6 Best Cheap VPNs for iPhones or iPad (iOS) & OpenVPN Setup GuideLast Updated by Kate Hawkins on November 18, 2020
There are hundreds of VPNs on the Apple App store, all claiming to be the best. To save you time (and money!), I tested dozens of services to bring you the 6 best VPNs that have full iOS protection at a cheap price.
Overall, NordVPN was the one that impressed me the most due to it’s winning combination of high-quality features and affordable price. It performed extremely well in my tests for speed and bypassing geo-blocks and proved to be the best value for money.
All 6 VPNs on this list have native apps that you can download directly onto your iPhone and support multiple simultaneous device connections. They all offer easy installation and one-click server connections, and best of all, cost $5 or less per month — a decent price for such premium protection.
Quick Guide: 6 Best Cheap VPNs for iOS
- NordVPN — #1 VPN for iOS with cheap long-term subscription, fast speeds and premium security features.
- CyberGhost — 45-day money back guarantee with optimized servers that make streaming easy but can’t always get through firewalls (like China’s Great Firewall).
- Surfshark — Best value 2-year plan, but doesn’t always auto-connect to the fastest server.
- Private Internet Access (PIA) — Cheapest 1-year subscription with reliable security features, but can’t always unblock streaming services.
- PrivateVPN — Has a 7-day free trial and reasonable price plans, but smaller number of servers can cause slower connections.
- IPVanish — Cheapest 1-month plan, but doesn’t reliably unblock Netflix outside of the US.
Best Cheap VPNs for iPhone and iPad in 2020
- From $3.49/month with 30-day money-back guarantee
- Apps for iPhone, Mac, and iPad
- 5,800+ servers in 59 countries for fast speeds and quick connections
- Unlimited bandwidth for fast speeds
- Military-grade encryption for protecting your online activity and location data
- Protect up to 6 devices at once
After all the rounds of VPN testing, I found NordVPN to be the top choice for iOS. From any of its native iOS apps, you can connect to its massive collection of 5,800+ servers (which ensures you’ll never have issues with overcrowded servers and slow speeds) by choosing a location from the interface map. There, you can “Quick Connect” to the fastest available server or choose an individual server.
I tested NordVPN’s connection speeds to see if they really were fast and the results were impressive. I connected my iPhone XS to the fastest available server and ran a speed test using Ookla. My connection speed was 60.8Mbps — fast enough to stream Netflix in HD without any lag or buffering!
The NordVPN app is designed to be similar across all devices, so it’s easy to switch from your iPhone to iPad and get connected immediately. For iOS, the app features the CyberSec malware blocker to protect your devices from malicious software and pop-up ads. You can also turn on the “Auto-Connect” feature for when you use untrusted or public connections so you’re always secure online.
I love to keep up with the latest shows and movies, so I was thrilled that the NordVPN iOS app connected me to all of my favorite streaming services. I could easily watch Netflix US and bypass the proxy error from my iPad when connected. I didn’t have to keep changing “After all the rounds of VPN testing, I found NordVPN to be the top choice for iOS”.servers to find one that unblocked Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or YouTube TV. NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature automatically found a server in the US that gave me access to all of the content I wanted.
While NordVPN isn’t the cheapest option on the list (but is very close to it), it’s absolutely the best value-for-money option and worth the cost for fast connection speeds and reliable, secure servers. If you’re not sure about subscribing long-term just yet, you can try NordVPN risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. I’ve tested their refund policy and never had any issues getting my money back (usually within 5 days).
NordVPN works on: iOS (version 11 onwards), macOS (version 11 onwards), Windows, Android, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Smart TVs, and routers.
NordVPN unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, HBO GO, Showtime, Sling TV, Hulu, and more.
