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The best mobile VPN apps in 2021

The best mobile vpn app today, ExpressVPN
(Image credit: Future)

All of the best VPN providers should have great mobile VPN apps compatible with multiple devices in their line up. Thanks to the fact we're relying on smartphones and tablets more and more to replace traditional computers, it's now the norm to use online banking and transfer sensitive information using mobile operating systems like iOS and Android – so having the best mobile VPN is more essential than ever.

However, there are a lot of substandard mobile VPN listings in every app store, so how can you make the all-important choice of which to entrust with your personal information?

The best mobile VPN apps should be flexible and intuitive, and provide you with more than just a simple privacy solution. Rather, they'll give you access to geo-blocked streaming services, help you avoid targeted ads, evade governmental web blocks and more – all while securing your data when connected to public Wi-Fi.

What makes a great mobile VPN app?

First up, the top VPN for phone users should come from a respected provider with a history of excellence. Our top pick ExpressVPN is one such provider, and has been leading the way for some time now with simple, powerful mobile VPN apps, excellent privacy, and great streaming support – not to mention a killer five-star rating in our full ExpressVPN review.

For those who need them, extra features like a kill switch and split tunneling are super useful, and neat solutions like auto-connect can make using the service much easier. 

We'd also recommend going for a provider (like ExpressVPN) that has well-designed apps. You can sometimes get away with slapdash apps on desktop, but mobile VPNs need to be optimized for touchscreens, and be right up to date. So, with all that in mind, here are the best five mobile VPN services for you to choose from. 

1. ExpressVPN – the best mobile VPN available
We've ranked ExpressVPN as the best mobile VPN thanks to its intuitive apps, great speeds and fantastic reliability – and to make sure it's right for you, there's a 30-day money-back guarantee. What's more, you can also claim three months free with Tom's Guide.View Deal

2. Surfshark – the best-value mobile VPN
If you want to save as much money as possible for your next handset upgrade, Surfshark offers a serious power for just $2.49 a month. While not quite as brilliant all-round as Express, it's a great alternative for an even greater price.View Deal

3. Hotspot Shield – seriously speedy and great value
If you're after a fast, effective mobile VPN app, Hotspot Shield is an excellent choice. With a simple yet powerful interface and great connection speeds, it's lovely to use – and Tom's Guide readers can claim an exclusive price of just $2.49 a month, with a 45-day money-back guarantee.View Deal

The best mobile VPN apps today

expressvpn - the best mobile vpn app on the market

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The best mobile VPN on the market

Specifications
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, BlackBerry,
Number of servers: 3,000+
Server locations: 160
Zero-logging: Yes
Simultaneous connections: 5
Reasons to buy
+Clean, attractive apps+Great connection speeds+Wide device support+Excellent security
Reasons to avoid
-Five-device limit

If you're looking for the flat-out best mobile VPN, look no further than ExpressVPN. As soon as the app is launched it's clear that it's a professional bit of kit, but there's more to it than just a pretty face.

First things first, you're greeted by a big on/off switch, and a single tap will get you connected to the pre-selected best server. For many, this is all you'll need to know – the suggested server is pretty much always the 'right' choice, and for day-to-day security that's all you need.

If you want to access geo-blocked websites or streaming services, you'll be able to choose from Express's list of over 3,000 servers. You'll get class-leading speeds on pretty much all of them, and you'll also be able to access tons of overseas Netflix libraries, plus BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock and more.

If you want to get stuck in to configuration, you'll have a selection of protocols to choose from, check for DNS leaks on your network, activate your kill switch and enable split tunneling (although the latter is only available on Android).

If you have any trouble with ExpressVPN's apps – and, let's face it, no VPN is trouble-free 100% of the time – the 24/7 live chat support responds in seconds and has, in our experience, always been able to resolve any issues we've faced.

The only downside is that Express's mobile VPN only allows five simultaneous connections per plan – if you've got a whole ton of devices you won't be able to cover them all at the same time, but thankfully you can install the app on as many as you like and log in and out as you wish.

If you want the easiest, most powerful and most reliable mobile VPN available today, ExpressVPN is the choice for you – it really is that simple. But, if you're not happy with the service, every customer is covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can get to grips with the service before you commit.

