Most people know that Apple prides itself on respecting the privacy of its users — and the iPhone is no different. Whether you are someone who values privacy and security, or maybe you want easy access to content around the world, you will need a reliable VPN for your iPhone in 2023.
But how do you choose the best VPN for your iPhone when there are so many VPNs on the market? And what about using a free VPN for your iPhone?
The problem with most iPhone VPNs
Here’s where things get challenging. Many VPNs do not perform well on mobile devices. One study found up to 84% of mobile VPN apps leak user data. Aside from these privacy issues, we have also found in our own VPN tests that iPhone VPN apps can suffer from bugs, crashes, and data leaks. So how do you find the best VPN for iPhone?
We do it this way: create a checklist of factors that a great iPhone VPN must have, then test the available options to see who comes out on top.
The best iPhone VPNs today
We determined that these are the most important factors to consider when selecting an iPhone VPN. Then we tested VPNs with iPhone apps and selected our 3 winners:
- NordVPN – Best VPN for iPhone with the best iOS apps, excellent security features and streaming support, and the fastest speeds (with a 68% off coupon)
- Surfshark – Budget VPN for iPhone with good speeds, secure apps, and many servers
- ExpressVPN – Reliable and user-friendly VPN for iPhone and iOS devices
All three of the iPhone VPNs recommended above meet the following criteria:
- Passed all tests with no leaks that would expose your data online (no IP address leaks or DNS leaks)
- Good performance throughout the server network (speed and reliability)
- High-quality VPN apps with all features working correctly
- Supports secure VPN protocols with strong encryption standards
- Offers a money-back guarantee
- Trustworthy and well-established VPN provider with a good track record
- Located in a safe privacy jurisdiction (outside of Five Eyes countries, such as the US and UK) to keep your data secure
So now let’s get into the details.
NordVPN – The best VPN for iPhone in 2023
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
NordVPN regularly comes out on top in our recommendations, simply because it delivers in all the important categories for iPhone users. Whether you are looking for privacy and security, or you are trying to unblock content and stream movies, NordVPN is the top VPN for iOS (iPhone).
The NordVPN iPhone app performed very well in our tests. Below you can see we are connected to a NordVPN server in the US on our iPhone, with the Auto-Connect feature enabled.
One big area that makes NordVPN the best iPhone VPN in 2023 is performance. NordVPN fully supports the WireGuard VPN protocol on all platforms (including iPhone and iPad), and this delivers the fastest speeds and best security. NordVPN’s implementation of WireGuard is called the NordLynx protocol, which is fully supported on iPhones. In our VPN tests using NordVPN with the NordLynx protocol, we were able to hit download speeds of 755 Mbps!
Fast and consistent speeds give NordVPN an edge over other leading services, as you can see in the Mullvad vs NordVPN comparison. Nord also came out on top in speed tests for the CyberGhost vs NordVPN report.
NordLynx takes advantage of the speed and security of WireGuard while enhancing that protocol’s privacy. NordLynx does this through a double NAT (Network Address Translation) system which ensures that user IP addresses are not visible on the VPN servers. The result is a fast, secure, and private VPN connection that is ideal for if you need a VPN for gaming, streaming, torrenting, or any other high-bandwidth activity.
NordVPN features with iPhones (and more)
NordVPN also checks all the boxes for security and privacy. They currently have over 5,800 servers in 60 countries around the world. All servers run in RAM-disk mode (no hard drives), which means no user data can ever be stored on servers or accessed by third parties. They are most of their servers with 10 Gpbs data channels and are in the process of converting all their servers to colocated servers. This means that NordVPN will own and maintain all their servers, regardless of where those servers are physically located.
