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Free iPhone VPNs: can they be trusted, and which ones are worth using?

Free iPhone VPN
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Using a free VPN can be a smart privacy decision, and if you're after a free iPhone VPN you've got a huge amount of choice – all you need to do is open up the App Store and see for yourself. But there's always that element of doubt – is your chosen free VPN on iPhone really going to do what you want it to?

We won't lie – the best VPN services on any platform are going to be premium, paid-for services, and if you want no-holds-barred privacy and security along with features like unblocking streaming sites and torrenting, we'd recommend you go with the best. 

However, there are free iPhone VPNs that can give you solid anonymity without asking for your hard-earned cash. Below, we'll run down what to look for in more detail, but if you just want to see our top picks, click the 'Jump to' tab above.

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Try #1-rated ExpressVPN risk-free for 30 days 
ExpressVPN makes no compromises and is simply the top VPN on the market if you're an iPhone user (and just about every other device, too). It's secure, can unblock tons of streaming sites, and also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee to trial the service – plus, Tom's Guide readers get three months FREE.

Why would you want a free iPhone VPN?

In short, a VPN reroutes your Internet traffic away from your Internet Service Provider's servers through its own, making your activity anonymous to your ISP. It also encrypts your data so that no one can intercept and read it, and gives you a choice of servers worldwide so that you can virtually relocate and surf the web as if you were in a country of your choice.

One of the most popular VPN uses is to give extra protection when connected to public Wi-Fi hotspots – and this is something you're pretty likely to do when using your iPhone. You can also keep sensitive searches private, and get around content blocks on work or school networks.

If you choose a trusted free iOS VPN, simple security features like those should be possible, but for more advanced uses, you might run into some issues...

The downsides of a free iPhone VPN

If you want to get a VPN for iPhone free, you'll have to make a few sacrifices – the greatest of which will likely be the fact that almost all free services limit the amount of data you can use. If you want to switch your VPN on and leave it running all day, you might find that your limit doesn't go as far as you expected. 

Streaming is also a problem. Even ProtonVPN – the only free service we recommend that offers unlimited data – isn't usually able to unblock geo-restricted content on sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. If you want to explore the world's content, or watch what you love when you're abroad, a free iPhone VPN simply won't do. There are free Netflix VPN options, but a fully-fledged Netflix VPN will be far better.

However, a wider issue is the legitimacy of the apps available to download. While the iOS platform is generally safer in this regard compared to Android, there have still been notable cases of free iPhone VPNs turning out to be pretty shady indeed.

And the final point to make – seeing as a VPN's whole shtick is to divert your traffic away from your ISP's server and through its own, do you trust your VPN more than you trust your ISP? Few free iOS VPN options come with watertight zero-logging policies, so you might essentially be changing who you expose your data to from an evil you know to one that you don't.

Free iPhone VPN

(Image credit: Future)

Is a free iPhone VPN worth it?

The answer to this all depends on your usage. If you're a casual user looking for infrequent protection on public Wi-Fi, extra privacy, and the power to get around content blocks set out by your work or school's network, carefully selecting a trusted free service may well be a usable option.

However, if you're after seriously powerful security software that will make your streaming subscriptions go further, let you torrent in safety, and even speed up your connections by evading network throttling, a paid VPN is the only way to go – and starting from around $2 a month, they don't have to cost the world, either.

To test the waters, it's worth checking out which VPN free trials are currently available, and every paid-for service we recommend offers some form of money-back guarantee, so you'll have plenty of time to claim a refund if you don't think your money is well-spent.

FREE IPHONE VPNS

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1. ExpressVPN – try the best VPN risk free for 30 days
If you want the best way to get a free iPhone VPN, we’d suggest trying out ExpressVPN – its 30-day money-back guarantee is generous and, if you choose to, you’ll be refunded no questions asked. However, it’s also our highest-rated VPN, and you can claim three free months on 12-month plans.

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2. Surfshark – the best-value iPhone VPN on the market
If Express is a little pricey but you're still considering a fully featured VPN, Surfshark is an excellent choice. For just $2.49 a month you'll get unlimited connections, intuitive iOS apps, really swift servers and world-class streaming support – plus a no-quibble 30-day money-back guarantee.

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3. NordVPN – the biggest name is a safe bet
NordVPN is probably on your radar, and it's definitely a paid service that's worth considering. With over 5,000 servers, great streaming power, polished apps and incredible encryption, $3.71 a month doesn't sound too bad – and again, make a claim within 30 days and you'll get every penny back.

The best free iPhone VPNs

ProtonVPN iOS iPhone

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

1. ProtonVPN

Unlimited data is class-leading

Reasons to buy
+Free unlimited 7-day trial with no CC+Unlimited data for free users+Excellent security
Reasons to avoid
-Throttled speeds-Limited servers

If you're absolutely set on going for a free iPhone VPN, ProtonVPN should be your first choice. 

The biggest selling point (or perhaps not-selling point) is the fact it offers unlimited data – unlike just about any other free service, ProtonVPN lets you use it for as long as you like without cutting you off. Sending big attachments over email, listening to hours of Spotify and watching YouTube vids with ProtonVPN switched on all day is a real possibility.

ProtonVPN is well-known as a secure provider, so you can be sure that your data isn't getting sold to advertisers or other more nefarious organizations or individuals. Plus, upon sign-up you'll get a full seven-day trial of the full-fat premium service for free without handing over your credit card details.

