, iPad, iPad Mini, Apple Watch (which uses iOS cousin WatchOS) and the iOS-compatible Apple TV (from the second generation onwards). As early as 2011, iOS boasted 60% of the market share for smartphones and tablets. By early 2015, 23% of smartphones and 66% of tablets worldwide were using iOS. For this same period, Apple’s App Store contained a staggering 1.4 million iOS applications.

iPhone VPN app
iPhones account for 23% of all smartphones.

However, iOS is considerably less popular when compared with its competitor Android, which in the final quarter of 2014 held more than 75% of the market share of smartphone units sold, compared with just under 20% for iOS.

iOS features & versions

iOS uses direct manipulation technology, allowing users to operate mobile devices using various touch-screen gestures, including swipe, tap, pinch, and reverse pinch. There are also external non-touch-screen controls, including switches, sliders, and buttons for controlling volume, power and for directing users to the home screen. Some iOS applications make use of internal accelerometers, which respond when the device is shaken or rotated.

With the arrival of iOS came numerous unique features, including the Spotlight search tool, which enables users to search phone content and apps, a folder system for grouping apps, a notification centre for all apps, and Siri, a personal assistant and knowledge navigator app that can be controlled through voice commands. Siri is currently only available for the iPhone 4S and later, the fifth-generation iPod Touch, all iPad Mini models, and third-generation and later iPads.

Siri
Web queries on iOS can now be dealt with using fairly complex voice commands through its Siri function. / Image source: Apple

New versions of iOS are currently released annually via Apple’s media store iTunes. For devices that were purchased running iOS 5.0 or later, updates are available ‘over the air’. The latest version is the iOS 9, which was released in September, 2015 and includes several improvements to the keyboard and app functions, battery life and security.

iOS is not compatible with the OS X system used by Macs since iOS uses the Cocoa Touch UI toolkit, while the OS X uses the Cocoa toolkit.

Jailbreaking

Many programmers and iOS users have resorted to ‘jailbreaking’ to add functionality to their systems which would otherwise not be permitted by Apple. Examples of jailbreaking include the installation of custom device themes and the modification of the SpringBoard homepage, as well as numerous other non-native functions.

The closed propriety software used by iOS has garnered widespread criticism from digital rights proponents, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet-law expert Jonathan Zittrain, software engineer and digital activist Brewster Kahle, the Free Software Foundation, and from Apple’s main competitor, Microsoft, after a spokesperson criticized the iPad’s closed platform.

iOS security issues

In November 2014, the so-called WireLurker malware targeted both iOS and OS X users through pirated apps. Infected systems requested constant updates and threatened sensitive user data such as passwords and contact lists, though the threat was quickly combated by Apple.

In September 2015, the company’s App Store suffered its first major hack attack by the malicious XcodeGhost software, which left the sensitive data of thousands of iOS users in China at risk. Apple reacted promptly, though security experts published a report in November that showed users in the US were also at risk.

Benefits of iOS VPN

The use of VPN offers several important advantages to iPhone and iPad owners who frequently access the internet from their device. Key benefits include:

  • Data encryption (to secure your personal web data from the ISP and malicious third parties)
  • Bypassing regional restrictions (to access geographically restricted content from any location)

Data encryption

Like desktop browsing, using internet-dependent features on your mobile device leaves your data vulnerable to external attacks, and iOS devices are no exception. Aside from individual hackers and petty criminals, the threat to online privacy also includes governments, many of which now administer strict data retention laws.

Use of public Wi-Fi hotspots, in places such as cafes and airports, also poses a threat to sensitive data since they are often unprotected, sometimes not even requiring a password to connect. Hotspots are increasingly popular among mobile users who are happy to avoid using their own data plans, often without realising they are risking their own personal data when using these networks.

Airport wifi VPN
Public Wi-Fi hotspots in places like cafes and airports provide the perfect hunting ground for malicious hackers.

One of the main concerns about Wi-Fi hotspots is the ease at which hackers can access an individual’s sensitive data. A 2014 study of identity fraud by technology experts Javelin Strategy and Research found that 13.1 million people have been a victim of identity theft in 2013, a figure which includes compromised online accounts such as eBay and Amazon, as well as online payment accounts such as PayPal.

Bypassing regional restrictions

Another benefit of using a VPN on your iOS device is its capability for unblocking geo-restricted websites and content. This includes streaming services such as those offered by Netflix, Hulu, and UFC, as well as some online games.