When using Nord VPN on an iPhone, you have access to all the major privacy and security features, including:
- Threat Protection Lite, a feature that will block ads, trackers, and malware domains from loading on your iPhone. It protects all traffic that passes through a NordVPN server. The full Threat Protection feature is available for macOS, so if you get NordVPN for your iPhone you will also end up with even better protection for your Mac
- NordLynx VPN protocol (described above) that delivers all the benefits of WireGuard on your iOS device (the best VPN speeds and the most secure encryption standards, along with enhanced privacy protection)
- Split tunneling to control which apps use the secure, encrypted VPN connection and which connect directly to the internet
- Double VPN servers that encrypt traffic over two different hops for double the encryption
- Obfuscated servers that conceal VPN traffic and also allow you to get around VPN blocks (useful if you need a VPN for China, school, or work networks that block VPNs)
- Onion over VPN servers pass your traffic through the Tor network as well as through the VPN for additional security and privacy
- Dedicated IP servers give you a static IP address with the VPN, dedicated to your exclusive use
- VPN Kill switch that will block internet traffic on your iPhone if the connection drops (see the benefits of a VPN kill switch here)
- Private DNS that prevents anyone from tracking your online activity by spying on your DNS queries
- Meshnet allows you to create your own private encrypted network connecting trusted devices securely, without the overhead of a regular VPN connection
- Smart Play, NordVPN’s name for SmartDNS. Allows you to change your apparent IP address to gain access to otherwise blocked sites. Doesn’t protect your privacy the way the DNS does, but it may be the only way to connect to certain websites and resources
You can easily enable both Threat Protection Lite and NordLynx (WireGuard) directly in the VPN app’s settings on your iPhone. We recommend enabling these two features for higher levels of privacy and security, while also getting the best performance.
If you plan to stream video on your iPhone with a VPN, then NordVPN will have you covered. It’s also a great VPN for Netflix and will unblock 17+ regions around the world, including all of the most popular regions. NordVPN also works with BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney Plus, DAZN, and many other streaming sites. Finally, they even provide dedicated streaming apps for some other types of devices, such as the Firestick VPN app.
Aside from movie streaming, NordVPN is also a great option if you need a VPN for ESPN or other sports channels. It allows you to unblock a variety of content from anywhere. We have also found it to be a popular VPN for Canada to stream geo-restricted content.
NordVPN policies and third-party audits
NordVPN is also a verified no-logs VPN service, having passed multiple audits by outside firms. In 2019 and 2020, they had PWC AG in Zurich, Switzerland audit their logging policies. Then in late 2022, they underwent a third successful audit of their no-logs claims, this time conducted by Deloitte.
NordVPN has also undergone numerous third-party security audits. This also includes a full infrastructure security audit conducted earlier in the year.
How to use NordVPN on your iPhone
Installing and using NordVPN on your iPhone is quite simple. Just follow these steps:
- Purchase a discounted NordVPN subscription here
- Install the NordVPN app on your iPhone
- Open the NordVPN app on your iPhone and log in with your credentials
- Click the Quick Connect button to connect to the fastest VPN server available.
When you first connect to a VPN server on your iPhone, you will likely be asked if you want to allow the VPN app to add configurations to your device. Simply confirm that you Allow this to enable quick and easy VPN connections on your iPhone.
Note: All three VPNs in this review have 24/7 live chat support and 30-day money-back guarantees.
- User-friendly and reliable apps
- Double-VPN and Tor-over-VPN servers
- Passed numerous 3rd-party audits
- Strong encryption standards with full support for WireGuard
- Works with Netflix and many streaming sites
- Threat Protection feature to block ads, trackers, and malware
- Professional 24/7 live chat support
- Consistently fast speeds
- Dedicated RAM-servers with 10 Gbps bandwidth channels
- Big discounts only available with 2-year plans
For more info, check out our new and updated NordVPN review.
Surfshark – A fast, affordable, and secure VPN for iPhone
|Based in||The Netherlands|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
Next up on our list of the best VPNs for iPhone in 2023 is Surfshark. In many respects, Surfshark is right behind NordVPN. It offers many similar features and also performs well, but it does have a few drawbacks.
If you are looking for a easy-to-use iPhone VPN that is affordable, then Surfshark is one of the best cheap VPNs to consider. A Surfshark subscription costs less than a subscription to NordVPN. Surfshark has the added bonus of giving you unlimited simultaneous connections. This makes it a great VPN for multiple devices.
The Surfshark apps for iPhone also performed well in our tests and are full of useful features.
In terms of speeds, Surfshark performs well and supports the WireGuard VPN protocol on iPhones, Windows, Mac OS, and Android devices. Like NordVPN, Surfshark uses a double NAT system to boost the privacy of the WireGuard protocol.
You can easily select the WireGuard protocol in the Settings section of the Surfshark iPhone app. With the Surfshark app for iPhone, the IKEv2 protocol is used by default, but this is easy to change in the settings.
We also tested out speeds with Surfshark with an iPhone to determine how its performance compared to other top VPNs. Our tests determined that Surfshark offers excellent speeds with iPhones, as well as excellent reliability, with no dropped connections or crashes.
