Privacy Matters: How to Set up and Configure a VPN on Your iPhone

NordVPN on iPhone App Store Credit: Postmodern Studio / Shutterstock
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A virtual private network, or VPN, is an extremely handy thing to add to your digital “toolkit.” They can help protect your privacy and security online, alongside a number of other benefits.

If you aren’t already using one, there’s no better time to start than now. And while you can use a VPN across most of your online devices, they become even more important on the device you carry with you every day: your iPhone.

Why You Should Use a VPN

You can think of a VPN like an encrypted “tunnel” between your device and a destination. When your data travels through this tunnel, it’s much, much safer from prying eyes.

There are both privacy and security benefits that come with using a VPN. They can keep your sensitive data safe when you’re on an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. And they can also help put an end to your internet service provider or carrier snooping on your online activity.

But that’s not all. VPNs can also help you access geo-restricted content online. If you’re in a region with censored internet, they can also help you circumvent those restrictions and access wider portions of the internet.

Lastly, there’s not really any good reason to avoid using a VPN — as long as you opt for a good-quality one with excellent privacy and security policies.

If you don’t need any more convincing, then it’s time to move on to picking and installing a quality VPN service onto your device.

How to Choose a VPN Service

There are a plethora of VPN services online, which can make choosing a VPN service pretty overwhelming. We’ve previously covered how to pick a good one, as well as offered some of our own recommendations. See a few of the best below.

Recommended VPNs:
  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN: 3-Year Subscription
  3. VPNUnlimited: Lifetime Subscription

Some of the higher-rated options don’t exactly come cheap, but there are some options like Windscribe or ProtonVPN that offer good “free” tiers with bandwidth or data limitations.

In any case, there are plenty of other options out there to suit your exact needs as long as you avoid sketchy, completely free VPNs or VPNs with less-than-ideal logging or security policies.

Of course, your company and business may have their own VPN set up so that you can connect to a company intranet. You can set those types of VPNs up pretty easily, but you’ll need a couple of extra bits of information (which we’ll get to later).

Using VPN Services

Once you choose a VPN, go ahead and download their iOS app from the App Store onto your iPhone or iPad.

When it’s downloaded, just follow these steps to set them up.

  1. Most apps will need you to create an account or login with your credentials. So go ahead and do that.
  2. Around this point, the VPN will ask for permission to install a configuration profile onto your device. Grant that permission.
  3. Now you’ll be prompted to enter your passcode or authenticate with Face or Touch ID.

At this point, the VPN should be enabled.

You can enable or disable a VPN by going to Settings > VPN. This is also how you’d switch between VPNs on your device if you have multiple ones set up.

When a VPN is activated, you’ll see a small VPN icon in the top status bar.

If you’d like to change the server location or configure other preferences for your VPN, that’s usually done through the VPN app itself.

How to Set up a VPN Manually

As we mentioned earlier, you can also manually add a VPN configuration. Whether it’s a company VPN or you just prefer to set things up manually, here’s how to add a VPN service to your device.

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on VPN.
  4. Tap on Add VPN Configuration.
  5. Tap Type.
  6. Select IKEv2, IPSec or L2TP, depending on the type of VPN you have.
  7. Tap Back.
  8. Enter the VPN information — which includes server, remote ID and description.
  9. Enter your VPN login credentials.
  10. You can also set proxy preferences to Manual or Auto.
  11. Tap Done.
  12. You may also need to tap the Status bar toggle to switch the VPN on for the first time.

At this point, your VPN should be enabled. As with other VPNs, you can always disable it again by going to Settings > VPN.

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