Many governments, schools and universities, and businesses use web filters to block users from viewing content. And with the wide proliferation of handheld devices, like smartphones, tablets, and even smart watches, accessing the internet can be done even more easily – and if you’re trying to save data, blocked sites quickly become a nuisance.
While there are plenty of legitimate reasons to abide by the web filters you run into, like reducing distraction at work or conserving bandwidth, even the best filters can block access to more sites than intended. So whether you’re the victim of one of these filters that’s blocking access to sites you need, or you just want to get around a block for another reason, there are many ways you can accomplish this. But by and large the best one is to use a VPN. In this guide, we’ll take you through some considerations to keep in mind when looking to access blocked sites on your mobile device, show you some VPNs we chose to help you access those sites, and finally talk about some additional things VPNs are good for.
- 1 Look for these things in a VPN
- 2 VPNs that unblock sites on mobile
- 3 Access blocked sites on your mobile
- 4 Can’t I just use a proxy/Google translate/Public DNS/etc.?
- 5 Wrapping up
Look for these things in a VPN
Although there are plenty of other options available, we believe VPNs are the best way to access blocked sites on your mobile device. Not only can they unblock sites, but they keep your activity and identity private ands safe through end-to-end encryption methods.
But when you start researching VPNs, you’ll find a lot of confusing information out there – and another thing: there are a lot of VPNs. Lucky for you, we’ve taken the time to develop a list of criteria you should keep in mind. These are the qualities you should look for in a good VPN for unblocking websites on mobile – and most any device.
- Device compatibility – If the VPN doesn’t have software for your mobile device, it’s no use to you. So we took this quality as qualifier #1.
- Encryption – A strong reason to get a VPN is for security, so we made sure each of the VPNs we recommend here have powerful encryption. Plus, to be truly safe, your VPN needs to have a solid zero-logging policy on your activity. If they’re keeping records on your activity, that’s a hole in your security. The VPNs here have good policies against this.
- Speed – VPNs have a reputation for slowing your internet connection down. This happens because you’re rerouting all your information through a different, encrypted server. But, whatever it is you want to do online, no one likes lag or buffering. Each of the VPNs we’re going to suggest have been tested for their speed capabilities on other posts (to which we’ll include links) – and passed with flying colors for their ability to stream, download, and more.
- Network size – The size of your VPN’s network is another important thing to look at. A larger, reputable provider will be able to offer you many more servers to choose from, helping you bypass blocks just about anywhere.
VPNs that unblock sites on mobile
Those criteria out of the way, here is our list of VPNs that will help you access blocked sites on your mobile device:
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest providers on the market. With their unlimited bandwidth, no speed caps or throttling, and zero restrictions on P2P networks and torrents, you get buffer-free streaming, fast downloads, and seamless browsing. They’re not just fast, either: they’re big and strong, too. ExpressVPN has more than 2,000 servers in 94 countries and 256-bit AES encryption – so you have plenty of servers to choose from for your use-case and military-grade encryption keeping you safe while you surf.
ExpressVPN offers software for a wide array of devices, including apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad. You can connect up to 3 devices at once and even route only some of your activity through the VPN with a split-tunneling feature.
Check out our full ExpressVPN review to find out more.
NordVPN is a bear of service provider: they have 5,200+ servers scattered across 62 countries, making them the largest in the industry. Alongside being one of the fastest VPN providers available – perfect for streaming and downloading – NordVPN has a great track record of accessing Netflix and Hulu libraries around the world. With the best AES encryption on the market, NordVPN keeps your data hidden and secure, and offers advanced features that make staying safe and private a cinch.
Of these features, NordVPN’s specialty servers are worth noting: they’re nodes that are dedicated to specialty use-cases, like P2P networks, and obfuscated servers for hiding the fact that you’re using a VPN. Finally, NordVPN has software for iOS and Android devices, as well as many computer operating systems, like Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Learn more about this great provider in our NordVPN review.
