Let’s say you went to your favorite coffee shop for a change of pace last week. You did a little work, answered some emails, and paid some bills. You messed around on social media and read some Washington Post headlines. After you finished your latte, you headed home.

Today you found out your credit cards are maxed out. Your savings account is drained. You called the bank in a panic, and they said there’s nothing they can do. What happened?

FYI: If you’re an iPhone user, it’s probably safe to assume you have a Mac device or two in your house. To make sure you’re staying safe, you’ll want to head over to our guide to the best VPNs for Mac users.

You were likely the victim of an identity thief who was trawling that coffee shop’s unsecured Wi-Fi network for the personally identifying information of its unwitting guests. It’s shocking how easy this is to do, and it’s baffling that more people don’t protect themselves from these types of threats.

How can you avoid this nightmare, you ask? The answer is pretty simple: You should use a virtual private network on your iPhone.

What Is a VPN?

Without getting too deep into the technical weeds, a VPN is essentially a piece of software that masks your IP address, effectively obscuring your physical location, and encrypts your traffic so that no one can see what you’re doing online. Ultimately, using a VPN will bolster your privacy and security in digital spaces.

Pro Tip: If you want to know more about the inner workings of virtual private networks, check out our VPN guide. There you’ll find everything you’d ever want to know about these security tools’ inner workings.

Think of it this way: If you drive your car to the store, onlookers can see the make and model of your vehicle, your license plate number, and maybe even how many passengers are in your car. However, if you were to take a private tunnel to the store, no one would be able to glean any information about you based on your trip. This is essentially the difference between a standard internet connection and a connection using a VPN.

NordVPN Map

NordVPN Map

That said, it’s important to understand that not all VPNs are created equal. Some can keep you safe in the most extreme circumstances, and some aren’t even worth the download. So how can you differentiate between the best and the bunk?

What Features Do I Need?

When you’re shopping for a VPN for your iPhone, it helps to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for. Do you want to stay safe online? Are you interested in streaming foreign media on your smartphone? Are you torrenting or accessing the deep web? Answering these questions will help to clarify your search and determine what features you’ll need.

With that in mind, though, there are a few features that every VPN user should look for in a provider.

iPhone VPN Features

Kill switch: If your VPN service is interrupted for any reason, a kill switch will terminate your internet connection. This is critical functionality because it prevents your true IP address from being exposed.

No-log policy: You’re using a VPN to increase your digital privacy, so you’ll want to go with a provider that isn’t going to be logging your traffic. Ideally, you’ll select a VPN whose privacy policies have been verified by third-party security auditors.

Privacy-friendly jurisdiction: Make sure you’re selecting a VPN that’s headquartered in a country that respects digital privacy. You don’t want your VPN provider to be beholden to international data-sharing compacts.

Pro Tip: Want to see how two of our favorite services match up against each other? Head over to our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison.

Large server network: One of the drawbacks of using a VPN is that you’ll likely notice some connectivity slowdowns. How significant these are will depend on how sophisticated the VPN provider’s network is and how much capacity it has.

Optimizations: If you’re planning on streaming or torrenting, you’ll want to select a VPN provider that offers specific optimizations for these activities. Check out our review of CyberGhost to get a feel for the gold standard of streaming optimizations.

Mobile app: Like I said previously, you’re most at risk when you’re connecting to unfamiliar, unsecured wireless networks. To shore up your security, select a VPN that has a robust mobile client for your iPhone.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it shouldn’t be too difficult to select a VPN that checks all the right boxes. Once that’s done, it’s time to set it up on your iPhone.

How Do I Set Up a VPN on My iPhone?

Setting a VPN up on your iPhone isn’t all that different from setting it up on your desktop computer. The vast majority of modern, consumer-grade VPNs pride themselves on their accessibility and user-friendliness, and most of them offer great mobile apps to protect you while you’re on the go.

Start by selecting and purchasing the service that’s right for you. As part of that process, you’ll set up an account with the VPN provider. Once you’re all set in that regard, you’ll head over to the Apple App Store to search for and download your service’s mobile app. Most of the time, this download will be free, but you’ll occasionally have to pay a small price for it.

NordVPN on the app store

NordVPN on the app store

After you download the app, your phone will likely prompt you to allow the VPN to access your network settings. Accept the prompt, and you’re off to the races.

Pro Tip: Looking to save a little bit of cash? Head over to our guide to VPN sales and deals to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Final Thoughts on iPhone VPNs

If you’re convinced that you need a VPN for your iPhone — and really, you should be using one — a great place to start your search is our guide to the best VPNs for iPhones. And if those services don’t strike your fancy, you might want to head over to our list of the top ten best VPNs of 2023. There you’ll find a service for nearly every situation and every budget.

iPhone VPN FAQs

Do I need a VPN on my iPhone?

You’re most at risk of cyberattack when you’re connected to unfamiliar, unsecured Wi-Fi networks. To increase your privacy and protection, it’s best to use a VPN.

Are VPNs hard to use?

Modern VPNs are very simple to deploy on desktop computers and mobile devices. Simply download and execute the software, and you’ll be protected immediately.

Are VPNs expensive?

Most VPNs are extremely affordable. The most expensive ones will cost around $13 per month.

What is the best VPN for iPhone?

Our favorite VPNs for iPhone users include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and ProtonVPN.

Does ExpressVPN work on an iPhone?

ExpressVPN is one of the best services for iPhone users. We recommend this provider above all others.