Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your PC is a great way to stay anonymous on the internet while providing yourself with a secure connection utilizing end-to-end encryption. Also, VPNs are great for those who want to access location-restricted content and services, like getting access to torrent sites in countries where these sites are blocked, or accessing Twitter, YouTube, or any other webpage in countries with government-imbued website restrictions.
But what about smartphones? Can they utilize VPN services, and if they can what you can actually do with a VPN service installed on your phone?
The truth is, most popular VPN services do offer clients apps for mobile devices running Android and iOS. They are easy to set up and use, and we will provide a simple tutorial on how to use one of the most popular VPN services in the world right now, TunnelBear. But, both Android and iOS offer native VPN support, and if your VPN service of choice doesn’t offer a mobile app, you can always use it on your mobile device by setting it up manually. This method is flawed because both Android and iOS offer limited encryption protocols. On Android, you can use PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols, while iOS comes with the support for both of the aforementioned protocols in addition to IKEv2.
How to use VPN on a phone
Now, PPTP protocol is outdated and offers poor security. The combined L2TP/IPSec protocol provides solid security and should be used instead of PPTP in case you want to connect to a VPN server manually. IKEv2 protocol supported on iOS devices also provides a solid level of security. In order to manually connect to a VPN server on both Android and iOS, you have to know details about the VPN service you use such as server address, username, and password, shared key (needed for IPSec protocol), and other information. Your VPN provider should have all the info you need for manual setup, and every VPN service should support either L2TP/IPSec or IKEv2 protocols.
- You can find VPN settings on Android by opening Settings, then going to network settings.
- There you should tap on additional settings (or more, depending on your device), and then on VPN.
- Once you enter VPN settings, you should tap on Add VPN and from there, simply select the type of VPN protocol you want to use and fill out necessary info.
On iOS go to settings, General, and then tap on VPN. Then simply tap Add VPN Configuration and enter necessary info.
- Setting up a VPN connection via a mobile app is much easier. Just download the app of your choice (we selected TunnelBear), enter your credentials (or create a new account), activate VPN connection and that’s it.
- On Android you should see a key icon on the left side of the notification strip, meaning that VPN connection is active.
- While the VPN connection is active all your apps will automatically communicate with the internet via VPN and your browser will also use VPN connection automatically.
In case you want for a certain app to use regular connection you can enable that manually with most mobile VPN apps.
Now that you know how to use a VPN on your device let’s see why you might use it.
Reasons to use VPN on your phone
Making your connection secure
If you want to have an encrypted internet connection while using your email account, or while in incognito browsing mode, turn on VPN and your connection will be encrypted. Or simply use VPN all the time and make your connection secure 24/7.
VPN is also great to have (and obligatory in some cases) when you access work-related files. Some companies offer their employees VPN service when they need to work from home or when accessing company servers from a mobile device. And in case your company doesn’t provide one, it is best to use a VPN connection every time when accessing work-related documents or want to connect to your company servers.
Accessing region-restricted services and content
Sites like HBO GO, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn Radio and more offer region-restricted content. Some, like Spotify, don’t even work in lots of countries. By using VPN on your mobile device, you will be able to use all those services by simply selecting a server based in a country where a service is available. Do note that the most popular streaming site of them all, Netflix, can recognize when you use VPN and will not allow access to region-restricted content.
And when you are abroad, using VPN is a great way to have access to all of the content and sites you visit in your home country.
Keeping an encrypted connection while on public Wi-Fi networks
Public Wi-Fi networks are a security hell. Everyone can access them meaning that, unless your internet connection is encrypted, hackers can access all of the data transferred when your device is connected with public Wi-Fi networks extremely easy.
Because of this, it is recommended not to access public Wi-Fi spaces without a secure VPN connection. It is best to simply turn VPN on every time you exit your house in case you forget to turn it on before connecting with the public Wi-Fi network.
Hiding from your ISP
Internet service providers can monitor all traffic, both incoming and outgoing, from your IP address. By using a VPN, you will mask your IP address and make your traffic impossible to monitor because all data will be encrypted and invisible to ISPs.
Accessing torrent sites
Torrent sites are unavailable in many countries, and if you want to access them without worrying about breaking the law, simply turn on VPN connection, and you’re set to go!
Outsmarting government censors
Many countries block access to many social network and streaming sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Some countries block usage of popular secure chat apps like Signal, Telegram, WhatsApp, and others. In case you live in one of those countries outsmart the censors by utilizing VPN.
With a VPN connection enabled you will be able to access any site and any app blocked in your country. In other words, by using VPN, your internet will actually be free like it should be.
As you can see, using VPN on a smartphone is extremely simple. The process is maximally streamlined in case your favorite VPN provider offers a mobile app. If your service provider does not come with one, you will have to perform a manual setup. In that case, you will need to get all the necessary info for establishing the connection, which should be available from your provider.
And once you enable VPN on your mobile device, you will have access to secure connection 24/7. While a secure connection isn’t needed – except you want for all of your traffic to be encrypted – all of the time, it is highly recommended to use VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi networks because those are extremely insecure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aigerim Berzinya is the Marketing Director at Turtler GPS Ltd. and as the company’s globetrotting backpacker uses the app while hiking abroad or in the mountains to stay connected and safe.