If you want to maximise security and privately while browsing the web on your iPhone, and access services that are restricted to particular countries, you can do so via a VPN. In this article we will show you how to set up and use a VPN on your iPhone or iPad.
Why use a VPN on an iPhone?
There are a number of reasons to use a VPN, some more likely than others to apply to you.
- Want to make sure your browsing is private and secure? Use a VPN. A VPN is a service you connect to prior to accessing the internet. It encrypts your data and because you access the web via a server, you and your device can’t be ‘seen’ on the internet.
- Want to protect your data from lax data protection laws or prying governments? A VPN could help.
- If your own county censors certain parts of the internet, a VPN could get around those limitations.
- If you want to access you home or work network remotely, you could set up your own VPN. We have this article on How to access your Mac remotely.
- Want to bypass location-based restrictions on services? A VPN is the answer.
This latter point is probably the biggest use of VPNs in the UK and US. By connecting via a server in another country you should be able to use services that aren’t normally available outside that country. As a result you could gain access to US Netflix from the UK, or BBC iPlayer from the US, for example.
In this article we’ve used NordVPN as it's our current top pick, but there are lots to choose from. We also recommend ExpressVPN, PureVPN, CyberGhost and Surfshark. See our top VPNs for iPhone article for more.
How to use a VPN on your iPhone to access the internet anonymously
While we've used NordVPN for this tutorial, but it’s other VPNs work in a similar way.
- Create an account with NordVPN here (or via another VPN service).
- Download the NordVPN app on your iPhone or iPad. (The app is called NordVPN: VPN Fast & Secure and has an icon that looks like mountains).
- Open the app and click on the person icon on the left.
- Sign in using your account details.
- Tap on Quick Connect, you’ll be asked to give permission to connect to the VPN. Click on Got it to approve.
- You’ll see a message saying that NordVPN would like to add VPN configurations, and that “All network activity on this iPhone may be filtered or monitored when using VPN”. This is a standard message asking permission to route your internet activity through an encrypted VPN tunnel. You can click on Allow.
- Now, assuming you have Touch ID or Face ID you will be asked to use that to Add VPN configurations. If that fails you can enter your passcode. This process allows NordVPN to set up a VPN setting on your phone - you can see at Settings > General.
- Now you will see a map showing various servers around the world. The server you are using, the one that is active, will be indicated by a green icon.
- While you are connected to that server, your browsing will be completely anonymous.
How to use a VPN on your iPhone to access the internet from another country
If you want to access the internet as if you are located in another country this is possible (although in doing so you may be breaking some of the terms and conditions of the services you are accessing using a VPN so please do proceed at your own risk).
- Choose the Map or List view - you can tap on the country you want to route your connection via.
- For example, swipe across the map until you can see the USA, and tap on the server icon in the centre of that country.
- You’ll see a dialog box with the name of the country selected, an on/off switch icon, and the option to Pick a Server. Just tap the on/off button to activate that server.
- Wait while it connects, this should only take a few seconds.
- Now as you browse the web it should appear that you are based in the country that the server is based in. This means that you can access services that may only be available in that country (which, as we noted above, may be against the terms and conditions of those services).
- As long as you are connected to a VPN you will see a VPN icon at the top of your screen - beside the mobile network and the Wi-Fi connectivity icons.
The latter example should help you watch US Netflix from the UK or other geo-restricted content. We have a more in-depth guide explaining how to watch US Netflix in the UK on iPad, iPhone or Mac.
How to turn off a VPN on an iPhone
If you just want to stop using the VPN, it should be a simple process. In the case of NordVPN follow these steps:
- Open the NordVPN app.
- Click on Disconnect.
- There will be a message that you are not connected and the VPN icon will disappear from the menu.
You can also disconnect from the VPN this way:
- Go to Settings > General.
- Scroll down to VPN.
- Click on the switch beside Status to disconnect.
- Click on the (i) icon beside the VPN.
- Click on the switch beside Connect on Demand to stop the VPN connecting.
Is a VPN safe to use?
Accessing the web on your iPhone via a VPN is safer than accessing without a VPN in some significant circumstances.
For example, if you are connecting to the web via a public network, accessing via a VPN will encrypt your data, so you are protected from potential hackers who might try to steal your data.
The only question is how much you can trust the VPN you are using not to gather data on you. The likelihood is that if you paid to use the VPN, your data is safe. If you are using a free VPN they have more reason to try and make money out of you. There are some VPN scams doing the rounds too, so watch out for those. Our advice is to check our article about the best VPNs as we have tested the ones we list here.