- From $2.75 per month with a 45-day money-back guarantee
- Apps for iOS and macOS
- 6,400+ servers in 90 countries for fast global connections
- Fast speeds with no bandwidth restrictions
- Best-in-class encryption protects your devices and data
- Connect up to 7 devices at once
CyberGhost’s optimized streaming servers make connecting to your favorite shows and movies on iOS easy. They’re regularly tested to make sure your connections are reliable for fast streaming without buffering. Plus, using an optimized server means you’ll always be able to get around any location blocks services like Netflix have on their content. I put CyberGhost’s Netflix US server to the test and didn’t get the proxy error message a single time.
I found getting connected to the optimized servers was easy on my iPhone XS as there’s a menu just for “Streaming” servers. By tapping on the streaming service I wanted, CyberGhost connected to the optimized server for me — it took less than 3 seconds to connect.
I ran several speed tests using Ookla to see if there was a difference in speed between optimized and standard servers. Connecting to CyberGhost’s optimized Netflix US server gave me a speed of almost 31Mbps, fast enough to stream Netflix in UltraHD video quality. The standard server was almost 30% slower at 23Mbps — still fast enough to stream without buffering, but unblocking the service isn’t always guaranteed.
I didn’t like that CyberGhost wouldn’t let me switch servers while I was still connected on the iOS app. To switch, I had to disconnect to access the server menu, then choose a different server and reconnect. Altogether this took about 10 seconds (or a little longer if I was searching for a particular server), but I would rather stay connected and browse the server menu instead.
To make sure that CyberGhost is the right VPN for you, it has a 24-hour free trial for you to use. You don’t need to enter any credit card details to use this trial! If you’d like to test the service for longer, you can also use CyberGhost’s “no questions asked” 45-day money-back guarantee. It’s easy to get a refund just by contacting customer service through email or 24/7 live chat.
CyberGhost works on: iOS (version 9.3 or later), macOS (version 10.12 or later), Windows, Android, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire Stick,Android TVs, and routers.
CyberGhost unblocks: Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, Disney+, Sling TV, Crunchyroll, ESPN, and BBC iPlayer.
- From $2.49 per month with a 30-day money-back guarantee
- Apps for iOS and macOS
- 1,700+ servers in 60+ countries for easy global connections
- Fast speeds with no bandwidth restrictions
- Military-grade encryption keeps your data and activity protected
- Unlimited device connections
Surfshark’s iOS app not only secures your outgoing activity but also protects your devices from malicious software. After turning CleanWeb on, I found I could browse online without seeing a single annoying ad!
It protected me from insecure websites, warning me that the links I’d clicked were suspicious. The CleanWeb feature even saved some of my iPhone’s mobile data (and my money!) by blocking ads and trackers while I browsed — bonus! CleanWeb isn’t automatically on when you download the app, but it’s easy to activate in the “Features” menu.
I personally have 2 iOS devices (an iPhone and an iPad), plus my Windows computer — and my family brings the total devices in the house up to 15! I was so happy that Surfshark offers unlimited device connections as I could install the app on every device using a single subscription. This makes Surfshark one of the most cost-effective VPNs available, especially with its longest plan being just $2.49/month.
There is a downside: having multiple devices connected will inevitably impact your speed and can cause a noticeable slowdown. During my tests, I connected 4 devices at the same time — my iPhone XS, iPad, Windows computer, and a Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone. With a single device, my speed was 60.8Mbps, which is almost as fast as my regular ISP speed of 62Mbps. With all 4 devices, it dropped to 46.6Mbps. Despite the 26% drop in speed, I could stream on Netflix in HD with less than 5 seconds of buffering.
I know that built-in malware protection and unlimited connections at such an affordable price sounds too good to be true — so I recommend that you test Surfshark for yourself! You can use its 30-day money-back guarantee to try out all of Surfshark’s security features. If you’re not totally satisfied, you can get a full refund by contacting customer support.
Surfshark works on: iOS (version 9 or later), macOS (version 10.12 or later), Windows, Android, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Smart TVs, Xbox, PlayStation, and routers.
Surfshark unblocks: Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Sling TV, and BBC iPlayer.
