The best mobile VPNs of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

Virtual private networks (VPNs) protect your privacy online, whether you’re browsing the internet at home or joining a public Wi-Fi network. While they’re not a silver bullet, they can seriously improve your security when you are using a mobile device. VPNs can also help you browse on public Wi-Fi safely, so you don’t use up all of your data while using your phone as a hotspot.

Also: The best VPNs for Android

No service can guarantee absolute anonymity. While many VPNs are reputable, you need to avoid fake VPNs that eavesdrop on your traffic, log your activities, or use your own domain name servers (DNS) so your ISP can still see where you’re going, defeating the entire purpose of a VPN. You should always opt for a reputable VPN service that offers users dedicated Android and iOS apps when you need a mobile-friendly VPN for your smartphone or tablet.

What is the best mobile VPN right now?

Based on our staff’s extensive testing and analysis, our pick for the best mobile VPN overall is NordVPN, thanks to its user-friendly mobile app and expansive server network, and consistently strong performance in terms of speed and stability. 

Keep reading to learn about ZDNET’s other top picks for the best mobile VPNs and how they compare. 

Best mobile VPNs of 2024

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NordVPN

Best mobile VPN overall

NordVPN is a fast and reliable VPN that runs well on an extensive server network, regardless of what you run it on. 

Once you’ve learned NordVPN, you have no additional learning curve for using it on other devices. When you first open it, you’ll see a landing screen map. From here, you can pick a country to VPN to or head to the fastest local server automatically. If your screen’s too small for that to be handy, you’re only a swipe away from a VPN server list. No fuss.

Also: How does NordVPN work? Plus, how to set it up and use it

It also offers a kill switch. This automatically disconnects your phone or tablet from the internet if your VPN connection is interrupted, a key element to maintaining your privacy when using cellular networks. Nord has also recently increased the number of simultaneous devices you can have under one account, alongside the number of servers available to connect to.

I’ve used NordVPN for years and have always been impressed with its stable connectivity and rapid speeds. Customers generally report fast speeds and minimal buffering with easy setup, although some caution that you should turn off auto-renewal.

Two-year subscriptions begin at $3.99 per month, rising to $4.99 per month for one-year plans and $12.99 if you want to use the service for one month. Two and one-year plans come with free eSIM data.

If you need additional security benefits, opt for the Ultimate plan, which includes coverage for identity theft and cyber extortion. 

NordVPN features: Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Mobile platforms Android, iOS, Chrome, and Firefox | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 111 | Servers: 6200+ | Trial/MBG: 30 days | Google Play rating: 4.5 | App Store rating: 4.7

Nord VPN Mobile

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Surfshark

Best budget mobile VPN

Surfshark is a solid VPN with interesting security features and a cheap price point, making it a desirable option. 

Device connections are unlimited, the Bypasser function allows users to safelist specific apps to bypass the VPN, and there is a strict no-logs policy. The server list is impressive, and while the app’s interface could use some optimization, it’s still a great choice—especially if you’re looking for something affordable. 

Review: Surfshark VPN

To help ensure no one can track you, SurfShark includes an exciting feature that enables you to spoof your GPS location. If someone tries to track down your location, it will report that you’re at your VPN servers’ coordinates.

I enjoy using Surfshark as a ‘one size fits all’ VPN solution. Sometimes, the speeds aren’t the best, but connecting is extremely quick. I also enjoy the ‘pause’ function, which allows you to resume your regular connection for five minutes, 30 minutes, or a few hours. Customers say that speeds are relatively fast and streaming works most of the time, although some have experienced issues with Netflix and other popular content services.

Surfshark’s cheapest plan is for a two-year subscription at $2.19 per month, with three months of free access added to the length of the term. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Surfshark features: Simultaneous connectionsUnlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Android, iOS, Firefox, and Chrome | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 100 | Servers: 3,200 | Trial/MBG: 30 days | Google Play rating: 4.5 | App Store rating: 4.8

Surfshark VPN Mobile

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IPVanish VPN

Best mobile VPN for customization

IPVanish is another of our favorite mobile VPNs. We are particularly impressed with the user interface on the Android and iOS apps, which is quick to install and extremely easy to use. It doesn’t hurt that the app’s interface is stylish and modern, although it doesn’t look quite as good on PCs.

Speeds are reasonable, and the app quickly connects to a server nine times out of ten. IPVanish now offers unlimited simultaneous connections, a helpful feature if you have multiple mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones, to protect. Overall, IPVanish provides a highly customizable VPN experience, and the range of settings you can change is the real strength of this option.

Customers report they are happy with IPVanish’s customer service and the overall speed and reliability of the VPN. 

IPVanish offers a seven-day trial for mobile users. Alternatively, you can sign up for a two-year plan at $2.19 per month, a yearly plan for $2.79 per month, or you can opt for a monthly subscription for $12.99/month.

IPVanish features: Simultaneous connectionsUnlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac | Logging: No-logs policy | Countries: 75+ | Servers: 2000+ | Trial/MBG: 7 days/30 days | Google Play rating: 4.3 | App Store rating: 4.5

IPVanish Mobile

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Private Internet Access

Best open-source mobile VPN

Private Internet Access (PIA) offers impressive speed and security. 

PIA has adopted open-source software for almost all of its components, which gives it a standout level of transparency surrounding its technology. This makes it open to examination by third parties. This helps with software vulnerabilities, too, as they may be more likely to be detected early and patched. 

Review: Private Internet Access

While the VPN provider is based in the US — and this may turn some potential users away if they are concerned about privacy and data laws — regarding features, PIA offers unlimited simultaneous connections, ad and malware blocking, and a strict no-logs policy. 