Surfshark currently boasts over 3,200 servers in 100 countries around the world. Like NordVPN, Surfshark runs all servers in RAM-disk mode for maximum data security. The company is also upgrading their servers with 10 Gbps data channels and is moving toward 100% colocated servers.
Note: Unlike NordVPN, Surfshark does use some virtual server locations. There are pros and cons to this approach. You can learn more about this issue here.
Important Surfshark features to note include:
- CleanWeb is a feature that will block ads, trackers, and malware domains, protecting all traffic that passes through a Surfshark server
- Rotating IP is a feature that automatically changes your IP address every 5 to 10 minutes and makes it extremely difficult for hostile entities to track your online activities
- WireGuard VPN protocol for very fast and secure connectivity. Privacy is ensured by a double NAT system
- Bypasser, Surfshark’s name for their split tunneling feature
- MultiHop, Surfshark’s name for their Double VPN feature
- Chameleon mode, Surfshark’s name for their obfuscated servers
- Dedicated IP servers for when you need a static IP address that is not shared with others (Android only)
- VPN Kill switch that prevents VPN traffic to be exposed on the internet, even when your VPN connection fails
- Private DNS to shield your DNS queries from snoops
- Smart DNS, Surfshark’s SmartDNS implementation
- Antivirus add-on – If you want to combine your VPN with antivirus, Surfshark has options for that, too.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark also offers a VPN ad blocker feature. It is called CleanWeb and it will block ads, trackers, and malware domains. I recommend that you always enable CleanWeb on your iPhone. Today many ads double as tracking tools. Blocking ads prevents that type of tracking. It will also speed up page load times and reduce the amount of mobile data consumed by the web pages you visit. To do this, simply go to the VPN Features tab, and then toggle CleanWeb on.
Surfshark does great with streaming and unblocking streaming media sites. It supports 15+ Netflix libraries and is currently one of the best VPNs for Netflix. And of course, it also works very well with Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and other leading streaming media services.
Surfshark policies and audits
One long-awaited piece of news from Surfshark was their recent completion of a third-party audit of their compliance with their no-logs policy. Their no-log VPN status has now been confirmed by auditing firm Deloitte.
How to set up Surfshark VPN on iPhone
Setting up Surfshark on iPhone is fast and easy if you follow these steps:
- First, get a discounted Surfshark subscription (use the coupon below for the best savings).
- Download the Surfshark iPhone app from the Surfshark website or Apple store.
- Open the app and log in to your VPN account.
- Click the Connect button to connect to a nearby server.
- Click Allow to let Surfshark Add VPN Configurations to your device so connections are smooth and fast.
Note: Remember that Surfshark has online chat for 24/7 live support and a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you have problems or simply decide this VPN is not for you.
Just like above with NordVPN, we’d recommend using the WireGuard protocol for the fastest connections and also enabling CleanWeb (ad blocker) for more privacy and security. You can see our comparison between NordVPN and Surfshark for more details on these top two iPhone VPN providers.
- Unlimited connections
- User-friendly apps for all devices and operating systems
- CleanWeb feature to block ads, trackers, and malware
- Works great with Netflix and many other streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Strong encryption and security features (audited)
- Limited support for VPN routers
- Above average monthly prices
To learn more about Surfshark, check out our Surfshark VPN review here.
ExpressVPN – A secure and reliable VPN for iPhone (but expensive)
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
ExpressVPN checks all the right boxes that make for a great VPN for iPhone. It is fast, secure, and reliable. It works well for all types of uses, from streaming to torrenting to standard web browsing. However, of all the iPhone VPNs on this list, ExpressVPN is the most expensive. Additionally, it has fewer features than our other recommendations, as we’ll show you in detail below.
Let’s start with the positives. ExpressVPN is fast and reliable. Unlike NordVPN and Surfshark, ExpressVPN offers the Lightway protocol, rather than supporting WireGuard.
ExpressVPN developed Lightway to give users a faster, more secure, and more reliable VPN connection. It uses a state-of-the-art cryptographic algorithm and needs less processing power needed to establish a connection than older protocols like OpenVPN. It incorporates a unique connection process that is more efficient and makes connections faster. These characteristics make Lightway ideal for mobile devices like iPhones, since it uses less power than older protocols while improving overall performance.