- From $2.85 per month with 7-day free trial
- Apps available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
- 3,300+ servers in 44 countries for easy switching between locations
- Great speeds with unlimited data allowance
- Strict no-logs policy and strong encryption for top-level data security
- Supports 10 simultaneous device connections
Private Internet Access (PIA) takes up very little storage space on your iOS devices. I really like how lightweight it is, at a tiny 33.5MB — I have more space for other apps, photos, and downloads on my iPhone! Compared to NordVPN at 114MB, PIA is less than 3 times the size — but don’t be fooled by its small stature. This compact VPN has all the security features you need to keep your iOS devices protected.
I wanted to test PIA’s security, so I connected to the New York server in the US and ran a DNS leak test. I was pleased to find that my connection was totally secure with no DNS or IP leaks at all.
I also wanted to make sure PIA had connection speeds fast enough for streaming with Netflix on my iPhone XS. The fastest available server, UK Southampton, was impressively fast at 56Mbps — less than 10Mbps slower than my usual ISP speed! However, connecting to the New York server dropped my speed to 26.8Mbps, which is a significant 70% reduction. Despite this drop, I was still able to stream Netflix US in HD quality on my iPhone, with only a few seconds of buffering before my show started playing. I was also able to watch Netflix in Canada, Australia, and Japan in HD quality, though I had to switch servers a few times to find one that worked. Fortunately, switching servers is super easy and it only took a couple of minutes to make the right connection.
If you’re looking for a VPN iOS app that takes up less memory on your phone but still provides high-quality security, PIA is a great choice. It has the cheapest yearly plan and is one of the few top VPNs that gives you a totally free 7-day trial. You don’t have to enter any payment details, just sign up for the service on your iPhone or iPad and try out PIA for a whole week, risk-free. If you want to test the service for longer, you can also use PIA’s 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s easy to request a full refund by submitting a ticket or emailing customer support.
PIA works on: iOS (version 11 or newer), macOS (version 10.12 or newer), Windows, Android, and Linux
PIA unblocks: Netflix (sometimes), YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN.
- From $3.82 per month with 7-day free trial
- Apps available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
- 150+ servers in 60 countries provide quick global connections
- No data caps for unlimited fast streaming
- Zero-logs policy and military-grade encryption keep your data protected
- Supports 6 device connections at the same time
When it comes to VPNs and server numbers, bigger is usually better. PrivateVPN has a network of just over 150 servers in 60 countries, with a focus on security and speed rather than size. And it shows, with an impressive list of optimized streaming servers that reliably get around content blocks and firewalls — including the Great Firewall of China!
I put PrivateVPN’s optimized servers to the test and used my iPhone and iPad to try and get around Netflix’s tough VPN technology. I chose the US server I thought was closest to me (New York 1) as the iOS app doesn’t show latency like the desktop app does.
It took less than 5 seconds for PrivateVPN to connect and when I clicked Netflix, it pulled up a list of the top content in the US. On choosing my show, my video started streaming in HD immediately — there was zero buffering or load time. I ran a speed test using Ookla and got a result of 30Mbps, which is more than enough to stream in HD without any lag.
If you love streaming like I do and want to watch global content on your iOS devices, I recommend trying PrivateVPN. You can email customer support and they’ll send you a code for a 7-day free trial — no need for any payment details! For a longer trial, PrivateVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee that will give you a full refund if you’re not happy with the service.
PrivateVPN works on: iOS (version 10 or later), macOS (version 10 or later), Windows, Android, routers, and Linux
PrivateVPN unblocks: Netflix, YouTube, DAZN, Amazon Prime, NBC, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN.
