Roundup: The Best iOS VPN Solutions

I'm a very low-trust person when it comes to networks. If it is at all avoidable I wont connect to a public Wi-Fi network. And even though most of the conferences and conventions I attend use passwords to secure access to their networks, I still don't trust them. For me, a VPN is now one of the first things i install on my computers, tablets and smartphones. Over the last few weeks, I've been trialling three different VPN solutions on my iPhone 7 Plus; Wangle, NordVPN and Norton WiFi Privacy. Here's what I've found.

There are hundreds of VPN solutions available on the market. Two things have made it relatively easy to sell your own VPN product. One is open source software. OpenVPN and others are a low cost way to create a VPN you can on-sell. Of course, you also need servers for users to connect to. And that's where cloud service providers come to the fore. Creating a network of 50 servers is far simpler and cheaper today than it was a decade ago.

But it's not all sweetness and light. When you buy access to a VPN service, you're not just getting encrypted access to the internet. You're also buying trust. You need to know the VPN provider is not snooping on your data and that they are protecting logs of your network activity.

That can be very difficult to evaluate as not all VPN providers are transparent about that.

Evaluating the performance of a VPN is also tricky. A network is only as fast as its weakest link and this can be variable. When I connected with each of the three solutions I tested, I found performance varied, even when repeating the same actions just a few minutes apart. As best I could tell, this was a factor of who else was connected to the same public networks I tested on and what other users were doing.

For that reason, my views on performance are objective. In most cases, while it was obvious to me there was a small performance hit when using any of the three solutions, it was not enough to make work untenable or frustrating.

Some of you might be interested in using a VPN in order to obfuscate your location so you can view online content that is geoblocked. All three apps I tried let me watch Netflix from different countries but Hulu was another story.

So, my TL;DR is: all three solutions worked well. I tested them while traveling in the US at hotels, airports and public hotspots, at airport lounges in three Australian cities and while using cellular comms. There are some usability and price differences but all three are good candidates if you're looking for VPN software for iOS devices.

Wangle

I mentioned Wangle a while ago. Since then, the company has provided me with a log-in to their service to try it out.

Perhaps the biggest limitation with Wangle is the number of connection points they have across the world. They have just nine points of presence globally with one in Australia, two in Europe, two in the USA and a few others scattered around the place. That might lead to connection latency issues.

However, Wangle's main selling point is that is uses a proprietary VPN protocol they developed themselves. The company says this allows them to compress and optimise network traffic so the number of bytes you need to send around is reduced - something you can see on the app's display.

When I landed in a new country, Wangle did not automatically connect to the closest point of presence. So, when i arrived in the US, it connected me via Sydney. That's fine if I want it to look as if I am in Sydney but not if I'm after the fastest possible performance. It's easy to manually change connection points through the settings but it's something to watch out for.

One other thing - as I mentioned a while ago, Wangle has had legal advice telling them they are a telecommunications service provider. that means they retain your communications metadata in compliance with the metadata retention laws that are in effect here.

Wangle is available on a month-to-month subscription of $4.99 per month so it's cheap to try.

NordVPN

NordVPN is a multi-platform VPN solution. I paid for a two-year subscription so I could use it on my iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 Tablet - the three devices I carry with me when I travel.

NordVPN has points of presence all over the world and recently boasted of switching on their 1000th server worldwide. Choosing which country you connect through can be either by tapping on a pinned location on a map of the world or by selecting a country from a list. Most of their points of presence are in the EU and surrounding countries although they also have plenty of connection points in the Asia Pacific region and the Americas.

You can designate favourite servers to connect to so there's no need to scroll through the entire list each time you want to temporarily connect from a different locale.

NordVPN is built on OpenVPN and they support pretty much every end-user computing platform.

I found their map annoying to navigate so ended up using the country list to add a couple of favourites which made the job of switching countries far easier.

With pricing, you can choose to take up your subscription through the App Store or Play Store. But my suggestion is to check the NordVPN website as they seem to offer much better deals there. There are monthly, half-yearly and annual plans available and they are significantly cheaper there than via the app stores.

Norton WiFi Privacy

Of the three apps I tried, Norton WiFi Privacy has the best user experience. The auto-select option quickly connected me to the closest point of presence in Norton's network or I could choose from a long list of countries.

Initially released for mobile devices, there are now versions for macOS and Windows as well.

Rather than offering a map, you can choose you connection point from a list of a list 30 countries covering the US, Europe, Africa and Asia. As a bonus, the app can also block ad tracking and Norton promises to not store logs of any of your web browsing.

Pricing ranges from $46.99 per year per device through the App Store with three and five device plans also available.


