mobile VPNs

Using a VPN lets you keep your online activities private. Many of us do just that to prevent our internet service providers from collecting and selling our personal information. But if you own a smartphone, you have another ISP when using mobile data: your carrier.

Indeed, when you use cellular data to access the internet, your ISP is your mobile phone carrier. It can see your traffic and DNS requests, which it can collect and sell. So if you really want to enhance your online privacy, it’s critical to tend to both your home ISP and mobile carrier.

This post can help with that by highlighting the current best mobile VPNs. If you’re in a rush and can’t read the whole thing, here’s a summary of our top recommendations:

  1. NordVPNThe best mobile VPN. OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2 support. Works great on mobile. No logs, excellent speeds, excellent security, and extensive streaming support. It’s easy to understand why NordVPN is our top choice.
  2. ExpressVPN – Another solid mobile VPN with OpenVPN and IKEv2 support. Over 3,000 servers in more than 94 countries. High-speed connections to secured VPN servers with strong encryption. Hard to go wrong with ExpressVPN.
  3. Surfshark – Mobile support, great speeds, a massive VPN network, and low prices are just some of the features that grant Surfshark a top spot.
  4. IPVanish – With its excellent privacy policy, robust encryption, and great speeds, IPVanish is a fantastic choice for security-minded users. It provides mobile clients, supports unlimited simultaneous connections, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  5. CyberGhost – CyberGhost provides fast speeds, has a strict no-logs policy, and includes an ads and tracker blocker—another great mobile VPN provider.

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Some things matter more than others when on mobile. Torrenting on your iPhone is probably not very high on the list. So we adapt our criteria to the review in question. Below you’ll find the criteria we used to choose the best VPNs for mobile:

  • The VPN should not log any identifying information about its users and their use of the service
  • It should use robust and up-to-date encryption standards
  • It should provide fast, reliable connection speeds
  • It should provide DNS leak protection
  • It should have a decent-sized server network
  • It should offer good streaming support (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.)

The best mobile VPNs

Here’s a list of the best mobile VPNs:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN May 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN is our top choice. It’s based in Panama, which has no mandatory data retention laws. Its server network includes over 5600 servers that support OpenVPN, WireGuard (NordLynx), and IKEv2 protocols across all servers.

NordVPN represents the gold standard for privacy and security practices in the commercial VPN space. It puts forth a solid no-logging policy, so it doesn’t collect any data about your online activities or usage of the service. It uses state-of-the-art encryption and is impervious to IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

Importantly for mobile, all of NordVPN’s apps include a kill switch, which will block all traffic from exiting your device should the VPN ever disconnect for whatever reason. This is critical on mobile, as it can be hard to tell whether you’re on VPN or not simply by glancing at your phone/tablet.

In our speed tests, NordVPN came out as one of the fastest VPN providers. That’s ideal for high-quality streaming (4K/8K). And speaking of streaming, NordVPN has some of the best streaming support in the industry.

NordVPN provides native clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon FireTV. It also supports NAS devices and routers.

Pros:

  • Excellent speeds
  • Extensive streaming support
  • Strong privacy and security practices
  • Jurisdiction has no mandatory data retention laws
  • Only supports secure VPN protocols
  • Impervious to IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Desktop apps can become unresponsive

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST MOBILE VPN:NordVPN is our top pick. It supports OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2. No logs, excellent speeds, and extensive streaming support are just some of the features that make this VPN great. NordVPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which, contrary to what some might believe, is not part of the UK. So those who are weary of Five Eyes Nations can rest easy.

ExpressVPN supports three secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN, Lightway, and IKEv2 on all of its (3000+) servers. ExpressVPN’s custom VPN protocol Lightway is open source and can be audited.

ExpressVPN’s security practices are on par with the best in the industry. It uses AES-256 encryption, 4096-bit RSA keys, and SHA256 authentication while implementing perfect forward secrecy (PFS). On top of that, all of its servers run from volatile memory (RAM) and boot from read-only disks. That setup means no remnant data (logs) can exist on the system’s hard drives. Its apps all include a kill switch, so you won’t browse the web with a false sense of security. We didn’t detect any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

All of that security doesn’t mean ExpressVPN is going to be a slouch on speed. In fact, it’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. Its streaming support is massive and even manages to work with Hulu and HBO, which are known to be more challenging to access over a VPN.

ExpressVPN provides native apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and some routers.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Excellent streaming support
  • Large server network
  • First-rate privacy and security practices
  • Easy-to-use mobile apps
  • Not vulnerable to IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support WireGuard

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

EASY-TO-USE:ExpressVPN's VPN network boasts over 3,000 servers in more than 94 countries. You get high-speed connections to secured VPN servers with robust encryption. Streaming support is excellent, and the service comes with easy-to-use apps and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our complete ExpressVPN review.

