All of the best VPN providers have usable mobile VPN applications in their lineups – after all, the longer we spend on our phones and tablets, the more we rely on them for storing and transferring sensitive information. However, there are a lot of less-than-perfect 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 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 ads, evade governmental web blocks and more – all while securing your data when connected to public Wi-Fi.
What makes a great mobile VPN?
First things first, your mobile VPN 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 clients, but matches them with simple, powerful, easy-to-use and reliable mobile apps. If the ‘real’ thing is great, the mobile version has a good chance of being great, too.
That leads us onto design. Mobile VPNs 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 top VPNs 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 useful 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, you could find your mobile VPN lacks power, and only the best are truly fully featured.
As mentioned above, ExpressVPN tops this list because both its desktop and mobile offerings 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 the five best mobile VPNs on the market today.
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. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure
As far as VPNs go, NordVPN is just about the most well-known. On mobile it delivers great speeds and decent apps, all alongside swift, reliable connections. For $3.71 a month it's a great deal – it's no wonder it's one of the most popular options on the market.View Deal
The best mobile VPNs today
If you're looking for the flat-out best mobile VPN, 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, 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?
While Surfshark isn't as established as some of its rivals, 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 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 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 to the best cheap mobile VPN on the market
Surfshark is a great choice if you want to ensure your data is private when you're on the go but don't want to pay through the nose for it. At just $2.49 a month on a 12-month + 12 months free plan, it's the best-value way to keep your data safe – plus you'll also have a 30-day guarantee to claim back your money if it turns out it's not for you.View Deal
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 2048-bit double encryption as their PC brethren, the apps are super secure and offer users real privacy.
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.
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.
US-based IPVanish is one of the most well-established names in the game, and has developed a reputation for reliability and security. Its mobile VPN offers far more in-depth information than its rivals', and it's up to the users to decide whether this is a benefit or not.
As soon as you open up the app you can 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 it 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 VPN users 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 abroad and 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.
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.
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.
Best mobile VPN app FAQ
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.