You might have seen an option for a VPN when looking around in the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad. But while it's possible to configure this manually, there's no need to as modern VPN apps do it all automatically. 

Even though it is really easy to install and use a VPN, we'll explain everything you need to know including the step-by-step process of connecting to a server.

Why use a VPN on an iPhone?

There are various reasons for using a VPN, including privacy, security and unblocking content.

If you want to make sure your web browsing is private and secure, a VPN will help. It encrypts the data from your iPhone or iPad to the internet which stops your internet provider seeing which websites you visit, and also helps to make you anonymous to websites (unless you sign in to them, of course).

If the county you live in censors certain parts of the internet, a VPN can help you get around those restrictions.

Want to bypass region-based restrictions on streaming services and websites? A VPN is the answer.

Public Wi-Fi usually lets you connect without entering a password, and that means your data is at risk. But a VPN provides encryption (like a password-protected Wi-Fi network) so you can safely use the internet at airports, cafes, hotels and other places.

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.

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Most people want a VPN to access streaming services or sports events which aren't available in their country.  For example, you could watch the US Netflix library from the UK, or watch BBC iPlayer from the US.

When you sign up for a subscription, you can use the VPN service on all your devices, not just iPhone or iPad. We also have articles which explain how to set up a VPN on a Mac, and a guide on setting up a VPN on an Apple TV.

In this article we’re using NordVPN as it's our current top pick, but there are of course lots of others to choose between. See our roundup of the best VPNs for iPhone article for alternatives.

How to install a VPN on your iPhone or iPad

Although there may be slight differences to where the options and settings are, the steps here apply to most VPN apps, not just Nord.

  1. First, sign up and create an account on the VPN provider's website. At the time of writing, NordVPN was offering 68% off a two-year subscription.
  2. Download the NordVPN app on your iPhone or iPad.
  3. Open the app and tap the LOG IN button, and enter the account details you created in step 1.
  4. You'll be asked if you want to allow notifications. You can choose your preference: they're not essential.
  5. Tap the Quick Connect button.
  6. You’ll be asked to give permission. Click on Got it to approve.
  7. You’ll see a message saying that NordVPN would like to Add VPN configurations. This is the automatic setup part, so you can click on Allow. How to use a VPN on iPhone and iPad
  8. You may be asked to enter your passcode, or Touch ID or Face ID will be used to grant that permission. This process allows NordVPN to set up a VPN setting on your phone - you can see at Settings > General.
  9. You should now be connected to the best server, chosen automatically by the Quick Connect feature. That's usually in the same country as you are.
  10. While the connection is running, all internet traffic from your iPhone will be routed via that server and is encrypted. You can switch to other apps and everything should work as normal, although certain banking apps might not work as they provide encryption themselves, so you shouldn't need to use a VPN when using your online bank app.

How to use a VPN on your iPhone to pretend to be in another country

If you want to access the internet as if you are located in another country, that's easy. If you want to access video streaming services, just bear in mind that you may be breaking some of their terms and conditions, and if you've paid to subscribe to those services, it's possible your account will be suspended or even stopped.

  1. Choose the Map or List view and tap on the country.
  2. For example, swipe across the map until you can see the USA, and tap on the server icon in the centre of that country.
  3. 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 connect to that server.
  4. Wait while it connects, which should only take a few seconds.
  5. Now as you browse the web using Safari or another app, sites and services will behave as if you were in that country. So prices will shown in the local currency and you should be able to access sites and videos which were previously blocked.
  6. You can see a VPN icon at the top of your screen when the connection is active.

How to turn off a VPN on an iPhone

If you just want to stop using the VPN, disconnecting is a simple process:

  1. Open the NordVPN app.
  2. Tap Disconnect.
  3. 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:

  1. Go to Settings > General.
  2. Scroll down to VPN.
  3. Click on the switch beside Status to disconnect.
  4. Click on the (i) icon beside the VPN.
  5. Click on the switch beside Connect on Demand to stop the VPN connecting.

Is a VPN safe to use?

Yes. A VPN makes the web a safer place. For example, if you are connecting to the web via free Wi-Fi, the data will be encrypted, so you are protected from potential hackers who might try to steal personal information.

Obviously, you need to be able to put your trust in the VPN you are using not to gather data on you. That's why we recommend you choose the services we list in our roundup of the best iPhone VPNs.