- From $3.25 per month with 7-day money-back guarantee
- Apps available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
- 1,400+ servers in over 75 locations for smooth server switching
- Unlimited bandwidth for fast streaming and torrenting
- Zero connection or activity logs and high-quality encryption protect your data
- Connect up to 10 devices at once with unlimited device installations
If, like me, you have a house full of devices, it’s a relief to know that IPVanish will cover all of them! You can download the app onto as many devices as you want and it takes less than 30 seconds for the app to install. IPVanish does limit the number of simultaneous connections to 10, but I found that even with 15 devices on my subscription, I never hit the limit.
IPVanish’s iOS app is really easy to use and full of useful information that helps you make the best server choices. When you’re selecting your server, you can see precise locations and pick the individual server in your chosen city or country. I really like that IPVanish shows you server load (how full the server is) and the ping (how fast data travels from your device to the server). I could be precise with my server choices and that meant every connection I made was fast.
One of my favorite IPVanish iOS app features is its built-in customer support. If you have an issue, you don’t have to exit the app and head to your browser to search the site for help. I used the feature to check troubleshooting guides and contact live chat support straight from the app. It was an easy and fast way to get the help and information I needed.
The best way to know if IPVanish is right for you is to test it — and you can try IPVanish for 7 days risk-free with its money-back guarantee. Bear in mind that if you sign up for IPVanish through the iOS app and want to cancel, you’ll have to get a refund through Apple (which is a lot more hassle) rather than by contacting IPVanish’s customer support.
IPVanish works on: iOS (version 11 or later), macOS (version 10.10 or later), Windows, Android, Chrome, Fire TV, Linux, and routers.
IPVanish unblocks: Netflix (sometimes), YouTube, Kodi, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN.
Warning! Avoid Free VPNs for Your iPhone (It’s Not Worth It)
Free is always tempting, but a free VPN can compromise your data security and isn’t worth the risk to your iOS devices. Free VPNs have been known to sell your personal information to third-party advertisers, even if they claim to keep your activity anonymous. Worse still, some free VPNs are loaded with malware and spyware designed to steal your data.
There are some free VPNs that have strong security but they are limited in terms of data allowance, servers, and speeds. Most free VPNs will cap your monthly data and throttle your speeds to encourage you to upgrade the service. This means you don’t get to use the VPN as much as you want and you’ll experience slow streaming, browsing, and downloads. These free VPNs don’t have the technology to bypass regional restrictions either, so if you want to stream global Netflix, you’ll get an error message.
If you want to try a VPN before you subscribe, all 6 recommended VPNs have a money-back guarantee. Since you don’t need to pay for it anyway, my tip for you is to start with the best service. Sign up for a NordVPN plan, test it, and get a full refund by contacting customer service. I found getting my money back was easy — I spoke to a representative through live chat and got a full refund in less than 5 business days.
Your VPN Doesn’t Have OpenVPN — Now What?
When your VPN’s native app doesn’t support OpenVPN for iOS, you have to use a client program like the OpenVPN Connect App.
OpenVPN is known as the most reliable protocol for VPN connections because it uses 256-bit OpenSSL encryption to increase security. Lots of premium VPNs have already added it to their protocols list, so you don’t have to download a client program. You just have to go into your VPN’s settings and change your protocol to OpenVPN. I’ve created some simple guides for NordVPN, Surfshark, PIA, and PrivateVPN to show you exactly how to do that.
For IPVanish, OpenVPN isn’t built into the iOS app so you’ll need to download the OpenVPN Connect App and manually configure the connection. But don’t worry — while it sounds complicated, it really isn’t. Just follow my step-by-step guide and you’ll have a secure VPN connection in minutes.
How to Set Up OpenVPN in iOS
- Open the App Store and install the OpenVPN Connect App.
- Visit the website of your VPN provider.
- Download their OpenVPN (.OVPN) configuration files — it will be a .zip file.
- Unzip the files and send them to yourself by email or drop them into the OpenVPN app using iTunes sync.
- Download the files to your iOS device.
- Open the OpenVPN Connect app.
- Click “Import” and choose the configuration files you downloaded.
- Select a server and log in.
- Your internet connection is now secured by the OpenVPN protocol!
