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How to setup a VPN on an iPhone?

Dominik

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How to set up a VPN on an iPhone, if not by relying on the main thing Apple’s smartphones are known for? No, we’re not talking about ridiculous price tags but something much more accessible – apps!

Set up an iPhone VPN with an app

Being among the most recognizable consumer electronics on the planet, it’s no wonder iPhones enjoy extensive support from the vast majority of the VPN industry; companies big and small alike are investing in “appifying” their programs to make them more easily digestible, so why not take advantage of that state of affairs, especially since you’ll already be supporting VPN app development regardless through paying for any half-decent VPN out there?

You can start by searching for your desired VPN on the Apple App Store, or by simply browsing through the VPN-rich Utilities category of that very same storefront. Chances are, you’ll find everything you need right there, from iOS clients for specific VPNs to general product recommendations.

Set up an iPhone VPN without an app

Of course that there’s an app-less alternative to using a VPN on your iPhone, but note that Apple itself advises VPN users to leverage iOS apps wherever and whenever possible, encrypted traffic rerouting included. Assuming you can’t or aren’t willing to do so, you can always set up a virtual private network connection on your iPhone through manual access point configuration.

More specifically, launch Settings, and find the Network option under the General menu. There’s a VPN item on the very bottom of the following screen; tap on it and proceed with the “Add a VPN Connection” process. You’ll be greeted by a form with just over half a dozen fields, all of which require information that you should have already obtained from your VPN provider.

Save the connection details and return to General Settings where you’ll see a new VPN toggle appear within the Wi-Fi menu segment. This is where you can activate and suspend your newly set up iPhone VPN with a single tap.

Note that many VPNs offer advanced mobile features such as conditional automation, kill switches, and in-depth analytics that are only available from their mobile apps, most of which also handle the initial configuration process described above for you. Meaning you should really, really look for your VPN provider’s iOS app before fiddling with DNS addresses and the like, unless you’re desperate for some monotony in your otherwise action-packed life.

Assuming you can’t help it, know that iPhones allow for L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, and Cisco IPsec connections, whereas the significantly older PPTP integration was sunset way back in 2016 with the debut of iOS 10. That may be an inconvenience but it’s hardly a huge point of contention as Apple was always ahead of the curve with ditching outdated and insecure tech.

OpenVPN compatibility with iPhones and iPads isn’t an issue either, but it’s up to you to leverage it by importing a configuration file (.ovpn) into the OpenVPN Connect app via iTunes, which will allow you to reroute your traffic on an OS level. The actual process of logging into an OpenVPN network is mostly the same as above, but make sure to check with your VPN service provider for any extra details just to be safe.


Editor’s Note

How to set up a VPN on iOS” was written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.

If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.

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