While Lightway is similar to WireGuard, it’s not quite as fast as WireGuard, and it’s only used by ExpressVPN. In our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN speed tests, we found that NordVPN using NordLynx (WireGuard) is significantly faster than ExpressVPN using Lightway.
The ExpressVPN server network is comprised of over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. All of these servers run in RAM-disk mode, and more than 80% of them have already been upgraded to 10 Gbps connections.
ExpressVPN boasts a large selection of apps for all types of devices, from computers and tablets to phones and routers. They also offer a MediaStreamer app to support different types of streaming devices, and this makes ExpressVPN a great VPN for streaming. The ExpressVPN iPhone app we tested performed well. It was reliable, fast, and very easy to use.
Now let’s discuss features. In comparison to other iPhone VPN services, ExpressVPN has fewer features. There is no VPN ad blocking, no Double VPN servers, no Obfuscated servers, or anything out of the ordinary. And while the VPN app does have a basic kill switch, that’s about it.
In terms of streaming, ExpressVPN unblocks a variety of streaming services, although not quite as many as NordVPN or Surfshark. It unblocks a wide range of Netflix libraries, allowing you to easily change Netflix regions from anywhere. It is also a great VPN for BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and a few other services.
Like NordVPN, ExpressVPN also has great support for routers. This can be useful if you need a VPN for Apple TV or any other device that does not natively support VPNs.
ExpressVPN policies and audits
Like NordVPN and Surfshark, ExpressVPN is a no-logs VPN. Also like those two competitors, ExpressVPN has had its no-logs policy audited by outside experts, in their case KPM. This no-logs audit is only one of the 11 audits that they had published. When it comes to getting the VPN audited, ExpressVPN has no peer. This gave it an advantage in the ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost comparison.
How to set up Express VPN on iOS
- Get an ExpressVPN subscription (coupon for three months free is below).
- Download the ExpressVPN iPhone app.
- Open the VPN app on your iPhone and log in.
- Connect to a VPN server.
Note: Like the other iPhone VPNs we recommend, ExpressVPN has 24/7 live chat support in case you need it, and a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you decide ExpressVPN is not for you.
- User-friendly and secure apps
- Split tunneling feature (for macOS, Windows, and routers)
- Works with Netflix and most streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Passed independent third-party audits for security and no-logs
- Very large server network
- Above-average prices
- Fewer features
- Average OpenVPN speeds (use Lightway)
Check out our ExpressVPN review for more info and test results.
Now that we have covered the best VPN services for iPhone, let’s address some frequently asked questions you might have.
Do iPhones have a built-in VPN?
No, iPhones do not come with a pre-installed VPN. But iPhones do have built-in VPN support for the IKEv2 VPN protocol, and many iPhone VPN services are compatible with the IKEv2 protocol (for more information, refer to our VPN protocols guide). It takes just minutes to configure this.
To use your iPhone’s built-in VPN you simply need to download the IKEv2 certificate from your VPN service to your iPhone, enter your login credentials, and then connect to a VPN server.
After downloading the certificate, you can select the VPN server you want to connect to through your iPhone. You will then add this server configuration to your phone under:
Settings > General > VPN.
This will include the Server hostname, Remote ID, and then your Username and Password for authentication. Finally, with this configuration, you can always connect to it by toggling on the VPN button in your iPhone’s settings area, as you see below.
Even though you can use the built-in iPhone VPN settings, I would instead recommend using your VPN’s dedicated iPhone app. A dedicated iPhone VPN app from one of the recommended VPNs above,
- Is easier to set up than the IKEv2 option on your iPhone
- Gives you easy access to every VPN server in the network with one click. (With the built-in IKEv2 VPN, you will need to import hostnames and configuration files for every server you want to use in the network, and this is a hassle.)
- Includes a good kill switch, to better secure your traffic if the VPN connection drops.
- Offers full access to all VPN features that are available through your iPhone’s VPN app.
What is the best free VPN for iPhone?
As we noted above in the introduction, we do not recommend using iPhone VPN apps. There are many reasons for this, but to illustrate the point, you could read this study, which points out the risks of using free mobile VPN apps. The study found the following risks with free mobile VPN apps:
- 84% leak user data (your IP address or DNS requests and browsing history)
- 82% attempt to access sensitive data on your phone, such as location data, contacts, etc.
- 75% utilize third-party tracking
- 38% contain malware
- 18% don’t even encrypt your data
Suffice it to say, we do not recommend free iPhone VPN apps. And we also came to the same conclusion in our guide on the best Android VPNs.
