How Does a VPN for iPhone Work?

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Contributor, Benzinga
February 21, 2023

The security of your data and the information you store, view and transmit online is an ever-growing priority for people across the globe. From photos to banking information, many people keep important personal data on their phones, which makes it even more important to protect devices from hackers. 

If you’ve ever seen an ad for a virtual private network (VPN) service and not known exactly what it does, you’re not alone. A VPN allows you to connect to the internet using a private channel that prevents hackers and trackers from accessing your data. 

How Does a VPN for iPhone Work?

The goal of downloading a VPN for iPhone is to protect your anonymity when you’re connected to the internet so that others can’t see what you do or where you’re from. Setting up a VPN can be complex, but most apps are straightforward and require only a few steps to get protection. 

Setup for iPhones

The first step to setting up a VPN on an iPhone is downloading the VPN’s app and working through the on-screen instructions to get started. As you search, you’ll find paid and free VPN options through both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. 

It should be noted here that VPN users should do a great deal of research before selecting the right VPN for you. Free VPNs are usually only put in place to gather information about their users and spam them with ads. While these resources can be a quick fix if you can’t spare a dime, you’ll get the best experience with a paid, reputable VPN provider like NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

Route Web Traffic to VPN Server

Usually when you perform a web search, send an email or use an app on your phone, your web traffic is sent directly through your web service provider. Along with that traffic, your IP address and what you are browsing can be easily accessed by hackers and marketers. 

This is why you tend to see so many ads for things you search for when you’re scrolling your favorite social networks. These ads are part of retargeting campaigns designed to make you find a product more attractive by nature of having seen it multiple times across sites that you visit. While these retargeting campaigns aren’t inherently harmful, they can be annoying and lead to excess spending. 

If you use public Wi-Fi regularly, a VPN helps you create your own private connection to a public internet host. This action prevents hackers who are also operating on the public Wi-Fi network from accessing your data using your connection to the internet as an entry point. Begin by researching VPNs and downloading an app before setting up your account. 

Mask Your IP Address

The purpose of your data going to the VPN client is for your IP address to become invisible to anyone who might see your browsing data. Your IP address identifies your home Wi-Fi network, and by using this number, your data can be tracked and intercepted. 

When you use a VPN, you access the internet by routing your traffic through an IP address provided by your VPN. Your IP address is not displayed on the public network; instead, potential hackers will see the masked IP address. This factor makes it more difficult to connect your identity to what you’re doing online.

Most VPN services have dozens of server options located in multiple states and countries, which have the added benefit of unlocking region-specific content. For example, you might live in the United States and want to watch a tv show streaming exclusively on Netflix U.K. By using a VPN with a server in the U.K., you can tunnel in and connect to the internet using an IP address associated with the U.K. This effectively tricks Netflix into registering your internet traffic as traffic from the U.K., providing you with access to region-locked content. 

Why Use a VPN on an iPhone?

It’s virtually impossible to live without a smartphone in today’s economy. As these devices get smarter and more capable, users rely on them more for essential day-to-day functions. As a result, the contents of your phone and the habits you have on your phone can contain vital information about your identity or even your finances. 

A VPN keeps this information from becoming public, which has several advantages to you as the user. 

  • Public Wi-Fi safety: A public Wi-Fi network can seem like a blessing when you have to check that email or send a text, but these networks are easy bait for hackers. Without a VPN, everything you do on a public network can be public knowledge. A VPN keeps your data secure.
  • Avoid tracking: While it might seem harmless to get annoying ads on your phone for the same thing over and over, the tracking of your behavior online can lead to some alarming consequences. For example, if someone could see when you searched for a new restaurant, gas station or attraction, they could likely map out your daily schedule. Using a VPN means no more annoying ads, and no more danger of hackers accessing your location data.
  • More access: VPNs are typically routed through foreign countries, and on many VPN services you can pick which country you would like your data to flow through. Because of this, you can access different accounts and break through firewalls that restrict content to certain locations only.

Drawbacks of Using a VPN on an iPhone

While VPNs are useful for maintaining privacy online, the steps it takes for a VPN to operate do create some negative aspects that you should take into account before you download. 

  • Slowed and spotty connection: Because VPNs have to be routed to a new server, your connection speeds typically are not as good as they would be without the VPN running. In the early days of VPNs, this speed loss was significant. However, today’s VPNs are able to operate more efficiently, limiting the slowdown you incur. If you’re in an emergency and need to connect to the internet immediately, turn your VPN off and use a direct Wi-Fi or data connection. 
  • Many poor providers: It’s crucial to pick a reputable VPN provider. Since so many people are uneducated about the way a VPN works, there are many so-called VPNs out there with the only goal of stealing your data rather than making it more secure.

If you are looking for a VPN, a free service is likely trying to steal and sell your data. Even when selecting a good provider, it’s possible to set up the VPN incorrectly, so to reiterate, be sure to do thorough research.

  • Anti-VPN software: If your goal in obtaining a VPN is only to stay safe and untracked online, this point won’t concern you. However, if you are researching a VPN to bypass location-specific firewalls, you may be disappointed when your VPN gets blocked. 

Providers of online streaming services have begun actively combating people trying to access their service from areas they shouldn’t, and VPN blockers are on the rise. If you are visiting an area where accessing regionally blocked content is against the law, know that international federal governments also have access to VPN blocking and detection software. Using a VPN in these areas may put you at risk of legal consequences.  

Compare VPN Service Providers

Ready to learn more about mobile VPNs? Benzinga offers insights and reviews on the following VPN service providers. Consider continuing your research using a few of the links below. 

Frequently Asked Questions


Is it worth having a VPN on an iPhone?


Many instances exist where having a VPN is worth it for the user. If you travel and use public Wi-Fi frequently or if you are concerned about being tracked online, a VPN provides a lot of value by keeping you anonymous online.


Does the iPhone have a built-in VPN?


iPhones do not have their own VPN but do allow you to access VPN clients. Typically this is done through a combination of changing settings on the iPhone and downloading the VPN provider’s app.


About Sarah Horvath

Sarah is an expert in the insurance, investing for retirement and cryptocurrency space.