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5 Best VPNs for iOS (November 2015 edition)

Since its launch back in 2007, Apple’s iOS mobile operating system has gone from strength to strength in terms of popularity, despite robust competition from Google’s Android OS. In Q2 2015 iOS devices accounted for a 13.9 percent market share worldwide, making Apple the single biggest seller of mobile computer technology in the world. In the United States, a whopping 41.1 percent of mobile device users have opted for an iOS device!

One of the main criticisms of using iOS from a security standpoint is that Apple runs a closed ecosystem (walled garden) using closed source proprietary software. As a fan of all things open source, I do consider this to be a very worrying aspect of using iOS, as it means that users must put complete trust in Apple.

That said, Apple’s recent move to secure all new iDevices with strong end-to-end encryption (much to the alarm of authorities everywhere), together with chief executive Tim Cook’s ongoing refusal to back down to the US government over demands for “back door” access to users’ iPhones, instils confidence that the fruit themed company genuinely cares about its users privacy.

One of the most effective measures that you, as an iOS user, can take to protect your privacy while surfing the internet is to use a commercial VPN service. By creating an encrypted VPN tunnel between your iOS device and a VPN provider’s servers, you ensure that your ISP cannot monitor what you get up to on the internet (and then hand this information over to your government or the NSA,) you protect yourself against hackers when using public WiFi hotspots, and you can “geospoof” your location to make it appear as if you are accessing the internet from another country.

I will discuss issues relating to VPN use on iOS after I have listed my choice of the best VPN services for iDevice users.

Best VPNs for iOS

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

AirVPN Logo
Read Review
$4.88 / monthVisit Site

3

VyprVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

4

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

5

IPVanish Logo
Read Review
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

Best VPN for Poker

  • PROS
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Slick iOS app
  • Great customer service
  • P2P ok
  • CONS
  • Connection (metadata) logs
  • Based in US
  • A bit pricey
  • Based in US
  • Connection (metadata) logs

This US based provider is a global player in the VPN market, providing high-quality VPN connections to servers in 78 countries, great support, and with a 30-day money back guarantee. iOS is supported with a slick dedicated app, plus manual setup instructions for L2TP/IPSec (OpenVPN Connect is not supported, but it can be setup using ExpressVPN’s standard OpenVPN configuration files.) Those looking for a fast, professional service that is easy to setup and use, will struggle to do better than ExpressVPN.

Get the best VPN for iOS!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money back guarantee

2nd place

AirVPN

4.1/5

AirVPN Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Fantastic encryption and security
  • 3 simultaneous connections
  • 14 countries
  • P2P ok
  • CONS
  • A little techy/nerdy

Established by Italian net neutrality and internet privacy activists and hacktavists, AirVPN is a very different beast to ExpressVPN. It is somewhat rough around the edges, only supports OpenVPN (so setup has to performed manually using OpenVPN Connect, although instructions for doing this are provided), and is aimed squarely at techies and techno-geeks. For those who do not mind this, however, AirVPN excels when it comes to matters such as encryption and protecting users’ privacy (for example, it supports SSL and SSH tunneling, plus VPN through Tor.) It is also fast and stable.

Additional features: port forwarding, accepts bitcoin, SSL and SSH tunneling, VPN through Tor.

Visit AirVPN »


3rd place

VyprVPN

/5

 VyprVPN_Homepage

 

  • PROS
  • Very fast due to own infrastructure
  • 36 countries
  • 3 simultaneous connections
  • SmartDNS service included
  • “Chameleon” stealth servers
  • CONS
  • Connection (metadata) logs
  • Under US jurisdiction
  • P2P: no

VyprVPN, which is based in Switzerland but is a subsidiary of US owned Golden Frog, is one of the only VPN providers in the world to own and manage its own network infrastructure, which probably accounts for its blazing performance results.  Ignoring it’s (terrible) PPPT only package, VyprVPN offers strong encryption, servers in 36 countries worldwide, a NAT firewall for additional security, great customer support, “Chameleon” stealth servers for VPN access from China, and a free SmartDNS service. Thanks to being subject to US laws, keeping connection logs, and having a strict no piracy policy, however, more privacy-oriented users should look elsewhere. iOS users are supported with both a custom app, and setup instructions for OpenVPN Connect

Additional features: no usage logs, slick software.

Visit VyprVPN »


4th place

BolehVPN

3.8/5

BolehVPN Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs at all
  • Client with VPN kills switch and DNS leak protection
  • VPN over Tor
  • SmartDNS included
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • CONS
  • Somewhat techy and bare-bones

A good choice for the privacy-conscious crowd who are willing to sacrifice bells and whistles for a somewhat rough-around-the-edges, but highly secure and NSA-resistant service. BolehVPN operates out of Malaysia, uses top-notch encryption (except on its designated “streaming servers”,) and supports anti-censorship technologies such as operating OpenVPN TCP port 443 servers and “xCloak” stealth servers, plus permitting VPN through Tor. BolehVPN uses OpenVPN exclusively, and has setup instructions for OpenVPN Connect for iOS.

