How to use a VPN on iPhone

As we migrate more and more parts of our lives to the cloudOur need for digital privacy grows even greater.

To that end, VPNs provide an extra layer of protection between you and your favorite sites. VPNs work by encrypting your data as it leaves your device and sends it through a private server before it reaches your ISP. Doing so hides all of your web traffic from prying eyes – including governments and nosy “neighbors” on your network.

And while VPNs used to be specialized computer software, the need to protect a mobile phone is growing all the time. More and more people rely on smartphones, so it makes sense that you secure your phone with a VPN before you hit the web – especially on low-security public networks.

even better? All you need is an account with a (reputable) VPN provider and a few minutes to download an app.

First, choose a provider

A quick web search will reveal dozens of VPNs vying for your attention, but don’t just download the first one you find.

As a general rule, you’ll want to use a paid provider that has a strong history of consumer privacy and customer satisfaction. The person you choose should promise in their privacy policy to never sell your data to outside companies, as that would defeat its purpose in the first place. Even the best providers shouldn’t cost more than $15 a month, with better deals for long-term subscriptions.

Here are some of our favorites we reviewed recently:

Once you’ve settled on a provider, you’ll only need to complete the registration steps to get started. Fortunately, they all work roughly the same way.

Download the app

The apps of most major VPN services are available on the App Store, where you can complete the registration as soon as you open the app for the first time.

We won’t spend much time on this, as you’ve almost certainly downloaded apps to your phone before. In case you haven’t, just open the App Store by clicking the icon on your iPhone’s home screen, searching for the name of your chosen VPN, and clicking the button that says “Get”.

After that, it is just a matter of following the on-screen instructions.

Choose a server and connect

VPN app appears

Credit: screenshot/Branford Shaw

VPN app appears

Credit: screenshot/Branford Shaw

Once you set up the app, using a VPN is as simple as it gets, but how you do it depends on what you’re trying to do.

If all you need is another layer of security, then using the server closest to you is probably a good thing. Most VPNs (like ExpressVPN, pictured above) will automatically direct you to a nearby server on first launch.

If you want to use another specific location – to watch Netflix shows from another region, for example – just check the box showing your current location to pull up the server list, choose one in the area you’re looking for, then tap Energy button to call.

Do all of this before you travel

A word of caution to all the jet-setters out there: A few totalitarian governments restrict and even ban VPN use so they can keep a tight lock on the information their citizens have access to.

In some cases, you will simply need to set up your account and download the app before you arrive so you can continue to enjoy content from around the world. Other times, you’ll find that your go-to VPN simply doesn’t work due to the Great Firewall or IP restrictions from local internet providers.

Details change all the time, so it’s best to read about your particular destination as part of the planning process so you know what to expect and steps you can take to increase your internet freedom while you’re abroad.