Even if you know next to nothing about VPNs, using one on your iPhone and iPad is utterly simple.
Although you may have spotted the VPN menu in the Settings app, there's no need to venture in and configure settings: modern VPN apps do it all for you.
Obviously, we don't need to tell you how to install an app on your iPhone or iPad, but there are a few details we'll share that will make your first experience of a VPN completely fuss-free.
Why use a VPN on an iPhone?
Before we get to those, here's a brief overview of why you'd want to use a VPN in the first place.
For most people, it's to get around regional blocks that are stopping them watching the videos they want to see, or the websites they want to access. Some YouTube videos, for example, can only be watched in certain countries and, as everyone well knows, the shows and movies available on Netflix changes depending upon which country you're in.
Amazing as it might seem, even in the West some websites are blocked because of data regulations. For example, certain US-based retailers block access to European visitors because of GDPR rules. A VPN lets you get around this and browse the sites as if you were in the US.
A VPN encrypts the connection between your iPhone or iPad and the internet. This gives you privacy as it stops your internet provider (and anyone else) from seeing which websites you visit as well as helping to make you anonymous to websites so they can't track you (unless you sign in to them, of course).
Public Wi-Fi usually lets you connect without entering a password, and that can be a bit risky as the connection isn't encrypted. But a VPN provides encryption so you can safely use the internet at airports, cafes, hotels and other places. All reputable websites and web services provide their own encryption (and certainly banks and banking apps do) but using a VPN removes any risk that sensitive information could be exposed.
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.
How to install a VPN on your iPhone or iPad
When you subscribe to a VPN service, you can use it on several devices at once, and not just iPhone or iPad. Apps are typically available for Windows, macOS, Android and even TVs and streaming devices.
Here, we’re using NordVPN as a specific example, but although there may be slight differences to where the options and settings are, the steps here apply to most VPN apps, not just Nord.
When deciding which VPN service is best for you, do read through our roundup of the best VPNs for iPhone for more recommendations.
- First, sign up and create an account on the VPN provider's website. At the time of writing, NordVPN was offering 69% off a two-year subscription.
- Download the NordVPN app on your iPhone or iPad from the App Store.
- Open the app and tap the LOG IN button, and enter the account details you created in step 1.
- You'll be asked if you want to allow notifications. You can choose your preference: they're not essential.
- Tap the Quick Connect button.
- You’ll be asked to give permission. Click on Got it to approve.
- You’ll see a message saying that NordVPN would like to Add VPN configurations. This is the automatic setup part, so tap 'Allow'.
- 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 setup a VPN profile which you can see if you later go to Settings > General > VPN.
- The app should connect you to a server, chosen automatically by the Quick Connect feature. That's usually in the same country you are in.
- While the connection is active, all internet traffic from your iPhone will be encrypted and routed via that server.
- You can now 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 use a VPN when using your banking apps.
How to use a VPN on your iPhone to pretend to be in another country
If you want to watch videos or browse websites that are usually blocked to you, it's simply a case of connecting to a server in the country where that service, site or specific video is available.
Bear in mind that not all VPN providers unblock all video services, so do check if there's a specific service you want to unblock. Almost all unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max and other popular ones, but it's still worth checking before you sign up.
Also know that you still need an account and, usually, an active subscription to the service you're trying to watch. A VPN doesn't make Netflix or Disney+ free: you need to be a subscriber.
Using a VPN to watch blocked videos may be breaking some of these services' terms and conditions. However, we're yet to hear of any paying customers that have had their video streaming accounts suspended or even stopped.
Here's an example of how someone in the UK can unblock Netflix US.
- In your VPN app, find the list of countries (or servers).
- With NordVPN you can simply swipe across the map until you can see the USA, and tap on one of the pins.
- 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.
- Wait while it connects, which should only take a few seconds.
- 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.
- You'll see a VPN icon at the top-right of your iPhone 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:
- Open the NordVPN app.
- Tap Disconnect.
- There will be a message that you are not connected and the iOS VPN icon will disappear.
You can also disconnect from the VPN this way:
- Go to Settings > General.
- Scroll down to VPN.
- Tap the toggle switch beside Status to disconnect.
- Optionally, tap the (i) icon beside the VPN configuration then tap the switch beside Connect on Demand to stop the VPN connecting in future.