Tom's Guide readers get 3 months free from ExpressVPN
Tom's guide readers signing up to a 12-month plan will get three months absolutely FREE. That's 15 months for the price of 12. And, don't forget that you'll be covered by the 30-day guarantee should you realise ExpressVPN's not for you. What's to lose?
View Deal

Surfshark mobile vpn app

(Image credit: Surfshark)

2. Surfshark

Unlimited connections for a bargain price

Specifications
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux
Number of servers: 1,700+
Server locations: 100+
Zero-logging: Yes
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Unlimited connections+Unbeatable price on long plans+Great speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Apps are pretty simple 

While Surfshark isn't as established as some of its rivals, after our Surfshark review it has quickly become a Tom's Guide favorite thanks to its charming simplicity and aggressive pricing. It's not going to be for tinkerers who like to adjust tons of settings, but if you're looking for a cheap, reliable mobile VPN, it's a great choice.

The app itself is nice and intuitive, and offers one-touch connection to the best server. And, while it's not as in-depth as others, it's got all the essential features like a kill switch, a selection of protocols and auto-connect. For most, that's going to be plenty.

Surfshark's a great choice for streaming fans, too, as it unblocks a host of Netflix libraries and other services, as well as maintaining great connection speeds on all but the farthest-flung servers. If you want to stay really secure you'll also be able to use Double Hop, which connects you to two servers in tandem for extra privacy. 

The biggest selling point, though, is Surfshark's price – at around $2.50 a month, it's one of the best-value VPNs out there, especially considering it has a brilliant unlimited connections policy so you really can cover all your devices.

While it can't compete with ExpressVPN in terms of power and sheer speed, Surfshark offers a seriously tempting package of a useful mobile VPN, bargain pricing, and unlimited device support.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

Hotspot Shield mobile VPN app

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

3. Hotspot Shield

Good balance of price and performance

Specifications
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac
Number of servers: 1,800+
Server locations: 80+
Zero-logging: No
Simultaneous connections: 6
Reasons to buy
+Super simple to use+Excellent speeds+Great for streaming
Reasons to avoid
-iOS app is a little underpowered

If you're after a seriously speedy mobile VPN app, Hotspot Shield could be the perfect solution for you. In our full Hotspot Shield review we saw some real improvements from the US-based provider, and it's jumped up the ranking in a number of areas.

First and foremost, Hotspot Shield is all about speed. Whether you're using a 5G connection or superfast Wi-Fi, it'll be able to keep up – we saw speeds of around 380Mbps on a 600Mbps connection in our testing, making it a seriously fast VPN.

The apps are attractive, too. On Android it's almost a carbon copy of the desktop version, with plenty of features available like an effective kill switch and Smart VPN, which is Hotspot Shield's version of split tunneling. On iOS, the pickings are slimmer, although it's still perfectly usable and does the job well.

In terms of streaming support, Hotspot is one of the best. It unblocks a number of Netflix locations, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and a whole bunch of other services.

And you'll get all that for an Tom's Guide exclusive price of $2.49 a month – seriously good value.

Sign up now on the Hotspot shield website

Nordvpn mobile vpn app

(Image credit: NordVPN)

4. NordVPN

Security giant's VPN apps are a good option

Specifications
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux
Number of servers: 5,500+
Server locations: 80+
Zero-logging: Yes
Simultaneous connections: 6
Reasons to buy
+Excellent privacy credentials+Great performance+Quite configurable
Reasons to avoid
-Not every server is P2P friendly

As a stalwart of the online security game, it's no surprise NordVPN has developed an excellent mobile VPN to sit alongside its powerful desktop clients. Covered by the same great secure software as their PC brethren, the apps are super secure and offer users real privacy – check out our NordVPN review for more info.

Nord's apps are a sound choice for those looking to stay secure on the go, and will make sure you're safe when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Also, they offer some interesting features not often seen in mobile VPNs – namely Onion over VPN, and a Double VPN feature similar to Surfshark's.