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3. Surfshark

Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is another great contender on our best mobile VPN list. While the provider hasn’t been around as long as the more established players in the VPN space, it’s one of the best providers out there (for mobile or otherwise).

The Netherlands has no mandatory data retention laws, but it’s still part of the Nine Eyes. Thankfully, Surfshark adheres to its strict no-logging and privacy policies, so it wouldn’t have anything to hand over even if law enforcement came knocking.

Beyond that, Surfshark supports OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPsec and uses 256-bit AES encryption in conjunction with a SHA512 authentication hash and 2048-bit DHE-RSA key exchange that supports perfect forward secrecy (PFS). The service isn’t susceptible to IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

All of Surfshark’s apps include a kill switch, which is ideal for mobile.

Surfshark is great for streaming, works from China, and allows unlimited simultaneous connections. It makes apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Amazon FireTV.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Fantastic streaming support
  • Allows for unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Excellent privacy and security practices
  • Works in China
  • Does not suffer from IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Jurisdiction may be off-putting despite its no-logging policy

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VALUE VPN:Surfshark works great on mobile and provides a massive network of 3,000+ servers at a low price. Surfshark gives you fast speeds, unlimited simultaneous connections, and works from China. It includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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4. IPVanish

IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish goes above and beyond when it comes to no logging. It explicitly states what data points it commits not to collect on top of disclosing what it does collect. In IPVanish’s case, it only collects aggregated and anonymous performance data for troubleshooting and optimizing the service. IPVanish is committed to collecting as little user data as possible.

Turning to security, IPVanish supports OpenVPN, WireGuard, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, and SSTP (Windows-only). And while all of these protocols are still deemed secure today, I recommend sticking with OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IKEv2. SSTP is Windows-only and is known to be on the slower side of the spectrum. And L2TP/IPsec, while not considered broken, is starting to be a bit dated. If you want to use IPsec, go for IKEv2.

IPVanish uses AES-256-bit encryption, SHA512 authentication, and DHE-RSA 2048 key exchange that supports perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for all of its protocols except WireGuard, which uses the more modern ChaCha20-Poly1305 ciphers for its encryption. When we tested the service, we found that IPVanish provided excellent speeds while impervious to DNS, IPv6, or WebRTC leaks.

Its streaming support is better than most but not as good as some. When we tested streaming over IPVanish, we could access Netflix, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. And considering that streaming over VPN is getting more challenging by the day, IPVanish’s support is not bad at all.

IPVanish’s server network is on the larger side, boasting more than 2000 VPN servers located in over 75 countries. IPVanish places no limit on simultaneous connections.

Native apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS, and Amazon FireTV. Linux is supported too, but you’ll have to manually configure your connection.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Excellent privacy policy and security practices
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Does not suffer from IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Based in the United States (Five Eyes)
  • Streaming support could be better

Our score:

4 out of 5

GREAT SECURITY:IPVanish boasts an excellent privacy policy, provides strong encryption, and still provides its users with above-average speeds. It also supports unlimited simultaneous connections, so you can connect as many devices as you like. The service also has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost was recently purchased by an Israeli company based in the UK but will remain independent and based in Romania. So the odds of your data ending up in the hands of British law enforcement should be pretty low. The company’s privacy and no-logging policies are robust and should further reassure users that their data is safe.

CyberGhost is an excellent choice for a mobile VPN with its vast server network and great speeds. In our tests, CyberGhost was one of the fastest VPNs – perfect for high-quality streaming on the go. Speaking of which, CyberGhost plays nicely with the majority of streaming services.

CyberGhost supports OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2 and uses AES-256-bit encryption and 2048-bit keys with SHA256 authentication while supporting perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for OpenVPN and IKEv2. WireGuard uses ChaCha20-Poly1305 encryption, which is also highly secure. CyberGhost did not suffer any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our testing.

CyberGhost provides native apps for Windows, macOS, Linux (CLI), iOS, and Android, and they all include a kill switch and an ads and tracker blocker. A connection can also be manually configured on supported routers.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Excellent pstreaming support
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Ads and tracker blocker

Cons:

  • UK ownership may be problematic for some
  • Apps are elementary, with few settings exposed to users

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

EXTRA FEATURES VPN:CyberGhost is another great VPN provider with mobile support. It gives you great speeds, adheres to its strict no-logs policy, and even throws in an ads and tracker blocker. It works well with streaming services and comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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How to use a VPN on mobile

Using a VPN on a mobile device isn’t any different from a desktop device. The same instructions apply. Here’s how to use a VPN on mobile:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for one of the VPN providers above. NordVPN is our top recommended choice.
  2. Download the provider’s app for your device.
  3. Refer to your provider’s setup instructions. It should be as simple as choosing a server and tapping a “Connect” button. Your VPN provider can help you with any issues you might encounter.
  4. That’s it. The VPN app will remain connected in the background.