With Netflix for example, some aspects of its service, such as comprehensive media catalogue access, are restricted for subscribers outside of the US. Other streaming services like BBC iPlayer are only available to users residing in the UK. Online services are increasingly limited to specific geographical locations due in part to a rise in online censorship and increasing state restrictions. Using a VPN enables users to switch their device’s IP address for one within a country of their choice, thus overriding geo-blocks and blackouts.

Unblock BBC iPlayer
Simply by switching your IP through a VPN will help bypass regional content restrictions on your iOS device.

Best VPN providers

We’ve listed six of our favourite providers for use specifically with iOS. Each provider offers a recommendable VPN service as well as their own, easy-to-use VPN app:

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
IPVanish IPVanish Read Review
Visit Provider
$10
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.99
ibVPN ibVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$7.95
PureVPN PureVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
HideMyAss HideMyAss Read Review
Visit Provider
$11.52

1. IPVanish

IPVanish VPN

US-based IPVanish is one of the largest and most well-respected providers around with more than 200 servers in over 60 countries.

iOS users can choose between L2TP/IPSec, PPTP and IKEv2 protocols. The IPVanish iOS app is available for all subscribers for download from Apple’s App Store and runs on iOS 7.0 and above. The app boasts several impressive features, including an easy-to-navigate interface, automatic server selection based on your location, and the ability to toggle quickly between servers and protocols. There are no obvious restrictions on bandwidth and connection and usage logs are not collected.

Subscribers can choose between three price plans: the one year subscription is the best value-for-money at $77.99 ($6.49 a month); three months cost $26.99; one month will set you back $10.

Several anonymous payment methods are available, including Bitcoin and PaySafeCard.

IPVanish iOS app iPVanish iOS app

Pros:

  • Wide range of servers
  • Several handy iOS app features
  • Anonymous payment methods available

Cons:

  • No more than 2 connections allowed per account

Visit Provider


2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN iPad app
ExpressVPN iPad app

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is known for its lax data retention laws. The provider has a strong reputation for speedy connections – some of the fastest available – and boasts a vast server range with nodes in 100 locations across 78 countries.

iOS subscribers can enjoy 256-bit SSL-secured encryption and can choose from the following protocols: L2TP/IPSec and PPTP. The ExpressVPN iOS app is stylishly designed and includes some useful features, including automatic connection configuration. There are no limits on bandwidth and activity logs are not retained.

One month is the most expensive at $12.95; six months costs $9.99; 12 months is the best value-for-money at $8.32 per month. Users can pay anonymously through Bitcoin, Yandex Money, and WebMoney.

Pros:

  • Some of the best speeds on the market
  • Wide server range
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Pricier than some providers

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3. VyprVPN

VyprVPN

VyprVPN has built up a solid reputation for fast speeds and reliable connections, thanks partly to its in-house infrastructure. The VPN service is overseen by Golden Frog, a Texas-based company which specializes in data protection and who also run an encrypted messaging service called Cyphr.

VyprVPN boats 200,000 IPs across more than 50 locations worldwide. iOS users can choose from L2TP/IPSec and PPTP encryption protocols. VyprVPN’s iOS client, which can be downloaded from the App Store, has many attractive features, including One Swipe Connect for quick and easy VPN connection, Auto-Reconnect should you lose your VPN connection and the option to mark favourite servers for later use.

Traffic logs are not collected though connection logs are stored for up to 30 days. There are no limits on bandwidth.

Potential subscribers can select VyprVPN’s free trial before signing up for a monthly subscription. The free trial includes an allowance of 500Mb per month.

There are three premium subscriptions available according to how many connections you would like. The Basic plan costs $6.67 per month and allows one active connection. Pro is $8.33 per month and allows two connections, while the Premier subscription costs $10 per month and allows three connections.

VyprVPN iPad
VyprVPN iPad app

Pros:

  • Vast server range
  • Unique iOS client features
  • Free trial on offer with 500Mb allowance

Cons:

  • Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
  • Only PPTP protocol available for free trial
  • Connection logs retained for 1 month

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4. ibVPN

ibVPN iPad app

ibVPN operates around 100 servers in almost 40 countries. Aside from its VPN service, the provider also offers Smart DNS (ibDNS) for unblocking geo-restricted content on more than 200 channels.

ibVPN’s iOS app supports 256-bit encryption for PPTP/L2TP protocols. The app allows for easy VPN profile configuration and includes a straightforward dashboard from where users can choose servers, change their subscription, access support and more. The app has been optimized for larger screens, making it good for the iPhone 5 for example.

