Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are an essential privacy tool in the modern online world. Thanks to their ability to shield your IP address and spoof your location, VPNs are a great way to work around geo-blocking, surf privately, and avoid the risk of theft when buying goods or communicating. But did you know that you can also install a VPN on your mobile as well as desktop or laptop computers? In fact, there are plenty of excellent reasons to install a mobile VPN on your smartphone, whether you are using an aging Huawei model orcutting-edgedge iPhone.
Let’s learn more about what these VPNs are, and why you might want to install one on your mobile phone.
What is Mobile VPN all about?
Mobile VPNs are simply VPNs that have been adapted specifically for iOS and Android operating systems. Like computer-based VPNs, they work by creating a “tunnel” between your phone and the servers you use to access the internet.
As soon as data leaves your device, the mobile VPN encrypts every byte using military-grade ciphers. The VPN then routes this data via servers which could be on the other side of the world, before sending it to your desired destination.
Typically, mobile VPN services will use protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec, L2TP/IPSec or a mixture of SSL and TLS, but a good VPN for mobile will have more than just one protocol.
Because of the way cell phones work, mobile VPNs need to be a bit more sophisticated than other forms. For instance, they may need to deal with transitions from 4G to Wi-Fi as you move around town. When you travel abroad, roaming issues can arise as you shift between networks. And mobile-based VPNs also have to do more with less. Smartphone resources tend to be more limited than computer resources, so VPN tools have to be efficiently coded and have the smallest possible memory footprint.
For all of these reasons, it makes sense to take care when choosing a VPN on mobile devices. We’ll look a little more at how to make your decision in a moment, but first let’s run through a few very good reasons to install a VPN on your mobile device.
Why would you use a VPN on mobile devices?
There are plenty of great reasons to protect your data when surfing the web via a mobile device, both on a professional and personal level.
Protecting work data
Many people use their smartphones for work purposes. That’s great, but when you move between coffee shops or conference center wi-fi points, your data can be extremely vulnerable to eavesdroppers. That’s why many companies insist on remote workers using a VPN when they work outside the office
Accessing streaming services
Increasingly, we love to stream entertainment via our mobile phones. Again, that’s a big step forward, but these services can sometimes be blocked depending on our location. VPNs allow you to pretend you are located anywhere in the world, making the geo-blocking measures used by services like Netflix, ESPN or the BBC irrelevant.
If you are one of the millions of people who love to shop with your smartphone, having a VPN installed could be a life saver. Americans lose around $800 million to phishers every year, and with a VPN installed, you can minimize your exposure to similar scams.
Secure Skype calls
Using a VPN for mobile won’t generally protect your normal voice calls from snoopers, but it can encrypt data-based voice services, such as Skype, allowing you to talk to anyone in the world cheaply and securely. That’s a particularly big deal in repressive regimes.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a notorious weak spot for hackers, and there’s always a small risk of falling victim to ransomware or other viral attacks. VPNs make this kind of assault much harder to mount.
Improved streaming performance
This may sound counter-intuitive, but VPNs can actually improve mobile performance when you use them with apps like Speedify, which allows you to combine multiple internet connections on one device.
Finally, VPNs are a great way to provide a reliable layer of security for general web browsing and email communications. If you have ever been the victim of cyber crime or you don’t trust your ISP, a VPN can put your mind at rest.
These are all good reasons to install a VPN on mobile devices, but are there any drawbacks? Well, there’s a risk with some VPNs that the servers won’t deliver great bandwidth or speeds, which can be frustrating. But that’s not a universal. In fact, most high-quality mobile VPN services are hard to notice when they operate in the background.
How to choose a VPN for mobile
We know that there are many excellent reasons to choose a VPN for mobile, but what should you think about when selecting the right VPN for your needs?
Firstly, don’t choose a VPN which keeps any kind of customer logs. The worst VPN providers collect data from users and may well sell this on to marketers (or hand it over to authorities). There should be a privacy statement on the VPN’s website, so give it a read through to double check that logging isn’t an issue.
Secondly, check that the VPN is optimized for mobile users. For instance, relatively few mainstream VPNs offer OpenVPN (the gold standard in privacy) for iPhones. But some do, and they will be the best options to go for. Alternatively, IKEv2 ir also a very good security protocol.
Another thing to think about is the ability to use the VPN on multiple devices. Some VPNs offer packages for desktops and smartphones, or for multiple smartphones. If you need a service for work, this could be the type to choose.
In any case, you’ll usually get what you pay for. But read reviews and check the specs of each VPN, and you’re sure to find a mobile VPN which fits the bill.