While most prominent VPN services support Mac and iOS, certainly not all of them do. When entering the market, providers tend to focus on the most popular platforms first. It’s only logical. In 2021, the time has come for ProtonVPN to finally launch its iOS app.
This product launch actually coincides with their user base reaching a stunning number – 1 million. Have we mentioned it’s also available for free? Let’s see how this new ProtonVPN for iOS app performed in our tests.
ProtonVPN in a nutshell
ProtonVPN comes from the country that may be associated with privacy the most – Switzerland. There are no data retention laws and the world’s most robust regulations protect your online privacy. Could there be a better place for the headquarters of a VPN?
ProtonVPN appeared on the scene in 2016. It came from the team of CERN scientists that gave us ProtonMail. Since then, the product has grown impressively. It currently has 1700+ servers in 63 countries, which is on par with the top providers. And the numbers keep on growing.
One of the major temptations about ProtonVPN is its free plan. Unlike most free VPNs, ProtonVPN’s free version doesn’t limit your bandwidth or data. Of course, it also has 3 paid plans: Basic, Plus, and Visionary. All of them have their own extra features, including higher speeds, more servers, and extra security options.
Let us uncover now what this iOS VPN app has to offer. For our tests, we used the ProtonVPN iOS app with a Plus subscription.
Security & privacy
Fundamentally, the ProtonVPN for iOS offers the same security and privacy features as the other clients. It supports Secure Core and Tor over VPN for the paid plans and has a pseudo-kill switch called Always-on VPN too. The traditional kill switch is not supported on iOS, macOS, and Android. This is why ProtonVPN came up with the Always-on VPN solution.
For the iOS and macOS clients, the Always-on VPN feature is automatically turned on. On the Android client, you need to do it manually, though. Once the kill switch is on, it ensures that even if your connection drops, ProtonVPN reestablishes a secure VPN tunnel automatically right away.
Since Proton has its own private DNS network and DNS leak protection, the chance of DNS leaks is so low that it might as well be zero. These features, in conjunction with the Always-on VPN, make this VPN bulletproof.
ProtonVPN is all about security and privacy.
We have found that ProtonVPN logs the bare minimum of user data – the timestamp from your last successful login attempt. Luckily, this is in no way enough to identify you personally. In other words, you’re all safe and anonymous when using ProtonVPN for iOS.
But even that is not enough for ProtonVPN. It also offers multi-hopping via its Secure Core feature. It takes a detour through one of the hyper-secure servers in Switzerland, Sweden, or Iceland, and only then does it connect to your chosen destination server. Yet another extra layer of security for those among us whose lives depend on it.
Our tests indicate no leaks whatsoever. The ProtonVPN iOS app is as anonymous and secure as it gets.
Open-source and audited
January 21, 2020, ProtonVPN announced that their apps are now open source. According to the company, it was “a natural next step.” The main goal of this update was to increase security.
In the same press release, ProtonVPN stated that they are investing in more in-depth third-party audits. By doing so, the company is seeking to continue fulfilling its mission and ensure a safe and secure browsing experience.
How to use the ProtonVPN iOS app
When you sign up for a free ProtonVPN iOS account, you won’t have any data limits. However, we have a feeling that you’ll miss those extra features and speed that the premium plans offer.
This new client requires iOS 10.0 or later. It’s compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Before you connect to a VPN server location, you need to log into your account.
The ProtonVPN for iOS app looks pretty nice, and the interface is also very user-friendly. With a single tap on the home screen Power icon, you can connect to your chosen server.
In the latest ProtonVPN for iOS update, the dedicated servers (TOR and P2P) are indicated as such next to the location. This makes it easier for you to select the desired VPN location.
If you want to select one of the several servers available in a specific location, tap the Arrow icon next to the name of the country. Then, tap the Power icon next to your chosen server. You’ll see servers divided into categories (Free, Basic, and Plus) whenever available.
