Having a VPN is such a handy bit of software, it's no great surprise that you're trying to work out what the best mobile VPN app to download is.
The top mobile VPNs can do so much more than protect your data – the power to unblock regional Netflix libraries, avoid trackers and access ISP-blocked websites will be at your fingertips. Many providers have fantastically-designed mobile VPN apps for all your devices – iOS and Android universally included – and allow you to use your subscription to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi networks, access online banking securely and stream with impunity while out and about.
To make our top five list of best mobile VPNs, services must have both impeccable desktop performance and provide mobile customers exactly the same security and freedom when they’re on the move.
Today's top 3 best mobile VPN apps:
1. ExpressVPN has the best mobile VPN apps
ExpressVPN has the speed, security and simplicity of use that really makes it stand out from the crowd. That's no different on Android or iOS, which makes using a VPN on your smartphone an absolute doddle - plus, it comes with a no-questions-asked 30 day money back guarantee and 3 months extra free.
2. NordVPN - well-featured and popular mobile VPN
NordVPN's popularity is not unfounded. We personally prefer the user interface on Express, but the Nord mobile VPN really brings the goods when it comes to security and speed. And you can set it to come on automatically whenever you join an unsecure Wi-Fi network away from home.
3. Surfshark - bargain VPN for your mobile
This could well be your VPN of choice if you're after something a bit more affordable. Go for its multiyear plan and get the price down to less than $2.50 USD per month. That doesn't prevent it from being a really strong and simple-to-operate mobile VPN though, with a very friendly interface.
The best 5 mobile VPNs to download in 2021:
Best mobile VPN 2021 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan
If you’re after the best all-round mobile VPN service, look no further than ExpressVPN. This service also tops our overall best VPN list, and that’s in part due to the great functionality of its iOS and Android apps.
The apps provide a straightforward overview of all the functions available, including split tunnelling, protocol selection and location picker to name a few.
Unusually, it’s actually simpler to access some of ExpressVPN’s additional features through the app rather than the desktop client – this includes displaying your current IP, DNS or WebRTC leak detection and a secure password generator.
Both iOS and Android VPN apps are simple to install, and after a moment of authorising system permissions you’ll have your mobile device protected. A nice addition is the ability to switch servers in one tap without closing your current connection. A simple touch, but one we’d miss if it wasn’t available.
Beneath the clean app design, though, is still ExpressVPN’s renowned reliability and swift connection speeds – this is no mere facade. You’ll receive exactly the same customer support through the app as you will through the desktop client, be able to browse numerous Netflix libraries and, most importantly, keep your mobile device as secure as your desktop at home.
And talking of other devices, ExpressVPN has some of the most wide and varied compatibility of any provider out there.
Get the best mobile VPN 2021: try risk-free for 30 days
If you're still not 100% convinced, the good news is that you can try ExpressVPN courtesy of its 30-day money back guarantee. If you change your mind, you can cancel and get a full refund without quibbles. If you do sign up for a year, Express throws in an extra 3 months free - great value and a fantastic app!
While NordVPN does everything you’d expect from a premium VPN service, those who look a little deeper will notice that there are some useful, unusual features lurking under the hood. These include double data encryption and Onion support, NordVPN’s own CyberSec technology, a clear no-log policy and P2P support. Plenty going on, then.
A real plus is the high-speed proprietary NordLynx protocol built around WireGuard – which is exclusive to Linux and iOS users. Those toting an iPhone or iPad can select NordLynx and be treated to near-unaffected connection speeds while still remaining anonymous online.
We found both the iOS and Android apps slightly hindered by the choice to use the map-based location selector tool as the default view. We’d much prefer to have seen a list from the get-go, but fortunately it’s only a swipe away. Otherwise, NordVPN provides stellar mobile service, and is an especially great choice for iOS users.
Surfshark is a great option if you’re looking for one of the best value cheap VPNs around to use on your smartphone. The headline of a two-year plan for under $2.50/£2 a month is enough to draw many in, but Surfshark doesn’t scrimp on features either.