How to Install OpenVPN on iOS with NordVPN
The OpenVPN protocol is built into NordVPN’s iOS app. All you have to do is select it in app settings — you don’t have to struggle to set it up manually.
With NordVPN, you’ll get two OpenVPN options: User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). UDP is fast and great for streaming HD video or downloading torrents, but it’s not as reliable — the data it carries doesn’t always reach its destination. TCP is a much more reliable protocol, offering greater stability and bypassing firewalls with ease. Higher levels of encryption will make the connection slower. Choose the OpenVPN protocol best suited to your internet use.
How to Install OpenVPN on iOS with Surfshark
Surfshark’s iOS app has 3 protocols for you to choose from — IKEv2 (IPSec), OpenVPN (UDP), and OpenVPN (TCP). The app’s default setting has the IKEv2 protocol active but changing it to an OpenVPN protocol is easy.
- Tap the “Settings” cog icon at the bottom of your home screen.
- Under “Advanced,” choose “Protocol”.
- Change the protocol to OpenVPN UDP or TCP.
How to Install OpenVPN on iOS with Private Internet Access
After a recent update, PIA has OpenVPN available as one of its standard iOS protocols. When you download the app to your iPhone or iPad, the default protocol will be set to IPSec (IKEv2). You can change it in 3 simple steps.
- From the home screen, open the Options menu and choose “Settings”.
- Under “VPN Settings”, click “Protocol”.
- Select “OpenVPN”.
How to Install OpenVPN on iOS With PrivateVPN
PrivateVPN has both UDP and TCP OpenVPN protocols available. You’ll be automatically connected to OpenVPN UDP so you don’t have to do anything when you sign in to the app. If you want to change to TCP, you can do so in 4 easy steps.
- Click the menu icon on the PrivateVPN app homepage.
- Click “VPN Settings” on the menu.
- Choose the “VPN Protocol” option.
- Change from UDP to TCP with a single click.
How to Install OpenVPN on iOS With IPVanish
IPVanish is the only VPN on this list that doesn’t have the OpenVPN protocol in the iOS app. To get it, you’ll have to set it up manually — this can seem like a complicated process but I’ve tested it with my own iPhone and it’s easy.
- Install the OpenVPN Connect App onto your iPhone or iPad from the App Store.
- On your browser, visit the IPVanish website and create an account.
- Download the IPVanish OpenVPN (.OVPN) configuration files from this link — https://www.ipvanish.com/software/simpleconf/configs.zip
- Unzip the files and find the file you want to use. In this example, I’m using ipvanish-UK-London-lon-c44.ovpn.
- Copy it to your desktop.
- Send the file to yourself by attaching it to an email address you can check on your iOS device.
- Open the email and tap the attachment.
- Click “More” and scroll down to “Copy to OpenVPN”. OpenVPN will automatically open.
- Click “Add” to import the profile.
- Enter your IPVanish username and password when prompted.
- Click to connect.
- Your internet connection is now secured by the OpenVPN protocol!
FAQs: VPNs and iPhones
- How do I choose a VPN for my iPhone?
- Do I really need a VPN for my iPhone?
- Which VPN is the best for watching Netflix on my iPhone?
- Do VPNs work on iPads too?
- Can I use a VPN on more than just my iOS devices?
- How do I set up a VPN on my iPhone?
- Will using a VPN impact my iPhone’s battery life?
- Which iOS VPN works in China?
❓ How do I choose a VPN for my iPhone?
While I tested different VPNs to find the best, most affordable iOS options, I checked each VPN against the following criteria:
- Well-designed app with support for various iOS versions
- No-logging policy to keep your internet activity private
- High-end security features
- Fast servers around the world
- Support for unblocking regional streaming on Netflix, Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more
💡 Do I really need a VPN for my iPhone?
iOS devices are well-known for being secure, but that doesn’t mean your iPhone or iPad isn’t vulnerable to malicious third parties. As technology advances, hackers figure out new ways to breach iOS security — so if you’re not using a VPN, you risk compromising your data. A VPN will secure your iPhone and keep your personal data protected, no matter where you connect.