CyberGhost has a middle name: ease. Because that’s what you’ll get with CyberGhost – an easy-to-use, simple, and minimalistic experience. You get the option to use 6 simple, pre-configured profiles that automatically apply some of the best settings for various use-cases. So if you just want to surf or torrent anonymously, there’s profiles for those. Want to unblock some basic websites? That’s another profile. And each one is customizable with toggles that block malicious websites, ads, and online tracking, as well as options for extra speed.
But CyberGhost is no slouch, either. They have more than 3,100 servers across 59 countries and 256-bit AES encryption. They also log almost nothing at all – they don’t even keep your email address when you sign up. CyberGhost is fast, too, giving you unlimited bandwidth, high connection speeds, and no speed caps or throttling.
Finally, CyberGhost lets you connect to as many as 5 devices at once, including iOS, Android, and Windows, Mac, and Linux.
If you want more detail, take a look at our full CyberGhost review.
If you want to access the entire web from your mobile phone with no restrictions, PrivateVPN is worth your consideration. First, the service comes with a suite of apps including ones for iOS and Android. This means that installing on any common, popular device – from an iPad to all recent iPhones to any Android phone – is easy to do in minutes. Furthermore, if you want to install on a desktop later, there’s a free remote installation service that helps you do just that quickly and easily. As an added bonus for mobile users, PrivateVPN’s apps are intuitive and well-designed with all the features you might want always a click away.
Besides being mobile device-friendly, PrivateVPN comes with a number of cool features. For example, you get up to 6 simultaneous connections per household. This means that you can connect an iOS device, an Android device, two tablets, a WiFi router, and still have a connection left over. You also get strong security thanks to AES-256 bit encryption that uses 2048-bit keys. This technology is so tough that a supercomputer would need quadrillions of years to crack a single key (on average). Combined with a zero-logging policy that doesn’t track any data that can be traced back to you with any consistency, this means that cracking your data is virtually impossible. Last but not least, bandwidth, speed, and server switches are all unlimited, meaning you can do anything you want, including streaming from your mobile device, without worrying about traffic limits or speed caps.
Learn more in our comprehensive PrivateVPN review.
PureVPN is a top choice for users who want to unblock mobile websites without paying a large subscription fee. For starters, the app comes with a large selection of apps that make installing and using the VPN easy. Android and iOS devices are available from their respective app stores, and you can also install PureVPN on your desktops and WiFi routers for more protection. The mobile apps are easy to install and use, and feature-rich compared to other VPN providers’ apps. Moreover, you get up to 5 simultaneous connections to use with whichever devices are in your household. This means you can split your PureVPN membership with a roommate or family member for further savings.
In addition to being mobile-friendly, PureVPN is also powerful. With 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries, you can get an IP address from virtually anywhere. The large server network also means that mobile connections will be fast and low-latency, which is perfect if you want to stream, play video games, and enjoy other high-speed activities online. All servers are equipped with high-speed connections, and there are dedicated streaming and P2P servers if you like watching online videos and torrenting files. There’s even an anti-ISP throttling feature that lets you remove artificial speed restrictions set by Internet Service Providers. All in all, if you want a top VPN service without having to pay a lot of money, it’s hard to go wrong with PureVPN.
Access blocked sites on your mobile
Accessing blocked sites on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other device is actually pretty easy to do when you know the steps. Once you’ve picked a VPN to go with, just follow these instructions:
- Visit your chosen VPN’s site and go to their “plans” page. Pick a plan, fill out the information requested, and download the app. For many mobile devices, especially Apple and Android products, you may have to visit your device’s app store to do this. We recommend following any links the VPN service provides directly on their sites – this will help you avoid fake imitators.
- Once you’ve downloaded the app, install it to your device, then launch the app. Once you’ve done so, login with the VPN credentials you created when you signed up.
- Now that you’ve launched the app and signed in, your VPN will automatically connect you to the fastest server available. If you’re just trying to bypass school/university/workplace filters – perfect. But if you other preferences in mind, you can visit the VPN’s server list and search for or select a different server to connect to.
- Once the connection the VPN server resolves (this will take a few moments), you’ll be set. Open your browser and take it for a spin.
Can’t I just use a proxy/Google translate/Public DNS/etc.?