The mobile offerings are near enough indistinguishable from the easy-to-use desktop client, and include essential features like split tunnelling, plenty of server locations and a selection of protocols to choose from.
Connection speeds have proven to be stable, with Android users being treated to a choice of encryption methods, the option of using small packets to optimise mobile data use, and even a fake GPS tool to help completely spoof your location.
However, for those with more devices than USB ports to charge them from, Surfshark’s unlimited connections will be indispensable – you’ll be able to stay covered on your iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S21, Microsoft Surface Go, Mac Pro, smart TV, Wi-Fi router… With a single subscription to Surfshark, you’ll be able to protect pretty much anything you own that can connect to the internet.
Private Internet Access (also known by the abbreviated PIA) offers the basic necessities of a VPN alongside some really useful extra features – all for a great price, too. And, while the apps are pleasingly minimalist, they pack in more functionality than many desktop VPN clients.
Most VPNs have stark differences between their iOS and Android offerings, but PIA’s apps are incredibly similar – good to see if you’re a user of both, or you’ve found that your device gets the raw end of the deal from other VPNs.
Both apps offer split tunnelling, protocol switching, the choice between UDP or TCP connections, the ability to use your preferred DNS and more. There’s a lot of power here. PIA also even offers their own secure browser InBrowser – but that’s also available free without purchase of the VPN.
For a combination of usability, value and in-depth tuning of your VPN experience, PIA is a tempting proposition. And that's born out by how much the mobile VPN's users seem to like it - whether in the App Store or Play store, it consistently delivers excellent user ratings.
We realise full well that it's far from the main concern, but it's clear that Windscribe gives a lot of consideration to the way its mobile VPN apps look and feel. Whether on iOS or Android, they're fantastic apps to look at and use.
But this is a world away from style over substance, with Windscribe backing things up beneath the skin. WireGuard has now been rolled out across all clients and mobile apps, meaning that you can get faster connections and enhanced connection reliability.
Windscribe isn't in the same echelon as others on this list when it comes to choosing a VPN for streaming, but if that's not at the top of your agenda then you'll be happy with the provider's easy menu of protocols. Features like split tunnelling and a handy Network Whitelist that automatically turns on the VPN when you hit untrusted networks are also genuinely useful added bonuses.
And don't forget that Windscribe has a full free version (so not just a VPN with a free trial), letting you try before you buy. Just be wary of the data and server restrictions on that no-cost version.
Mobile VPNs: what makes a great VPN app?
When looking at mobile VPN apps, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly – and most importantly for the majority of users – is it easy to use? If you’re stuck three taps deep in a settings menu just to change your server, you’re not going have a good time using the app in the long term. Simplicity rules here, and all the VPNs on this list are clean and clear.
Secondly, make sure there’s enough functionality compared to the desktop client. Many VPNs offer incredibly in-depth settings on their PC VPN for Windows, but open the app and you might struggle to find options you’ve grown used to.
Many users won’t care about things like switching protocols or UDP/TCP, but if you do – or think you might ever have the urge to investigate – make sure the app is powerful enough for you.
Finally, value! There are a lot of top-quality VPNs out there now, so there’s no point paying through the nose for an average service. The very best will never be the cheapest (and free VPNs aren't an ideal solution), but weigh up your budget and your needs to find a happy medium.
What can I do with a mobile VPN app?
Protection on public Wi-Fi networks is at the top of the list. Whether you’re in a supermarket, on a train, at hospital or working away in a café, using public Wi-Fi exposes you to unencrypted connections, leaving your logins and personal information up for grabs.
A mobile VPN can also help you save money shopping online. Many sites charge different prices depending on your IP address, so by moving your location around you’ll be able to find the best deals on whatever you’re looking for.
Finally, everyone’s favourite trick: access geo-blocked Netflix libraries with a VPN. All the VPNs on this list can give you access to Netflix all over the world. So, wherever you are – bus, train, on the toilet – you’ll be able to watch whatever you want on your mobile device.
All you need to do is pick your choice from this list, and bask in the glory of true freedom on the internet.