Addiional features: excellent encryption and security, 2 simultaneous connections, 14 countries, P2P ok, port forwarding.

 

Visit BolehVPN »


5th place

IPVanish

3.3/5

IPVanish Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • IKEv2 for iOS app
  • 2 simultaneous connections
  • 61 countries
  • P2P: ok
  • CONS
  • Based in US
  • Poor support
Another large and professional US based company, IPVanish is more privacy-friendly than most such, as it keeps no logs and uses strong encryption, while also being fast. Downsides include poor technical support and a distinct lack of bells and whistles, but we like the fact its iOS app supports the IKEv2 VPN protocol (see here for more details on IKEv2.)

Visit IPVanish »


VPN Considerations for iOS

Custom iOS apps vs generic OpenVPN Connect app

For reasons that are not entirely clear given the existence of the generic OpenVPN Connect app for iOS, no VPN provider that I am aware of supports OpenVPN in their custom iOS apps (this is in sharp contrast to most Android apps, which almost always support OpenVPN.)*

All custom iOS apps instead make use on the official Apple VPN API, which allows them to access iOS’ built-in PPTP and IPSec (usually IKE/IPSec) settings without the need to jailbreak your device.

Given that we recommend using OpenVPN as your VPN protocol wherever possible, this is something of a shame, and means that you must choose between the convenience of using a custom app, or the added security of using OpenVPN. As the OpenVPN Connect app is not difficult to configure, and should work with standard OpenVPN certificates from any provider (not just those which explicitly provide setup support for using OpenVPN Connect,) we recommend taking this route.

At the very least, we strongly advise against using PPTP, and always using IPSec if going the custom client route (see our article on PPTP vs L2TP vs OpenVPN vs SSTP vs IKEv2 for a full discussion on VPN protocols.)

*OpenVPN Technologies, Inc holds the OpenVPN trademark, and is responsible for developing the OpenVPN Connect app. Unlike OpenVPN itself (and OpenVPN for Android), which are 100 percent open source, OpenVPN Connect also includes proprietary closed source code. OpenVPN Technologies additionally develops the Private Tunnel VPN app, but this uses the official Apple VPN API, and therefore (somewhat confusingly) does not support OpenVPN.

iOS 9 (and 9.1) VPN compatibility issues

There are reports (first documented by Cisco) that upgrading to iOS 9 can break some VPN connections due to failed DNS resolutions (this is a problem that persists in iOS 9.1 also.)

Most services/apps appear to be unaffected, but if you do encounter this problem then your first recourse should be to contact your VPN provider about it. VyprVPN, for example, has some instructions on how to reinstall its app to fix this big.

If all else fails, and you can’t wait for Apple to fix things, you should be able to downgrade back to iOS 8.4.1 as long as you have backed up your device to iTunes before upgrading, and as long that backup is still available (if these conditions do not apply, you can perform a fresh install of iOS 8.4.1 (links here), but this will require a full factory reset.

Update 13 November 2015: It seems that the OpenVPN Connect app is impaired under iOS 9, and will no longer import connections. Hopefully this is an issue that will be fixed soon. My thanks to reader DocDawning for bringing this to my attention.

Best VPN Conclusion

It has never been easier for iOS users to protect their privacy and security using VPN (except for users of iO9, apparently!) Custom apps that take advantage of iOS built-in settings are very easy to use, and L2TP/IPSec should be more than secure enough for most users, or alternatively OpenVPN Connect allows you to use any provider’s OpenVPN config (.ovpn) files. So what are you waiting for?!

Best VPNs for iOS Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

AirVPN Logo
Read Review
$4.88 / monthVisit Site

3

VyprVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

4

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

5

IPVanish Logo
Read Review
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

Published 2015-10-27
Written by Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

4 responses to “5 Best VPNs for iOS (November 2015 edition)

  1. In order to use VPN service on android devices such as the G-Box Q and the Nvidia Shield TV do I need to use OpenVPN Connect? Or install directly to the device. I have IPvanish, but i am willing to use a different service to facilitate the use of VPN on these devices. Thx

    1. Hi Craig,

      You can use the PPTP and L2TP VPN protocols using Android’s built-in VPN app (providers will give you instructions for doing this.) If you want to use OpenVPN then you will need to use a custom app supplied by your provider, or the generic OpenVPN for Android or OpenVPN Connect apps (I prefer the more fully featured OpenVPN for Android). Any Android device can use these apps. If the device does does not have the Google Play Store installed then you can download OpenVPN for Android via F-Droid.) For a full explanation of the different VPN protocols, please see my article on PPTP vs L2TP vs OpenVPN vs SSTP vs IKEv2.

  2. Unfortunately, it’s not easier than ever to use OpenVPN on iOS. The OpenVPN Connect App was impaired in the iOS 9 update. It will no longer import connections, which is a slight disaster for me and many others. :'(

    1. Hi DocDawning,

      As primarily an Android user, I was not aware of this issue. I have updated the article to include this information.

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