Whether you prefer to use an Android phone or an iPhone, a top-performing VPN for mobile is a good way to improve your privacy while you’re on the go. The best mobile VPN can help you avoid intrusive, location-based advertising and prevent your internet provider from tracking which sites you visit. It will also give you an extra layer of protection when you’re logging into your personal sites on public Wi-Fi. A bonus is that a VPN comes in handy for dodging restrictions on your favorite streaming services while you travel.
The battle for the best mobile VPN has been ramping up as the industry’s three biggest providers continue to roll out competitive privacy apps for iPhones and Android devices. Apple and Google have both recently broadened their mobile encryption offerings as well. But if you’re serious about your mobile privacy, nothing can take the place of an unaffiliated and independent VPN on your phone. That’s what you’ll find here in our list of recommendations for the best mobile VPN.
Keep in mind that there may be limits to the privacy VPN services currently offer iOS users. According to recent independent research, iOS (and some MacOS) users’ browsing and internet data may be sent to Apple despite the protections offered by an encrypted VPN tunnel. We’ll continue to update our recommendations as more information surfaces around this issue.
This is essentially a subset of our main best VPN list. That’s due to the fact that during our VPN research and hands-on testing process, we closely scrutinize each service’s mobile VPN app experience. While not every service is the best VPN to use with your phone, an increasingly mobile-first approach among most top VPN service providers has, in this case, paid off for subscribers. Most recently, the reigning champions on CNET’s overall best VPN list have made competitive strides with their product’s mobile VPN offering for both Android and Apple devices, and we expect that trend to continue.
For that same reason, this best mobile VPN list currently reflects the same rankings you’ll find on this list of the best iPhone VPNs and the best Android VPNs. If and when a VPN provider offers a mobile client more closely tailored to the environment of either of those phones, you’ll see those changes reflected in their respective directory.
As always, I strongly urge you to avoid free VPNs and instead use a thoroughly tested, paid VPN whenever possible. I’m actively working on more testing and research, so keep checking back. This list will be updated periodically as CNET stays on top of security improvements, user-friendliness, speed rankings and cost value for each of these mobile VPN apps.
- Latest tests: No leaks detected, 2% speed loss in spring 2022 tests
- Network: 3,000-plus servers in 160 locations across 94 countries
- Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- Price: 5 simultaneous connections for $13 per month, $60 for six months or $100 for a year (current discount: 3 months free). 2-year subscriptions available.
ExpressVPN is currently the fastest VPN we’ve tested in 2022, causing us to lose less than 2% of our total internet speeds. Its apps for iOS and Android are designed with a streamlined approach aimed at connecting fast without a fuss. A single button on its landing screen directs you to connect quickly, with the only accompanying option a drop-down server location selector with your fastest nearby city selected by default.
ExpressVPN’s other options — its security and privacy tools, account and settings options, and support page — are all kept neatly tucked away under a garden variety three-bar icon in the screen’s top left corner. And they’re worth checking into. ExpressVPN has included an onboard IP address checker, along with two leak testers and a password generator.
In the past year, ExpressVPN increased its independent third-party audit count, published details about its TrustedServer deployment process, joined the i2Coalition to call for improved VPN industry ethics, and released an open source Lightway encryption protocol.
All of our top-rated VPNs have wide compatibility across platforms and operating systems, but ExpressVPN’s collection of setup guides, detailed FAQs and troubleshooting articles give it a clear advantage for users. So does its 24/7 customer support, and its no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee.
The company has been in business since 2009, and ExpressVPN has a substantial network of more than 3,000 RAM-only servers spread across 160 locations in 94 countries. ExpressVPN’s best plan offers five simultaneous connections for $100 a year (which includes three extra months, for a limited-time deal totaling 15 months of service). You can also opt for a $13 per-month plan, or pay $60 for six months.
- Latest tests: Zero data leaks and 19% internet speed loss
- Network: 3,200-plus in 99 countries
- Jurisdiction: Netherlands
- Price: Unlimited connections for $48 for the first year (then $60 annually) or $13 per month. 2-year subscriptions available.
Surfshark boasts an impressive suite of privacy and security features, unlimited simultaneous connections, easy-to-use interface and expansive global network. And it’s still significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. That’s what helped Surfshark earn CNET’s Editors’ Choice for Best Value VPN in 2022.
Along with standard VPN features such as a kill switch and DNS leak protection, some of the more notable Surfshark features include camouflage mode (which hides the fact you’re using a VPN), split-tunneling, NoBorders mode (which lets you use Surfshark in regions where VPNs are restricted) and multihop VPN connections. You’ll also get access to Surfshark’s CleanWeb technology, which blocks ads and malware and helps you avoid phishing attacks.
One innovation we’re excited to see Surfshark roll out over the next year is its Nexus network, which connects the VPN’s entire network of servers together and allows you to choose multiple servers to route your connection through. The functionality is somewhat similar to Tor, but Surfshark says it’s faster. With its Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator functions, the Nexus network can give you a few extra layers of protection while you use the VPN — which can be particularly beneficial to users with critical privacy needs.
