Mac and iPhone owners rely on Apple’s App Store to download almost all of their apps, from holiday booking tools to games, scheduling apps, and video players.

And that’s usually not too hard. Most of the time, you can just search through the product pages, read descriptions, compare ratings, and consult the all-important app charts to find the best fit for your needs.

However, this doesn’t always apply to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). As we’ll see in this article, if you’re seeking a trustworthy VPN, app store listings can sometimes be deceptive. And before you head to the site, it really helps to know what to look for, as well as a few leading iOS VPNs to help get you started.

So let’s dive in and make some suggestions about how to find the right security and privacy setup for your Apple device.

If you’re looking for a VPN, app store downloads can be a minefield

VPNs provide a level of encryption for every packet of data you send, and they also allow iPhone users to anonymize their IP addresses. This helps to work around those annoying geo-blocking measures that companies like Netflix love to impose – opening up a galaxy of restricted content.

They are great tools to have on your device, but here’s the thing: poor quality VPNs are actually worse than no VPN. The world is full of free VPNs which promise protection while delivering very little (apart from buckets of promoted ads and, if you’re really unlucky – malware).

Moreover, the apps available on the VPN App Store selection vary by country. So, for example, leading VPNs like ExpressVPN might be unavailable in China or Saudi Arabia.

So when it comes to choosing, you need to take care. Don’t just go for the most popular or highest rated app. And don’t use price as a guide. Instead, follow these guidelines to pick your ally.

What all App Store users need to know about when choosing a VPN

Before you pick a VPN, make sure it ticks all of these boxes:

  1. Cutting edge encryption – good VPNs should meet the 256-bit AES encryption standard. And don’t be fooled by free services like Hola (find out why in our Hola VPN review). Most of them can’t be relied upon to keep your data protected.
  2. Speed and servers – the best VPNs usually maintain large server lists, located across the world. For example, NordVPN runs over 5,000 servers in more than 60 countries. So you should always be able to connect and work around geo-blocking. Not all VPNs are clear about their server numbers and might try to hide them away in the small print. So read App Store listings really carefully.
  3. Avoid free VPNs – in general, free VPN tools are poor VPNs, and this applies to App Store downloads as much as anything else. As with any app, if the service is free, the user is the product. Free VPNs, therefore, tend to harvest user data and send plenty of ads, and they often seriously limit the speeds of free users as well. This makes them inferior to paid services on almost every level. However, if you will decide to go for free VPN, check out list of best free VPN services.
  4. Multiple devices – as an iPhone, Apple TV and/or Mac user, you may well need to add VPN protection to a number of devices. Don’t get stuck with a VPN which only offers 1-2 connections. The best providers are much more generous with their customers, providing 5 or even unlimited device connections. That way, you can include family members in your package.
  5. Listen to what users say about unblocking – virtually all VPNs promise the world when it comes to unblocking streaming sites like Netflix. But very few can do so reliably. So go beyond the actual App Store listings and check feedback from actual users about whether the hype is matched by real-world performance.

When you browse for a VPN, app store listings should provide much of the information you need to make an informed decision. But many users skip through the textual information and rely solely on rankings and ratings.

Now, ratings can be a good indication of the general quality of an app. But things can change fast in the world of VPNs. What worked well last year (and therefore rose up the rankings), might have been exposed as flawed recently. And App Store rankings can be gamed as well.

By all means, use the rankings as one metric, but also rely on the criteria we’ve outlined above to ensure that the VPN you download meets the gold standard for iOS protection.

Are there any issues with VPN downloads from the App Store?

Before we make some specific suggestions about which VPN to choose, it’s important to look at the App Store itself. Can you trust the software available on Apple’s platform?

In general, the App Store has a great reputation – especially in comparison to less well-regulated Android app repositories. But it hasn’t escaped controversy altogether.

For example, in 2018 Apple was forced to remove some anti-malware tools from security firm Trend Micro, after users discovered that they were collecting sensitive data.

In 2017, MalwareBytes reported that Apple users had also been targeted by so-called malvertisers via a VPN download called My Mobile Secure (which wasn’t secure at all).

However, this case was resolved fairly quickly via an iOS patch, and the consensus remains that the VPNs available from Apple’s App Store are more reliable than their Android cousins. But which one should you go for?

Take your pick from the iOS VPN elite

If they are looking for a high-quality VPN, App Store users can’t do much better than these leading contenders:

  1. ExpressVPN app – dubbed the “number one trusted VPN on the App Store,” ExpressVPN is also widely respected on every platform. It’s fast, has great support, and offers superb protection. A winner on every count.
  2. NordVPN app – ExpressVPN’s major competitor, NordVPN is just as secure, and may be a touch faster, with more global servers to choose from.
  3. Private Internet Access app – PIA matches 256-bit encryption with a long server list, an excellent iOS app, adblocking, and a lower price than our other choices.

If these choices don’t work out for you, don’t be afraid to check out TunnelBear, Astrill VPN, CyberGhost, or TorGuard. They can all do the job and may offer speed boosts in some locations.

Whatever you do, follow our guidelines, and avoid fraudulent providers. By sticking to the elite, you’ll be able to lock down your iPhone and access restricted sites whenever you need to.