Comments

    I just don't get that Wangle.
    They purposefully sought out a metadata retention compliance that no-one even knew was required and they think it's a selling point ??!!
    Who knows if their encryption is any good and they only have an IOS app so if i want to use a vpn on my laptop or pc at home then i need another service anyway.
    A web search on the company comes up with more about their share price than anything else so it seems like they're trying to make a quick buck - BUT - they only have 65 followers on Twitter , 43 on Instagram and 673 likes on Facebook !
    I just don't get it ?
    Anthony you could have at least told us who you thought was the better of the three.

      Wangle is new - and I'm not sure social media following is a measure of anything other than social media strategy and the ability to purchase followers. At least their position on metadata retention is clear - the same cannot be said of everyone of the thousands of other options on the market. And their legal compliance is yet to be tested in the courts.

      As for which is best - I couldn't separate them in terms of performance. There are just too many real-world variables to tell in my experience. From a usability perspective, Norton was best, followed by Wangle and Nord.

        Anthony thanks for the reply.
        Social media - well they registered with twitter in 2015 and launched the app on both the apple and google stores last November yet have only tweeted 18 times - plenty of time to build some buzz - as of writing they haven’t even re-tweeted this article yet.
        Their competitors metadata position is clear - “no logs” = more attractive to buyers.
        Also a lack of detail on their site about their mysterious encryption or how it compares to other protocols.
        If they’re too lazy or don’t see the advantage of providing one on their own website then as a journalist you could have done a test with speedtest.net or speedofme.com using the same test server location , 3 tests each and one after the other for each service.
        They are claiming the "world’s fastest mobile VPN" after all.
        More questions than answers and with a crowded vpn market offering comparable prices for more devices as well as privacy, i just don’t know where 
Wangle fits.
        Also their domain name (wan.gl) is confusing yet both wangle.com and wangle.com.au are for sale ?
        A poor marketing strategy and roll-out at the very least.
        Methinks consumers will go elsewhere.

          Social media is only a piece of the puzzle Gary as Anthony alludes to. Seems like you are clutching at straws a bit. Wangle is new so naturally has less servers and has to grow their marketing campaign in a cost effective way. To be compared to well established VPN's is positive in itself. As far as marketing goes they just signed a strategic deal with Student Edge and are deep in with Telethon Kids partnership to launch another product this month Wangle Family Insights. This is first of its kind and this will go over the foundation VPN network and likely add more users.

          Wangle has proven to be a superior performance over OpenVPN - PWC verified.
          http://www.wangletechnologies.com/assets/20170331-WangleTechnologiesLimited-VPNAttestation-Report-wRedactions.pdf

          I have moved over to Wangle having been a long term ExpressVPN user and found the experience better and I am planning on using Wangle Family Insights because I have problematic teens!

          I still need a desktop VPN which they will launch but overall happy customer.

            Clutching at straws ? Again - ONLY 18 tweets , links for Instagram and google+ on the homepage that lead to nothing !
            Those icons aren’t just there to look pretty - this IS a tech company right ?

            Way back in Oct 2015 they signed up with - "a world leading digital and social media agency"
            http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151021/pdf/4327fdq4psxjd1.pdf

            Buying a few journo’s lunch for favourable press and getting trading statements printed in the finance news sections whilst claiming to have a market beating product doesn't give much confidence to a would-be investor - let alone trying to reach actual customers.

            New company or not - it would have made more sense to have more than just one Sydney based POP if you've only launched your IOS app in Australian app stores and are trying to capture a local market !
            They don't even have a POP in their home town of Perth - gee thanks for the extra lag.
            Fact is this isn't some high-school kids garage startup.

            "are deep in with Telethon Kids" - Yeah kinda helps when the MD is on the Wangle board.

            That PWC report just raises more red flags - why are the lab testing methods redacted ?
            Why are they comparing themselves against Openvpn when most iOS vpn’s use L2TP/Ipsec or more recently Ikev2 ?
            And absolutely nothing regarding the integrity of the encryption ??!!
            So you gave up expressvpn and went with just wangle - yeah right - now you've got no vpn on the home computers huh ?
            Kidding yourself if you think you’re going to stop teens from being teens and there's already a number of products in that market already.
            Seriously Felix you do know what full disclosure means don’t you ? - if you work for the company or are associated any way then you should say so.
            Pushing press release data from asx trading announcements kinda gives it away . . . .

            Mate save it for the Hotcopper forums - this is a tech site.

    "The Best iOS VPN Solutions"
    What other vpn providers did you test against to decide that these three are the best ?
    You said you tried out one just because they gave you a free trial.
    Thanks , Kevin

    "When I landed in a new country, Wangle did not automatically connect to the closest point of presence."
    Did Nord auto connect too ?
    My experience is that most VPN's require you to manually choose the location ?

      Norton connected automatically to the closest PoP

        Then they must be using GPS tracking via location services.

    Anthony you said NordVPN is built on OpenVPN but it's not what they use in the Nord ios app which is IKEv2/IPsec.

    Wangle has that annoying scrolling map feature just like Nord but it wasn't mentioned and i didn't find out until after i signed up.
    Haven't tried Norton yet.

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