How to set up a VPN on your phone

When your phone connects to the web, prying eyes can snoop on every site you visit. To protect your privacy, put a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, between your phone and the internet. Instead of connecting directly to a website, you’ll connect to your VPN’s servers, which then route you to the page. This hides your browsing from prying eyes, but it can also slow down the speed at which pages load. However, its benefits override this quibble. For example, because a VPN can connect to servers anywhere in the world, it lets you visit a video portal or a news site as if you were in a different country—which allows you to access different content as a result.

Choose a good app

When you look for a VPN, keep an eye out for networks with high speeds, strong encryption, and a no-logging policy—in other words, they won’t permanently store any information about your online activities. We recommend paying for a service rather than relying on free tools, because it takes money to run one of these networks, and if you’re not paying for it, then you don’t know how the VPN supports itself. Even if you do find a free VPN that’s legitimate and above-board (they do exist), it will often struggle to keep up decent speeds and a reliable connection.

What using a VPN is like

Mobile VPNs make the setup process simple. To demonstrate how you do it, we’ve picked a couple examples, and we’ll walk you through installing those apps on your Android or iOS device. Both platforms let VPNs run happily in the background, so when you use these apps, you won’t notice much of a difference in your phone’s function.

Many VPN apps, including the two we covered below, will start by connecting you to a recommended server, usually the one closest to you, since it will provide faster speeds. If you want to change your virtual location to a different country, you can do so easily, but be aware that the further away a VPN server is from you, the more the connection speed will lag.

Setup on Android

No matter what VPN you sign up for, the setup procedure is more or less the same. So for Android, we’ll demonstrate the setup with one of our favorite VPN apps, ExpressVPN.

In addition to its Android app, the ExpressVPN service is also available on iOS phones and most major computer operating systems. It’s fast, encrypted, and unrestricted, and the company promises not to collect data on your online activities. Through it, you can access 148 servers across 94 countries.

We’d recommend signing up for this service through its website, where the payment plans are more clearly visible than they are in the app. Depending on how many months you commit to at once, the price will vary from about $8 to $13 per month.

Setup on iOS

As on Android, most VPN apps will take you step by step through the setup process, and they’ll function similarly as well. Again, we’ll explain with a specific app, in this case, NordVPN.

NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy, puts no restrictions on bandwidth, creates apps for all major computer and phone operating systems, and offers high-speed connections to more than 4,800 servers in a total of 62 different countries.

It’s easiest to sign up for NordVPN on its website before you install the app on your phone. Depending on how much time you book at once, the service will cost about $3 to $12 per month.

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