As an alternative, you could consider using a VPN with a free trial. But keep in mind that using no VPN is often safer than using an unsafe free VPN that collects your data and undermines your security.
How to get the highest VPN speeds on your iPhone
People spend lots of time on iPhones these days, and that includes taking part in high-bandwidth activities such as streaming videos. It goes without saying that nobody enjoys buffering, playback errors, or slow-loading websites. This makes a fast and reliable VPN for your iPhone that delivers consistent performance very important.
If you want a fast VPN for your iPhone, you will need to use the WireGuard VPN protocol with a good VPN provider. It is for this reason that NordVPN and Surfshark were ranked the best VPNs for iPhone in 2023. They both support the WireGuard protocol on iOS, and they both have a network of extremely fast servers (based on our tests). Here are the reasons that make the WireGuard protocol (with NordVPN or Surfshark) so ideal for iPhone users:
- Extremely fast download speeds
- Nearly instant connections (no more waiting for 5-60 seconds for your VPN to establish a connection)
- Seamless connection when transitioning between network interfaces (go from WiFi to mobile data without dropping a VPN connection)
- More reliability (as we explain in our WireGuard vs OpenVPN guide)
Using WireGuard on an iPhone is easy — just select it under the list of protocols in your iPhone’s VPN app. For example, here it is with NordVPN with the NordLynx protocol (recall that NordLynx is just NordVPN’s WireGuard implementation):
With a good VPN and the WireGuard VPN protocol, you will enjoy the best VPN speeds on your iPhone. Now just don’t run out of data!
Using a VPN on iPhone 15
The long-awaited iPhone 15 will soon be hitting the shelves, and with it, many people will be looking for a great VPN for security, privacy, and unblocking content. The latest iPhone will come with upgraded hardware and will also be running iOS 17.
While many consider iPhones to be more secure than Android devices, the are nonetheless susceptible to snooping, security risks, and geo-blocking, just like any device. The best advice we’d have for overcoming these restrictions would be to use a premium VPN on your iPhone, such as one of those recommended in this guide.
The iPhone 15 will also have other interesting upgrades, such as enhanced face ID recognition, upgraded cameras, and more.
iPhone security tips
Aside from using a high-quality VPN service, additional steps you can take to keep your iPhone secure are as follows:
- Keep your iPhone updated with the latest iOS version
- Consider using a secure browser
- Use a good ad blocker to save on data and also block ads for privacy and security reasons
- Keep your passwords secure with a good password manager, such as NordPass or 1Password
And finally, you will want to use common sense and be on guard for various online scams, fraud, phishing, and other cybersecurity threats.
Why you need a VPN for iPhone in 2023
If you are reading this page and made it this far, you probably already know you need a VPN on your iPhone. But nonetheless, let’s just recap the reasons why before concluding this report.
- Privacy – In today’s world, internet service providers log everything and often share this data with a wide network of third parties. To cover your tracks, you will need a VPN that encrypts all traffic and hides your location. This way, your internet service provider (and/or cell phone service) will not be able to see any website you visit.
- Security – If you ever use public WiFi, you should know that your connection is vulnerable to hackers and people snooping on your data. To solve this problem, you should use a VPN whenever you are on any public network.
- Bypass restrictions – We all know the internet is getting partitioned up and restricted. To get easy access to any site you wish, you will need a good VPN network with servers that will allow you to easily bypass restrictions with any device.
Cybersecurity is a dominant theme in the news and a top concern for most people. Cybercriminals continue to exploit vulnerable individuals, networks, businesses, and even non-profit organizations for potentially lucrative payouts. Given how much you use your iPhone, an iPhone VPN is a crucial first line of defense, in combination with other privacy tools that we discuss on this site.
Note: Many of these same advantages also apply to using a VPN for iPad.
Conclusion on iPhone VPN services
Whether you are using the latest iPhone 15, or perhaps an older iPhone model, running a premium VPN service on your iPhone will provide you with numerous advantages.
Our top iPhone VPN recommendation remains NordVPN. It offers the speeds, security features, reliable apps, and unparalleled support for streaming to propel it to the top of our list. Nonetheless, Surfshark and ExpressVPN certainly aren’t very far behind and are also great VPNs for iPhone.
Lastly, if you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider our VPN coupons page, which highlights the latest industry deals and discounts.
This iPhone VPN guide was last updated on July 6, 2023.