There are tons of usable, effective mobile VPN apps available to keep you protected on the go as well as at home – and the more we rely on mobile devices, the more essential having a great mobile VPN app is going to become.
These apps offer a huge amount of flexibility and can provide mobile users with far more than just a way to keep your device safe when using unsecured public Wi-Fi – although they still do that, and they do it well.
The best mobile VPN can give you access to geo-blocked streaming services, secure your sensitive data, help you avoid annoying targeted ads and evade governmental internet restrictions if you live in a country that has a record of censoring the web.
What makes a great mobile VPN app?
First things first, your mobile VPN app should come from a quality provider with a history of excellent service. A great example is list-topper ExpressVPN, which not only offers class-leading desktop apps, but matches them with simple, powerful, easy-to-use and reliable mobile VPN apps. If the ‘real’ thing is great, the mobile version has a good chance of being great, too.
That leads us onto design. Mobile apps in general rely on clear, simple design to engage users and assist them with getting the most out of the experience – be that games, social media, or fitness apps. The best VPN apps follow suit, and distil what can be a complex and technical product into a simple one-click app.
For those who need it, it may be beneficial for mobile VPN apps to have extra features like split tunnelling, a kill switch, a range of protocols and auto-connect. While these are often available on desktop clients, VPN apps can lack power and only the best are truly fully featured.
As mentioned above, ExpressVPN tops this list because both its desktop and mobile VPN apps are polished, powerful pieces of software that make staying protected online extremely easy. However, there’s stiff competition in this area, so read on to find out who puts a challenge.
The best mobile VPN apps today
If you're looking for the flat-out best mobile VPN app, look no further than ExpressVPN (read our full ExpressVPN review here). 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, though, you'll be able to open up Express's list of over 3,000 servers, which provide class-leading speeds just about wherever you are. You'll also be able to access tons of overseas Netflix libraries, plus BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video 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 VPN apps only allow 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 (although it might be a challenge to actually use five phones at once).
If you want the easiest, most powerful and most reliable mobile VPN app 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 it before you truly 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?
Surfshark is pretty new to the game, but it's 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 bang for buck, it's a great choice.
The VPN 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 providers 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 less than $2 a month, it's one of the best value VPNs out there, especially considering it has a brilliant unlimited connections policy.
While it can't compete with ExpressVPN in terms of power and sheer speed, Surfshark offers a seriously tempting package of useful mobile VPN apps, bargain pricing, and unlimited device support.
Sign up on the Surfshark website now.
As a stalwart of the online security game, it's no surprise NordVPN has developed some excellent mobile VPN apps to sit alongside its powerful desktop clients. Covered by the same 2048-bit double encryption as their PC brethren, the apps are super secure and offer users real privacy.
Nord's VPN 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.
One downside to NordVPN's apps, however, is the design. The mobile VPN apps share 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 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 VPN apps are extremely functional and simple to use, and will certainly appeal to those who seek maximum security in their VPN.
Sign up on the NordVPN website now.
US-based IPVanish is one of the oldest names in the game, and has developed a reputation for reliability and security. Its mobile VPN apps offer far more in-depth information than its rivals, and it's up to the users whether this is a benefit or a negative.
As soon as you open up the app you'll be able to connect in one tap, and from then on you'll be presented a scrolling graph of your data transfer. While not quite as maximalist as its desktop cousins, there's still a lot of data available, and makes a welcome change from the super-simple interfaces other providers are gravitating towards.
Users can switch protocols, set up auto-connect, and Android users will be able to use a built-in kill switch (although iPhone owners will have to do without).
IPVanish is great for unblocking Netflix on the go, but be aware that in our testing it was unable to access BBC iPlayer outside of the UK – worth noting if you're a Brit going abroad and still want to watch BBC TV.
On the whole, while it lacks the polish of the very best, IPVanish offers a unique mobile VPN experience that has a lot of appeal – and the fresh unlimited connections policy will allow you to genuinely protect every device you own.
Sign up on the IPVanish website now.
CyberGhost is a good choice of VPN app for those who love torrenting and streaming. While the mobile VPNs are pretty simple, CyberGhost is priced keenly and can do pretty much all most users will need.
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.
At $2.10 a month if you go for the longest plan, it's an affordable option – but 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 app 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 on the CyberGhost website now
Best mobile VPN app FAQ
What can I use a mobile VPN app for?
Using a mobile VPN app 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.
Using a mobile VPN app 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 VPN apps 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.
What features should a mobile VPN app have?
It's good to ensure your mobile VPN app provider has a no-logs policy, which means it will never record any identifying data about you or your VPN use. 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 app.
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 app?
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 and a few YouTube videos uses.
On top of that, they're not as fast as a premium services – and it's worth being aware that these 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 a month – is absolutely worth the investment.