With a VPN, you can:
- Bypass regional content restrictions and stream global Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and more
- Torrent without worrying that copyright holders or your ISP are tracking you
- Encrypt your data to hide what you’re really doing and where you really are
- Bypass government censorship in restrictive parts of the world such as China
🎥 Which VPN is best for watching Netflix on my iPhone?
Tip For Netflix Users on iOS: Netflix has been blocking VPNs and preventing users from accessing US, UK, and Canadian content from its iOS app. My recommended VPNs can all bypass these restrictions — find out which VPNs still support global Netflix.
NordVPN is the best for watching global Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Its military-grade encryption and DNS leak protection hide your IP address so you can get around Netflix’s blocks.
With thousands of servers worldwide, you’ll be able to watch the entire Netflix library by connecting to different server locations. Best of all, NordVPN’s fast connection speeds mean you can stream your favorite shows and movies in HD-quality video with minimal buffering.
👍 Do VPNs work on iPads too?
Yes. Each of my recommended VPNs works the same way on both an iPhone and an iPad. Simply install the app, log in, and connect.
Every VPN on my list supports simultaneous device connections. This means you can connect on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac all at the same time — under a single subscription!
💻 Can I use a VPN on more than just my iOS devices?
Yes! Every VPN on the recommended list supports a variety of different devices and operating systems.
📲 How do I set up a VPN on my iPhone?
Setting up a VPN on your iPhone is quick and easy — you can do it in under 5 minutes by following these steps.
- Get a VPN. NordVPN is the most comprehensive service for iOS at a low monthly price.
- Go to the App Store and download the VPN app to your iPhone.
- Log in with your VPN username and password.
- Depending on the VPN service, you may have to turn on the OpenVPN protocol in the app’s settings.
- Choose a server and connect.
🔍 Will using a VPN impact my iPhone’s battery life?
It will, but using a VPN on your iPhone won’t noticeably drain your battery. I spoke to NordVPN’s customer support and asked if having the VPN active would make my phone battery run down faster. They reassured me that the impact would be minimal.
To maximize your battery life and have the VPN switched on and securing your device all the time, you can optimize your iOS devices. Try dimming your screen’s brightness and enabling Low Power Mode. You can also check your battery usage information and close any other apps that might be sneakily running in the background.
📍 Which iOS VPN works in China?
Here’s a tip: Download a VPN to your iOS devices before you get to China! The Chinese government blocks access to VPN websites and they’re not available on the app store there.
The best cheap iOS VPN that works in China is PrivateVPN. During testing, it was the only top iOS VPN to reliably break through China’s Great Firewall.
As a smaller VPN, it’s able to get around China’s internet restrictions more easily than other popular services. PrivateVPN’s AES-256 bit encryption and kill switch work together to bypass firewalls and keep your connection secure. It’s not as fast as other top VPNs so you can expect some lag or buffering when you’re streaming and browsing.
Premium Protection for Your iPhone Doesn’t Have to Come at A High Price
With hackers, advertisers, and governments all trying to gain access to your personal data, you need a reliable VPN to protect you and your iOS device. Despite being one of the more secure operating systems, iOS software is not enough to defend you from cyber threats. This is especially true if you’re connecting to public WiFi.
After testing dozens of VPNs, I can definitively say NordVPN is my top choice if you want a quality VPN that keeps your iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices safe. NordVPN will keep your data encrypted, so you can shop and bank online without putting your financial information at risk. It also lets you access content normally restricted by location — so you can stream Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube freely from anywhere in the world!
You don’t have to fully commit straight away. My advice is to try NordVPN risk-free with its money-back guarantee. You have 30 days to decide if it’s suitable for you. It has 24/7 customer support that you can contact at any time to request a refund — when I did it, I got my money back in just 5 days.