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Home / Tips and Tricks / Do I really have to use a VPN on my phone? Yes, and it only takes 10 minutes to set up

Do I really have to use a VPN on my phone? Yes, and it only takes 10 minutes to set up


Yes, you need a VPN on your phone.

Sarah Tew / CNET

It finally happened. After the long pandemic years back, you’re at an airport or coffee shop, and you urgently need to use public Wi-Fi and save your phone’s data plan, but you’re worried about a secure connection. You’ve heard about VPNs, but they seem complicated and expensive. What must we do?

No worries. VPNs are easier to use than you think, and most are less expensive than you may have heard. Here’s how to set up a VPN on your iPhone or Android phone – and get back to safe browsing – in less than 10 minutes.

Read more: Best VPN Services of 2021

Why do I actually need to use a VPN on my phone?

Are all internet-connected apps on your phone up to date and running versions published later than, say, 2017? What about your operating system – is this the latest version of Android or iOS? If the answer to any of these questions is “I don’t know” then you should use a VPN on your phone if possible. It can be difficult for malicious actors to take advantage of everyday users on public Wi-Fi, but outdated software can give them the opening they need to steal the passwords from your most sensitive accounts.

If you’re concerned about the risks of using public Wi-Fi to check sensitive business email, bank balances, or airline ticket and passport information, a VPN can give you some peace of mind. Some of our top rated options include ExpressVPN, Surfshark and NordVPN.

Read more: NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Speed, Security and Price Compared


Choosing a VPN for your iPhone or Android doesn’t have to be difficult.

Sarah Tew / CNET

How to choose the best mobile VPN

Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, your first step is the same: find a VPN that you like and that is compatible with your device. Here’s how:

1. Browse the CNET listings of the best VPNs for iPhone and best VPNs for android. If your goal is to browse public Wi-Fi securely, look for a VPN service with servers in your current country. The general rule of thumb is the closer the hardware, the faster the connection.

2. Avoid Free VPNs. We like a 30-day warranty and a 7-day trial (en you will find a lot of it), but completely free VPNs are seldom safe and are often just a way for indecent companies to get your data.

If you want to invest in a VPN for the long term, you need more than 10 minutes of research time. But if you’re ready to take a deeper dive, CNET does reviews from many of the major players in the VPN space, and a guide to choosing the right VPN for you.

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Which VPN should you choose?


How to set up a VPN on an Android phone

Now that you’ve chosen the VPN to use, follow these steps to install it on your Android device:

1. Open the Google Play Store app on your phone and tap the search bar at the top of the screen.

2. Type the name of the VPN you want to use and select it from the list of apps that appears. Check out the app’s creator to make sure you’re downloading the official app instead of a copycat. The name of the company and the app creator must match. Click to install and wait for the app to download.

3. Once the VPN app is installed, exit the Google Play Store and return to your phone’s home screen to click and open the VPN app.

4. The first time you open a paid VPN app, you will be prompted to provide your login information or sign up for the service. If you’re asked to sign up with an email address (which is the case for almost all services), check your email for a confirmation link from your new VPN provider.

For all the apps listed in CNET’s VPN directory, the process will be largely the same – you’ll be asked to choose your preferred subscription level and pay. We always recommend choosing a service with a 30-day refund policy so you can test the ride services until you find the service you like.

Android devices need extra steps to keep a VPN permanently active in the background. We don’t recommend this for most users – a VPN that keeps running around the clock will drain your battery quickly and could force you to hit your data limit too soon if you’ve chosen a VPN provider that restricts its customers’ data .

That means almost any new VPN you use will be active by default only when you open and enable the app. Don’t forget to turn it off when you are done browsing.

Read more: Avoid these 7 Android VPN apps for their privacy sins

How to set up a VPN on an iPhone

Here’s how to run a VPN on your Apple iPhone:

1. On your iPhone, go to your Home screen and tap to view it App Store.

2. Crane the Search tab in the lower-right corner of the screen, then tap the Search box at the top of the screen.

3. Type the name of the VPN you chose and select it from the list that appears. Then tap on it To get button that appears to the right of the app name. As with any other app, you will need to confirm the installation of the app with your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.

4. Once your installation is complete, close the App Store and go back to your House screen.

5. Similar to using a VPN on Android for the first time, using a VPN on iPhone for the first time means that you will be prompted to create a new account and select your preferred subscription level. Make sure to check your email inbox for any confirmation links your VPN provider sends you if you signed up with an email address.

Almost all VPN apps will ask you to connect to an automatically selected server based on your location to facilitate browsing as quickly as possible. From now on, when you want to use your VPN, all you have to do is tap the VPN icon on your home screen before browsing the web, click the app button to connect and then go back to the VPN app and disable it when done.

There now. Didn’t I tell you it was easy?

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