We mentioned there were some other ways to access blocked sites, and you’ve probably heard of a few of them. But quickly, here’s an overview of some of the more popular methods:
- Proxies – Proxy servers are websites that serve as “middle men” between your mobile and the blocked site you wish to access. Instead of your device communicating directly with the site you wish to access (which is blocked to you), the proxy views the website for you. It acts as a camouflage of sorts that hides the blocked site from the ISP.
- Translation services – Online translation services, like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Yahoo Babel Fish act similarly to proxy services. This works by asking one of these services to “translate” a website from English into English (or your chosen language).
- Google Public DNS – Another way to get around blocks is to “tell” your device to connect to a different DNS. When you visit any webpage, your device will perform a DNS lookup. If your DNS comes from a network where the site you’re trying to visit is blocked, you won’t be able to visit it. Using Google’s Public DNS allows you change your DNS to one that belongs to a different, unblocked network.
Why paid VPNs are the best choice
Although these options can be tempting, and there are more, they come with problems. Each of these methods isn’t a sure-thing to get through every time, as some filters are quite sophisticated (just look at China’s Great Firewall for an extreme example), and setting up these other methods can take time.
But more importantly, these methods don’t provide anywhere near the level of security that VPNs give you. Proxies might have some encryption, but it’s not all-encompassing. If you’re just looking to bypass some blocks at work or school to watch videos on YouTube, this might not seem like a big deal. But consider this: it’s very easy for 3rd-parties to eavesdrop on what you do online. Your ISP aside, if your employer catches you viewing content they deem “inappropriate,” you could get in major trouble.
If you doubt us, just think about all the apps available for tracking your kids’ activities, your spouse or significant other, or the wealth of options open to employers to keep an eye on their employees’ online use.
A VPN, in contrast, takes just a single click to connect once you’ve installed it to your device. It connects you to the internet through an encrypted tunnel that’s an end-to-end, to-and-from the server system which jumbles your data into unrecognizable shapes. This hides your activities, true IP address, and your DNS, hiding your from view from your ISP, employer, and other network administrators and 3rd-parties.
Other things VPNs are good for
As if that’s not enough, VPNs provide even more advantages than the other options available – they don’t just take care of annoying blocks. We’ve already touched on the encryption – and thus security – they provide, so here are some other things VPNs can do for you:
- Stream, download, and torrent without slowing down – Streaming videos, whether from YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu, uses up a lot of bandwidth, as does P2P file-sharing services like BitTorrent. If your ISP sees that you’re using a lot of bandwidth, they’ll “throttle” your connection, drastically reducing your speed. By using a VPN, your activity is hidden from your ISP. This means that if they can’t see what you’re doing, they can’t throttle your speeds – so you can stream, download, and torrent to your heart’s content.
- Watch streaming programs from other countries – Many popular TV channels, like ABC, Discovery Channel, and BBC, offer their programs free-of-charge on their websites, but you have to be located in their country of origin. Subscription streaming providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer offer different movies and TV shows depending on where you’re located in the world.By using a VPN to spoof your IP address to a TV channel’s country of origin, you can take advantage of these free TV shows online. Likewise, if you want to view Netflix’s content library for France, you can choose an IP address located there to do so.
- Get better prices online – Shopping online is a tremendous asset of today’s digital age. Cyber Monday is a testament to how popular it has become – and it’s easy to see why. You get access to a much wider range of products than you normally would – yet there’s a catch. If you’re shopping online in the U.S., you may find yourself paying more for an item being shipping from Sweden than you would if you were shopping from, say, India.Online stores will often adjust prices to reflect the customer’s country of origin. You can use a VPN while you shop online to see which country’s IP address will give the best price on an item.
Blocked sites are a common-place thing – schools, universities, workplaces, even governments employ them to prevent internet users from accessing content. And whatever your reason for wanting to get around these restrictions, there are a lot of tempting ways to do so. By allowing you to “spoof” yourself to another location using your VPN server’s IP address, you can access those blocked sites – and keep yourself safe from online threats while doing so.
Have you used any of these methods to access blocked sites on your mobile device? How did they go? Have you tried a VPN? Have you used one for any of the other purposes we mentioned here? Let us know your thoughts and stories in the comments section.