Apple has done plenty to embrace VPNs on iOS in a surprisingly open way. That means there are several methods to install a VPN on iPhone or iPad, so you have plenty to choose from (based on your knowledge, skills, and needs).
More precisely, you can set-up a VPN by using the App Store or using OpenVPN Connect (if OpenVPN isn't available natively via your chosen VPN app). You can also go around any VPN app by configuring your VPN manually on iOS.
Even though using the iOS App Store seems to be the most intuitive method, others come with their benefits as well - which we've made sure to clarify below.
To explain how each of the following installation methods looks like, we'll use ExpressVPN in this article. No matter if you need complete protection for your privacy or wish to unblock websites, this VPN will meet your needs. Of course, there are other options around, so you'll want to check the best VPNs for iOS.
Remember that using a single VPN subscription, you can protect all your Web-connected devices at once. So, here's how to install any VPN on any type of device.
Step-By-Step Guide: How to Install a VPN on iPhone, iPad & iPod touch in 2021!
Finally, here are the 3 best methods to set up a VPN on any iOS device in 2021.
- Method #1: Setup a VPN on iPhone/iPad via the iOS App Store
- Method #2: Setup a VPN on iPhone/iPad via OpenVPN Connect
- Method #3: Setup a VPN on iPhone/iPad Manually
Method #1: Setup a VPN on iPhone/iPad via the iOS App Store
By far, the easiest way to set up a VPN on your iOS device is by using the app created by your chosen VPN provider. With that said, here's our step-by-step guide on how to get started with a VPN on iOS.
We recommend subscribing to ExpressVPN via its website (instead of doing so via the VPN's app).
By subscribing via the website, you'll be eligible for a "no questions asked" 30-day money-back guarantee, so you'll have enough time to test-drive ExpressVPN (we're sure you're going to love it, though).
- First, make sure to subscribe to ExpressVPN (by clicking/tapping on the provided link). You need to tap on the 'Get ExpressVPN' button, pick a subscription plan, and fill out the required information. Then, don't forget to check your email inbox to activate your VPN account.
- Once you receive your ExpressVPN credentials, open the App Store on your iPhone or iPad. Tap on "Search," found in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Then, search for "ExpressVPN."
- Once the App Store shows a list of results, go ahead and click on the VPN's icon to open its overview. Click on "Get" and download the app. You'll need to confirm your decision, and the App Store will finish the procedure on its own. Once done, tap on "Open," and the VPN app will launch.
- Once ExpressVPN launches, you'll need to log in. Provide your email and password and then tap on "Sign In." The app will ask for your permission, and you can decide whether to enable notifications (you'll see notifications when you connect and disconnect from servers). Finally, you can also decide whether or not to send anonymous data to ExpressVPN.
- You're now able to connect to any of ExpressVPN's servers. By default, the app will show a server that should provide the speediest performance. However, you can click on the "three dots" icon to select any server manually.
Keep in mind that iOS will let you know if you have a VPN session active in the background. This will be visible in the top-right corner of your screen. Once you no longer need your VPN, simply go back to ExpressVPN and disconnect.
Method #2: Setup an VPN on iPhone/iPad via OpenVPN Connect
Not every VPN supports the OpenVPN Connect app on iOS. You can’t use ExpressVPN for this purpose. So, we’ll explain how this is done by using NordVPN, another highly reputable and capable VPN for iOS devices.
With that said, make sure to subscribe to NordVPN before proceeding to do anything else. Once you obtain your credentials, go through the steps you'll find below.
- First, download an OVPN file of the server you plan on using. You can do this by opening NordVPN's website and clicking on "Recommended Server." Search for a server based on its country and then click on "Show Available Protocols" on the left side of the screen. Finally, click on "Download Config" for OpenVPN UDP or TCP, depending on which one you want to use.
- Once you download the OVPN file to your computer, feel free to send it to your iOS device. The best way to do this is by sending yourself an email message with the OVPN file attached.
- Now, open the App Store on your iOS device and search for "OpenVPN Connect." The application comes free of charge. Feel free to open it, and you'll see that the app requests an OVPN file.
- You need to open the recently downloaded OVPN file on your iOS device - which should launch the OpenVPN Connect app. The easiest way to do this is by using your email account. Open the Mail app on your iPhone/iPad, find the message with the OVPN file, and tap on the file. Then, select "Copy to OpenVPN," and OpenVPN Connect will import the required profile.