A big bonus for privacy seekers will be that NordVPN has very recently undertaken a second independent audit of its servers and privacy policy, which demonstrates a true commitment to the protection of its customers.

One downside to NordVPN's apps, however, is the design. The mobile VPN shares the same map-based interface as the desktop clients, and while that works on a large screen, devices with smaller displays make the apps feel cramped and a little tricky to use. 

That said, a swipe up will get you to a VPN server list, and in practice you'll only be spending a minute or two using the app, while the rest of your time will be spent enjoying internet anonymity.

Other than that, Nord's apps are extremely functional and simple to use, and will certainly appeal to those who seek maximum security in their VPN.

Sign up now on the NordVPN website.

cybersghost mobile vpn app

(Image credit: CyberGhost)

5. CyberGhost

Good-value provider with decent mobile VPN apps

Specifications
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux
Number of servers: 6,100+
Server locations: 110+
Zero-logging: Yes
Simultaneous connections: 7
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Specialised for streaming+Loads of servers
Reasons to avoid
-No kill switch-Lacks polish

CyberGhost is a good choice of VPN for those who love torrenting and streaming. While the mobile VPN is pretty simple, CyberGhost is priced keenly and can do pretty much all most users will need – read more in our CyberGhost VPN review.

A neat feature is split tunneling which is available on mobile, and CyberGhost also switches ports regularly to maintain your security. However, if your connection fails, you haven't got a kill switch to keep you protected, and you won't be able to change protocol either (the apps only use OpenVPN).

If you go for the longest plan it's an affordable option – but our #2 choice Surfshark is even cheaper and is the more well-rounded service. However, CyberGhost has a huge number of servers and millions of people who use them, so they must be doing something right.

If all you need is a mobile VPN to keep you safe on the go and stream content, then CyberGhost is a great choice. However, for most people, there are probably better options further up the page.

Sign up now on the CyberGhost website.

Best mobile VPN app FAQ

What is the best mobile VPN?

All options considered, we rate ExpressVPN as the best mobile VPN on the market

As soon as you open the app, it's clear it's a professional bit of kit. It's simply laid out, but in just a couple of taps you can access in-depth features and settings like a kill switch, different protocols, split tunneling, and auto-connect.

With 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, there's a huge range of locations to choose from, and almost every one delivers great speeds – plus, these should only increase with the introduction of the upcoming Lightway protocol.

And, even if none of that interests you, ExpressVPN is the best mobile VPN for accessing Netflix and other streaming services, so whatever you want it for, we reckon it's the best choice.

What can I use a mobile VPN for?

A mobile VPN is a great way to maintain your privacy when outside the house, and it's especially important to be careful when connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi. While incredibly convenient, it's a perfect place for hackers to perform man-in-the-middle attacks and compromise your data.

A VPN makes sure this won't happen by encrypting everything you send over that network, rendering it useless even if it is intercepted.

Another neat use of VPNs is the ability to stream content from other countries. If you're on holiday and want to access Netflix, you might notice your favorite shows aren't available. By using a VPN to virtually relocate yourself, you'll be able to watch the content you know and love – check out the best streaming VPN for more info.

What features should a mobile VPN have?

It's good to ensure your provider has a no-logs policy, which means it will never record any identifying data about you or your VPN uses. Even if it's forced to give evidence, it won't have anything about you to disclose.

Having reliable, fast connections is always useful. If you're out and about you might be in a rush, so it's important that you're not waiting around just because of your VPN.

Finally, it should be easy to use. Small screens are more fiddly than a huge monitor and mouse, so having a simple, clean interface is usually considered a benefit.

Can you use a free mobile VPN?

While it's possible to get a free VPN, they never come close to the usability of a paid-for service. They often come with data caps ranging from 500MB a day to 500MB a month, and you'd be surprised at how much data a quick scroll on Facebook, a few YouTube videos, and emailing some attachments uses.

On top of that, they're not as fast as a premium services – and it's worth being aware of how free VPNs make money from you, even if it isn't directly. For example, they might inject extra ads into your browser, or even sell your data to advertisers for a profit. 

We think a paid-for VPN – even if it's Surfshark at just $2.49 a month – is absolutely worth the investment.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.