Surfshark says it doesn’t log any user activity. And although no-logging claims are virtually impossible to prove with 100% certainty, German cybersecurity firm Cure53 declared Surfshark’s security to be “solid” in its 2021 security audit of the VPN. Surfshark says a new audit is forthcoming by the end of this year.
Surfshark rates consistently as one of the fastest VPNs available, which is why we were surprised that one of the only issues we had with Surfshark came in our speed test. While it still ranks as one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested — with an internet speed loss of just 19% — we were disappointed with the inconsistent speed results we got to certain locations. Speeds to Europe and Singapore were erratic (dipping as low as 9Mbps to Singapore), while speeds to New York were slower than speeds to the UK and even Australia. Surfhark is in the process of significantly expanding its server network, now offering more than 3,200 servers in 99 countries. The continued expansion of its server network could potentially help bring some more consistency to the VPN’s speeds.
In our tests, Surfshark had no problems unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content, but we did run into a fair bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus. After testing various servers in the US and other countries where Disney Plus is available, we were finally able to access the content when we connected to a server in Boston. You may need to test a few servers yourself before gaining access to Disney Plus content with Surfshark.
Surfshark offers cheaper introductory prices that jump after the first billing cycle. Even so, Surfshark manages to keep its prices lower than most other VPNs — helping it earn CNET’s Editors’ Choice for Best Value. The yearly plan starts out at $48 for the first year, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you’ll pay $60 upfront for the initial two years combined, then $60 per year for any additional years. Surfshark’s monthly plan stays constant at $13 a month. If you’re not satisfied with the service for any reason, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Latest tests: No leaks detected, 13% speed loss in summer 2022 tests
- Network: 5,600-plus servers in 84 locations across 59 countries
- Jurisdiction: Panama
- Price: 6 simultaneous connections for $12 per month or $60 for a year (current discount: 3 months free). 2-year subscriptions available.
NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, for those looking for a different level of VPN connection, and the ability to VPN into Tor. More than half of Nord’s 5,000-plus server fleet is optimized for peer-to-peer sharing, though Nord has blocked torrenting in 14 countries.
In our latest test rounds we noticed a few hiccups in Nord’s killswitch when using its iOS app, which could be a concern for torrenters. However, Nord has a sideloaded iOS available on its website that it recommends for users. In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN’s performance recovered from middling speed scores of 2021 and zoomed back into the ranks of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, causing us to lose just 13% of base internet speeds.
NordVPN doesn’t accept PayPal payments, but you can purchase a subscription with any major credit or debit card, AmazonPay, Google Pay or ACH transfer. If you’d rather pay anonymously, you can pay with a variety of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether and Dogecoin. NordVPN has also partnered with a handful of retail stores like Staples, BestBuy and Walmart where you can even purchase your VPN with cash.
- Latest tests: DNS leaks detected, 58% speed loss in spring 2022 tests
- Network: 2,000-plus servers in 75 locations across 52 countries
- Jurisdiction: United States
- Price: Unlimited connections for $11 per month, $16 for 3 months ($30 quarterly after the first 3 months) or $48 for a year ($90 annually after the first year).
A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. With both its iOS and Android apps, IPVanish manages to pack the same extensive suite of digital knobs and dials into a smaller screen to impressive effect.
If you’re looking for the ability to do some precision-tuning to your VPN connection, IPVanish is a solid bet. From generating visual graphs of your internet activity to a bevy of switches controlling split-tunneling, LAN connection allowance and more — IPVanish is an app for the methodical tech tweaker who enjoys having exact control over their mobile traffic.
Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN.
A unique feature of IPVanish, and one we’re intrigued by, is the VPN’s support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. The integrated IPVanish Kodi plugin provides access to media worldwide.
At $11 a month or $60 a year, IPVanish VPN is obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. We’re a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee. That said, the company gets kudos for its recent increase from 10 to now unlimited simultaneous connections. We also liked its connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing.
Use a mobile-friendly VPN solution to avoid slower speeds and ensure greater data privacy for your whole device. Mobile VPNs generally have a smaller memory footprint, and require less processing power than desktop VPNs, so they run faster and save more battery. Our top three VPNs listed above all have excellent, easy-to-use mobile app options for their services. Some VPNs will only work with one type of platform — like Apple or Android — and some are universally compatible. To find the right mobile VPN for you, check out our other mobile-specific VPN guides below. We routinely update them with our re-testing information so check back often.
What’s the best free VPN?
None of them. Seriously. While there are plenty of excellent free security and privacy apps online, VPNs sadly aren’t among them. Safe VPNs cost companies a lot of money to operate and keep secure, and a free VPN app is almost always a malware-laden data snoop. But there’s good news: The burgeoning VPN market is hyper-competitive right now, so prices for even the best VPNs regularly drop to less than $5 a month. In fact, the least expensive VPN client we’ve seen so far ranks in our top three VPNs overall for security and speed. Check out our quick list of budget-savvy VPNs to find one in your price range.