- The OVPN file will now be copied to the OpenVPN Connect app. You need to tap "Add" to add the VPN profile. This is when you'll be asked for your username and password - so go ahead and type in your NordVPN credentials.
- You can repeat this process for additional servers that your VPN service offers. And once you're ready to start using those servers, use the OpenVPN Connect app to connect and disconnect from servers.
It's interesting to note that some VPN services support the OpenVPN protocol - but they don't offer this protocol via their official iOS app. The only way to take advantage of OpenVPN is by going through the procedure mentioned above.
Method #3: Setup a VPN on iPhone/iPad Manually
Finally, there's also a third method of setting up and configuring a VPN on your iPhone or iPad. For this purpose, your VPN needs to provide you with certain information, including its server addresses.
A VPN that gives you everything you need in a clear and concise way is ExpressVPN (feel free to use the provided link to subscribe before you proceed). So, let's see how to use this VPN to set up a secure Web connection manually.
- First, you need to gather certain information from your VPN. This requires you to log in to your account on your VPN's website. ExpressVPN provides an easy way to check your account, so click on "Set Up Other Devices" once you log in.
- Then, click on "Manual Configuration" and make sure to select "PPTP & L2TP/IPSec." Now, this is where you'll see your custom username and password, as well as a list of server addresses. We'll need all of that information soon, so make sure to keep this Web page open.
- On your iOS device, go to Settings > General > VPN > Add VPN Configuration, which will open a new pop-up window. This is where you'll need to input certain types of information, so we'll make sure to explain this below.
- Once you add the required information, tap on "Done," and your iOS device will accept the newly added VPN configuration. This is also where you'll get to connect to individual servers you've added or disconnect from them once you no longer need them. Also, keep in mind that you can repeat this procedure to add additional servers.
All there's left is to explain what different fields mean in the "Add VPN Configuration" panel. So, make sure to go with the following settings:
- Type: Make sure to select "L2TP."
- Description: You need to input a recognizable name, as this is how you'll get to identify your VPN connection later on.
- Server: This is the server address of the server you want to add. So, return to ExpressVPN's website (your account dashboard), where you'll find various server addresses. For example, the current address of ExpressVPN's NYC server is nyc1-ubuntu-l2tp.expressprovider.com (don't copy this address; you need to check if there's a new one available instead).
- Remote ID: You can go with "expressprovider.com" for this field.
- Username: Again, go back to ExpressVPN's website to find your custom username. This is usually a string of numbers and letters.
- Password: Once again, you'll find your custom password back on ExpressVPN's website, so make sure to use that one (and now your "regular" VPN password).
Remember that you need to use the Settings app to control your VPN connection. So, each time you want to connect or disconnect, launch the Settings app and switch the toggle you'll see next to "VPN."
Does an iPhone Have a Built-In VPN?
Yes, iPhones come with a built-in VPN functionality (Settings > General > VPN). You can use it to configure and set-up VPN connections. Also, you can use it to connect and disconnect from VPN servers. However, this isn't a VPN, per se. You still need an active VPN subscription to use this functionality.
Should I Add a VPN Configuration on My iPhone?
There's no reason not to recommend adding a VPN configuration on your iPhone. This is perhaps the best way to safeguard and preserve your digital privacy. However, make sure to pick a suitable VPN if you want to install VPN configurations manually - such as NordVPN.
How Do I Setup a VPN on My iPhone Without an App?
You can setup a VPN without an app by going to Settings > General > VPN. Tap on 'Add VPN Configuration' and fill out the required information. For a more in-depth explanation, make sure to carefully read our instructions above.
What's the Easiest Way to Activate a VPN on iPhone?
The easiest way to activate a VPN on iOS by installing its app. If you're looking for the fastest way to get started (and the best way to protect your privacy), our strong recommendation is to use ExpressVPN (it comes with highly polished iOS and iPadOS apps).
Are There Free VPNs for iPhone? Are They Safe to Use?
You'll find many free-of-charge VPNs on the iOS App Store. However, we recommend staying away from those as far as possible. Free VPNs aren't safe to use - as they come with strict limitations, can endanger your privacy, and they can collect your personal data.
That's it - you've reached the end of our guide on how to install a VPN on iOS. Finally, keep in mind that we're here for all our readers. In case you have any questions, don't hesitate to post a comment below - and we'll make sure to respond as soon as possible.