The following four price plans are available: Ultimate VPN and Smart DNS costs $4.84 per month; Total VPN and Smart DNS is $4.08 a month (slightly fewer servers than Ultimate); both Smart DNS (ibDNS) and Torrent VPN (without Smart DNS) cost $3.08. Note, these prices refer to yearly billing; monthly billing cycles work out as more expensive in the long run.

ibVPN does not limit bandwidth and activity logs are not collected. Moreover, the company is registered in Romania, where data retention laws are favourable towards VPN users.

Anonymous payment methods include Bitcoin, OKPay and LiteCoin.

Pros:

  • Wide server range
  • Inexpensive monthly subscriptions on offer
  • Romania-based (lax data retention laws)
  • Free trial available
  • 15-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Only one connection allowed per account

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5. PureVPN

PureVPN

PureVPN is one of the largest and best-known VPN providers, chiefly because of its strong encryption, fast speeds and huge server range, which covers more than 140 countries. The provider is based in Hong Kong, which has a relaxed data retention policy, especially when considered next to mainland China.

VPN for iOS uses AES or 256 SSL encryption with the IKEv2 encryption protocol. The PureVPN iOS app includes several benefits, including a 2GB bandwidth allowance per month, a one click VPN connection feature and automatic server optimization, which selects the best server for the user’s location.

One of the most attractive features of PureVPN is that users can connect on up to 5 devices per account. Another benefit is the cheap add-on option of Smart DNS, which can be attached to existing VPN plans. Subscribers are not subject to bandwidth restrictions and traffic logs are not retained.

Subscribers can pay for a single month, six months, or a year, with the latter including Smart DNS. Anonymous payment options include WebMoney and Bitcoin.

PureVPN iPad
PureVPN iPad app

Pros:

  • 5 simultaneous logins per subscription
  • Wide server range
  • Smart DNS available as an add-on
  • Based in Hong Kong (lax privacy laws)

Cons:

  • Smart DNS not available as a standalone service

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6. Hide My Ass!

hidemyass

Hide My Ass! (HMA) is well-reputed for speedy connections and its huge server range with 900 nodes across 210 countries. Based in London, HMA must comply with UK data retention laws, though the provider clarifies that customer information is not stored in the country.

HMA’s iOS app, which is available from the App Store for iOS 5 and up, offers PPTP and L2TP encryption protocols. It includes some attractive features, including a step-by-step guide for VPN configuration and server recommendations based on your location.

There are three levels of subscription on offer: the one month ‘Kick-Ass’ plan at $11.52; the six month ‘Half-Ass’ package at $8.33 a month; and the one year ‘Smart-Ass’ plan, which is the best value-for-money at $6.55 a month. Bitcoin and WebMoney are accepted.

Hidemyass iPad
HMA iPad app

Pros:

  • A reputation for fast speeds
  • Huge server range
  • iOS app with easy configuration
  • 30 day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • 1 month Kick-ass plan more expensive than average

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9 thoughts on “Best VPN for iOS (iPhone and iPad)

  1. I am using the ibVPN iOS app for more than one year. It is easy to use, it works great and it is quite afordable.

  2. Great article … thank you. One question – do you know what encryption protocols are used on iOS VPN applications?

    • Hi Harry,

      The majority of VPN applications for iOS devices are configured to run L2TP/IPSec with AES 256-bit keys, although the weaker and penetrable PPTP with 128-bit encryption cipher is also supported by the built-in iOS client. You can find more info here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201533

  3. Yeah all these providers are pretty good for performance (personally have tried all of them out), but in terms of the actual iOS compatibility I prefer and have stuck to ExpressVPN, as their configuration settings get unpacked in the device settings, showing all available servers and connection switch directly in the built-in iOS VPN client. Very useful imo.

  4. Really pleased with the VyprVPN app for iPad. Very useful that it can read my connection speed within the app itself.

  5. Do you have any recommendations for VPN services that work in China? I’ve tried a few in this list, but some of their websites are blocked? Thanks in advance.

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