Methodology used for testing

Below you’ll find the criteria used to assess the VPNs we review. It’s essential to be consistent across the board so that our reviews are reasonably objective and that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. For that reason, we disclose our criteria.

  • Speed – Speed is one of the most crucial factors for any VPN. Aside from being annoying, slow speeds can prevent you from streaming or browsing the web. Our recommended VPNs scored very high in our most recent speed tests to ensure we address this issue.
  • Servers worldwide – Access to various geographical regions is essential to VPN users. It helps when you want to bypass geo-restrictions. And it makes it easier to find a server that’s close to your actual location to maximize your speed.
  • Multiple protocols – You want a provider that supports more than one secure VPN protocol, because in certain situations, one may be more useful than another. OpenVPN, for example, can use TCP, which can help to bypass restrictive firewalls in some situations. So having a good choice of protocols is essential. The majority of our recommended VPNs support IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard.
  • Ease-of-use – To really be able to recommend a VPN provider, it needs to be easy to use and accessible to all, whether they’re tech-savvy or not. We make sure our recommended providers provide simple and straightforward mobile apps so you can be up and running in minutes.
  • Streaming services – Accessing streaming sites over a VPN is more challenging than ever. Many VPN providers claim to work on streaming sites, but their success rates can vary. Before recommending a VPN provider for streaming, we test VPNs against various popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, etc.
  • Torrenting – Many VPN users are avid file-sharers, but not all VPN providers allow torrenting over their network. Others provide dedicated P2P servers. We look at each VPN’s policy around torrenting – ensuring it’s supported – and run tests on those to see how well they handle file-sharing.
  • Security & privacy – That’s why VPNs exist in the first place. We ask essential questions like: What is the provider’s privacy policy like? What is its logging policy? What encryption protocols does the VPN support? Does it use strong ciphers? Does it support Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)? Is it vulnerable to IP address or DNS leaks? These are all crucial questions, and we answer them all when assessing VPNs’ privacy and security practices.

The above represents a high-level view of our methodology. For more details, look at our full VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach helps us better understand the services to recommend the right VPN to different users.

Mobile VPNs FAQ

Are there free mobile VPNs?

There are free mobile VPNs available. But I recommend not using them for a few reasons. 

  1. Free VPNs tend to have very small server networks. As a consequence, large numbers of users end up using the same servers. Online services usually interpret large amounts of traffic from the same IP address as VPN use and may block the connection. 
  2. Most free VPNs have poor speeds and sketchy security practices, so we don’t usually recommend them. This 2020 study concluded that almost 40 percent of the free VPNs tested were leaking identifiable personal information.

What are the differences between using mobile data and WiFi?

From the user’s perspective, range will be the most significant difference between mobile data (cellular) and WiFi. WiFi has a much shorter range than mobile, which can provide your device with connectivity from miles away. WiFi’s range is usually limited to a few dozen meters.

Another differentiating factor is service caps. Most mobile data plans are capped and tend to come with steep overage charges. WiFi usage is usually unlimited or is at least limited by a much higher data cap.

And yet another discriminator is going to be performance. When you sign up for a subscription with your ISP, you’re paying for a specified speed – which the ISP guarantees. So you should know what kind of speed to expect, and you can perform speed tests to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. 

As for the speeds you should be getting over cellular networks, many factors come into play to influence that. With mobile data, your speeds depend on how far the nearest cellular tower is from you and on the protocol used (3G, LTE, 5G) – each protocol having its own upper limit. Your speeds over cellular networks will also depend on the number of users connected to the same cell tower and competing for bandwidth.

Will a mobile VPN slow my connection down?

Any VPN – whether on mobile or desktop – will slow your connection down. There isn’t much you can do about it. However, a reputable VPN provider will be able to limit your speed hit as much as possible (but it will never eliminate it).

When you use a VPN, your traffic must transit through the server before reaching its destination. That extra hop will slow you down. Then there’s the fact that your traffic needs to be encrypted and decrypted as you go about your business online. That further adds to the slowdown. 

Well-established VPN providers will provision their servers with more bandwidth and perform other optimizations to ensure you get the best possible speeds.

Will a mobile VPN let me exceed my monthly data cap?

No, it won’t. VPNs cannot change your monthly data allowance. Your carrier sets that. And while some VPNs effectively compress your traffic as it transits, resulting in less bandwidth used, the difference, in the end, is pretty negligible. So if you need more cellular data for your mobile device, a VPN won’t help you. All you can do is upgrade your plan.