As you can see, all servers indicate their load in percentages. This should give you a hint as to which one is the better one to connect to.
For an extra layer of anonymity, you may want to switch on the Secure Core option. All you need to do is toggle Use Secure Core on at the top of your screen (paid versions only). By doing so, your chosen virtual location will go through one of the secure servers in Iceland, Switzerland, or Sweden.
You can select the most optimal secure server by tapping the Arrow icon on the right of your desired location. However, when Secure Core is switched on, and you tap the Power icon for your chosen location, the ProtonVPN iOS app will automatically connect you via the optimal secure server choice. It’s possible that there’s only one such server available for a location.
Please keep in mind, though, that using multi-hops can drastically decrease your download speed. However, as our perplexing speed tests show (see the section below), they can also increase it.
We’ve noticed that toggling the Secure Core on and off may cause some confusion as to which server you get connected to afterward. When in doubt, tap the Arrow icon or the Connected label at the top to open the Status screen.
This screen displays all of the details on your current connection. If you want, you can save them as a profile.
All in all, this ProtonVPN iOS client is straightforward and intuitive. We did, however, experience some connection drops after our iOS device went into sleep mode, for instance. However, if you keep the Always-on VPN feature on, there should be no leaks whatsoever.
ProtonVPN iOS menu options
There are five menu options at the bottom of the screen:
- Countries: this is the default screen, the list of the servers categorized by country
- Map: if you are a more visual person, you can use the world map to change your location
- Quick Connect/Disconnect: with a single tap, connect to an optimal default server, or disconnect from your current server
- Profiles: create or edit profiles to have your preferred servers one tap away
- Settings: your account information and the Always-on VPN security option are on this screen
ProtonVPN profile creation
In the new ProtonVPN for iOS client, you have the option to create a profile that connects to a random server in a specified country. All you need to do is open the Profiles menu, tap Create Profile, and choose a country.
After you select the location, the Random option will appear at the top of the server list. Tap it to connect randomly to any of the servers the country has to offer whenever you use this profile.
Yet another option related to random servers can be found in the Recommended section on the Profiles screen. This is basically a Random Connection profile that will connect you to any server around the world.
ProtonVPN iOS for Netflix
While the free version won’t get you Netflix access, the paid versions certainly will. It’s easy to find a US Plus server that will stream Netflix US without a glitch. We couldn’t bypass Netflix detection for the UK or Australia regions like the best Netflix VPNs can. However, we were able to watch Hulu.
This is the result of the Netflix speed test when connected to a US Plus server:
You need around 5 Mbps to stream in HD, while 19Mbps is almost enough for 4K (approx. 25 Mbps).
Regardless of your subscription, you’ll probably fail at using the BBC iPlayer with this ProtonVPN iOS app. With that said, you can still enjoy HD quality streams from YouTube and many other media centers. We didn’t experience any lag or buffering. But, of course, VPN speed is a tricky thing.
Connecting to a server using the ProtonVPN for iOS app can be quick or slow. While this is all normal, we should also mention that occasionally, we couldn’t connect to certain servers. The iOS app simply stopped trying after like 10 seconds or so.
Although there have been complaints about slow speeds, our tests show a brighter picture. This was our baseline speed (without VPN) when conducting the ProtonVPN iOS app speed tests:
We tried a few locations both with and without the Secure Core feature on. Here are the results:
New York via Switzerland
Sydney via Sweden
London via Switzerland
These speeds are all good for HD video streaming, online gaming, and geo-unblocking, all while remaining anonymous and protected. Definitely not lightning speeds, but we’ve seen worse too. Please bear in mind that you may have completely different speeds depending on your location, your hardware, your base internet speed, the time of day, the distance from your chosen server, and so on.
All things considered, we applaud this new color on the ProtonVPN palette. This is a great iOS app for a great, maximum security VPN. You can get the Basic plan for $5.00/month, the Plus for $10.00/month, and the Visionary for $30.00/month.
For more information, read our ProtonVPN review.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.