There are many VNC apps for the iPhone, ranging widely in price, features and approach. Our favourite is Screens because it makes your desktop actually easy to use on a touch screen, offers a secure connection through SSH tunnelling, and provides a setup-free option should you not want to mess around with your router.
- Extremely user-friendly
- One universal app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
- Fully touch-based, so there’s no cursor — just interact with your remote desktop like it’s really part of your iDevice
- Securely connect to remote computers through an SSH tunnel
- Support for many multitouch features on your remote desktop’s trackpad/mouse
- Built-in gesture to hide and show the Mac OS X dock
- Compatible with Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows (and most VNC servers)
- Mac users can download Screens Connect to automatically connect to their computers remotely without any configuration (Mac OS X 10.6 or greater and a UPNP-enabled router are required)
Screens is great because it’s not only a very capable and useful VNC client, but also makes full use of multitouch. For example, you can remotely scroll with two fingers on a page on your desktop computer. Screens also supports SSH tunnelling so you can use all its nice features without sacrificing security. What makes Screens really great is that it’s just a pleasure to use. The cheap-to-free VNC apps in the iTunes App Store tend to be a little finicky and difficult. Screens is not cheap, but it’s cheaper than quite a few alternatives. It seems to be the case with VNC iOS apps that the best ones are pretty pricey. You can get by with a cheaper app, but if you really want an excellent experience you’re going to half to cough up at least $20. It’s kind of a lot for an app, but if you use VNC regularly from your phone and/or tablet it will be worth it.
It’s expensive. Like any VNC app on a mobile phone, it suffers from a small screen. (That iPad makes a big difference.) Other than that, there’s hardly anything to complain about.
iTeleport is another very capable VNC app that runs a bit higher at $25. It isn’t quite as delightful and pleasant to use as screens, but will appeal more to power users thanks to a few extra features. For example, you get VGA out, support for huge displays, VPN-based encryption, and ready-to-go keyboard shortcuts.
Mocha VNC Lite is your free option. It’s not fantastic, but it’ll get the job done. If you need very basic VNC capabilities for some minor usage, this is what you’ll probably want to download.
RealVNC is the in-betweener, priced at $US10 and offering more features than Mocha but fewer than the others. I feel that if you’re spending $US10 on an app, you might as well make it $US20 and get the best thing you can. That said, if you’re looking for the middle-of-the-road app then you’ll probably be just fine with RealVNC.
What we’re not talking about here are RDP apps and apps that handle remote desktop connections through proprietary means. There are a lot of good options in those departments, but that’s another conversation for another time. If you do have any personal favourites however, be sure to mention them in the comments.
Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.