Of course there are limitations – you'll only have three servers to choose from, speeds are capped and drop significantly at peak times, and you won't be able to unblock region-exclusive Netflix content. But as a free iPhone VPN, it's the best of the bunch.

Sign up now on ProtonVPN's website

2. Hotspot Shield

Free iPhone VPN from the fast provider is serviceable.

Reasons to buy
+500MB of data a day+Decent speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Ad-supported on some platforms-Some data logging

While ProtonVPN outdoes Hotspot Shield at many turns, there are some compelling reasons to pick it over our #1 choice.

First up, the apps are, on the whole, more polished, and if you choose to upgrade to the paid plan you'll have the very fastest speeds available from any VPN.

However, the free version is capped at around 2mbps, and you'll also only have 500MB of data daily to play with. That should be enough for some, but it might run out quicker than you expect.

Netflix access is a no-go, too. While ProtonVPN can't unblock geo-blocked content, if you're using Hotspot Shield free you won't be able to access the site at all – as an incentive to upgrade, it imposes its own restrictions. We've also had some issues with Google in the past, but they seem to have been rectified.

If you're planning on upgrading and are using the free iPhone VPN as a test-bed, we'd recommend Hotspot Shield – but as a long-term solution it's just not as powerful as the very best.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website

The best free iPhone VPN trials

Surfshark on an iphone

(Image credit: Surfshark)

1. Surfshark

The best cheap VPN also offers a 7-day trial

Reasons to buy
+Great for streaming+Proper free trial+Excellent apps for all devices
Reasons to avoid
-Not hugely configurable

If you've decided that a free iPhone VPN isn't going to cut it, a cheap VPN like Surfshark is the next best thing. With unlimited data and great access to streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, it's incredible value.

Plus, on iPhone you can even get a seven-day free trial if you sign up from the app store. 

However, for real flexibility we'd recommend signing up for a full plan and claiming a refund back if you're not happy with the service. It's a no-quibble process, and you get a month rather than a week of free access if you do choose to get a refund.

No matter what you choose, though, Surfshark is a premium provider with a bargain-basement price tag, and it's well worth a look.

Sign up now on Surfshark's website

2. NordVPN

Big name offers seven days for nothing

Reasons to buy
+Super secure+Excellent streaming performance+Quick connections
Reasons to avoid
-iPhone interface is awkward

If you know about any VPN, it's doubtless going to be NordVPN. It's hugely famous, hugely powerful, and works great to secure your iPhone.

It unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites with ease, and is fully audited to prove that it keeps your data absolutely safe. Plus, if you sign up through the app store, you can claim a seven-day trial – but we'd again recommend buying a plan and claiming back if it doesn't suit you as you'll have much longer to test it out.

If we're honest, our only issue is the fact that the iPhone app is a little hampered by the map-based interface – the screen is simply too small for it to work, even if you've shelled out for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

It's a little more expensive than Surfshark, but you do get a little extra in terms of functionality, so if you're happy to take a trial or claim back your cash, your decision here will likely come down to how much you want to spend.

Sign up now on NordVPN's website

The best free iPhone VPN money-back guarantees

ExpressVPN mobile vpn apps

(Image credit: Future)

1. ExpressVPN

It's our #1 iPhone recommendation for a reason

Reasons to buy
+Near-perfect iOS apps+Flawless streaming+Super support
Reasons to avoid
-Pay before you try (but you can get it back)

We rate ExpressVPN is the very best VPN available for iOS users, and for those who are serious about protection and usability, it should be their first choice.

However, it doesn't offer a free trial or a 'freemium' version, so the only way you'll be able to use the service is by picking a plan and paying for it. Don't worry, though – if you don't enjoy it, you can claim back for any reason within 30 days.

Compared to the other options here, we'd pick ExpressVPN every time, but the lack of truly free iPhone VPN options means we can't place it top this time. If you want the best, though, this is it.

Sign up now on ExpressVPN's website and claim three months free

2. Cyberghost

Cheap, cheerful, and effective

Reasons to buy
+Good for streaming and P2P+Lengthy 45-day guarantee+Great server selection
Reasons to avoid
-Apps aren't quite up to scratch

For a real bargain, it might be worth checking out CyberGhost. At just over $2 a month it's great value, and for thos elooking to test out a VPN for free, its 45-day money-back guarantee is unbeatable.

With over 6,000 servers and a very nifty filtering system, it's easy enough to use to stream, unblock network restrictions, torrent, and stay private. 

However, while they've certainly improved with the upgrade to the CyberGhost 8 software, the apps still can't quite match the combined power and simplicity of the market leaders. At this price, though, it's difficult to find b=much else to complain about. 

Sign up now on the CyberGhost website

Free iPhone VPN FAQ

Can I stream with a free iPhone VPN?

Free iPhone VPNs might be useful for many things, but for streaming we'd strongly advice users to opt for a premium service like ExpressVPN.

With no data limits and excellent regional unblocking on sites like Netflix and iPlayer, the best paid-for services don't have anything to worry about from the free contenders.

Why do I need a free iPhone VPN?

A free iOS VPN will come in handy if you're often connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, or if you just want peace of mind with a sensitive search once in a while.

For those looking to torrent, stream, or simply after a VPN you can have on all day with no hassle, then a paid provider is your best bet.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.