PIA is a solid and affordable VPN, but the user interface could be modernized. Customers say they are fans of the VPN’s performance and encryption, which is an excellent torrenting option.

PIA’s two-year plans will cost users $2.19/month with two months of free access. Alternatively, PIA is one of the few VPN vendors that offers new subscribers a six-month plan, but it is more expensive at $7.50 per month. You could also opt for a monthly plan for $11.99.

Private Internet Access features: Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Android, iOS, and Chrome | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 91 | Trial/MBG: 7 days | Google Play rating: 4.5 | App Store rating: 4.7

Private Internet Access VPN Mobile

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ExpressVPN

Best mobile VPN for speed

VPN speeds vary widely depending on where you are, the server you’re trying to connect to, and the country distance. But when it comes to speed for connections and streaming, ExpressVPN often takes first place. 

You just hit a button and connect to the fastest and closest ExpressVPN server. Of course, you can be selective with your servers, but it’s hard to beat if you want to connect without any trouble or fuss.

Review: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN recently bumped up its simultaneous device support from five to eight devices on paid plans and its server network from 94 countries to 105. 

I’ve used ExpressVPN for years and have found it to be a speedy, reliable service with a great server network. On rare occasions, I’ve needed to switch servers, but aside from that, ExpressVPN is well worth the money. Customer reviews are generally positive, but some note that servers can often be blocked when users attempt to use streaming services or access specific websites. Price hikes on renewal aren’t popular, either. 

ExpressVPN can be purchased for $12.95 on a month-on-month plan, $9.99 per month for six months of access, or $6.67 per month on a two-year plan, with three months of free access thrown in and a year of Backblaze cloud backup.

Express VPN features: Simultaneous connections: 8 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android, and iOS | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 105 | Locations: 160+ | Trial/MBG: 30 days | Google Play rating: 4.3 | App Store rating: 4.7

ExpressVPN mobile

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The best mobile VPN is NordVPN. With its ability to integrate with iOS and Android phones, thousands of servers, and very high speeds, NordVPN is at the top of our list. This table compares the best mobile VPNs based on connections, operating system capabilities, and servers available:

Best mobile VPNs

Price

Simultaneous connections

Google Play rating

App Store rating

NordVPN

Start at $3.99/month

10

4.5

4.7

Surfshark

Start at $2.19/month

Unlimited

4.5

4.8

IPVanish

Start at $2.19/month

Unlimited

4.3

4.5

Private Internet Access

Start at $2.19/month

Unlimited

4.5

4.7

ExpressVPN

Start at $6.67/month

8

4.3

4.7

*Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

Choose this best mobile VPN

If you want…

NordVPN

The best overall VPN for mobile devices. This is a great mobile option that consistently performs well in relation to speed and stability and has an expansive server network.

Surfshark

Unlimited connections. Surfshark is a highly affordable VPN that also offers connections for as many devices as you like, with interesting security features thrown in, including GPS spoofing.

IPVanish

A mix of value and speed combined with a highly customizable VPN. The VPN also supports numerous streaming services with decent speeds.

Private Internet Access

The best open-source mobile VPN. As an open-source product, the VPN is open to public appraisal, so this is one of the most transparent solutions on the market.

ExpressVPN

The fastest mobile VPN. ExpressVPN is an excellent option if speed is your top priority. The mobile app is also extremely easy to use.

When you are selecting your new mobile VPN, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Cost: You need to consider the overall cost of your new VPN. Try to take advantage of promotions, but ignore countdown timers — they typically are just marketing tools. While top-notch VPNs can cost upwards of $10/month, many are available for only a few dollars. Many VPN providers also give users a free seven-day iOS or Android trial.
  • Simultaneous connections: If you’re paying for a mobile VPN, you might want to use it across multiple devices, such as a desktop PC or laptop. We recommend you sign up for a plan supporting at least four to six devices. 
  • Contract length: You also need to decide how long you want a VPN. A two-year term tends to secure the best prices, but monthly, six-month, and one-year options are available. After you’ve made a selection, you typically have a 30-day money-back guarantee. 
  • Apps: When selecting a mobile VPN, try it out first to ensure you like its accompanying iOS or Android app. Some VPNs, for example, have great desktop software but lack in the mobile app department, which may not be as intuitive or easy to use. 

All VPN providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews by members of our ZDNET team. We’ve been writing about these VPNs for years, spoken with their management and users, and developed a generally favorable impression. Here are the top factors we consider during our testing process: 

  • Performance: We tested most of the VPNs on this list to ensure robust connection and speed performance. After all, there’s no point in using a VPN if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable, which is especially important when you’re on mobile.
  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to a service simultaneously. If you have a phone, tablet, and laptop you want to connect to a VPN, you need a service that allows simultaneous connections.
  • Security: There’s no point in using a VPN unless its security protocols and encryption levels are up to scratch. We also ensured that the development team behind each recommended VPN cares about improving security over time and patching reported bugs.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection and is an essential feature for a mobile VPN. It protects you by preventing a return to a default Wi-Fi connection—in comparison, for example, with your cellular connectivity—should your internet connection unexpectedly drop.
  • Geoblocks and streaming: We know that VPNs can be vital in accessing local content and services while you’re away from home and relying on mobile devices. We ensured that our top recommendations perform well regarding these factors and are unlikely to slow down your connection while streaming.
  • Countries & servers: How many different countries does the VPN have servers in? This can include physical and virtual servers and whether or not there are enough—at least 50 or so—to provide variety.
  • Trial length & price: Each VPN we recommend has a solid money-back guarantee. 

ZDNET tests VPN services from multiple locations, but we can’t try from all locations. Every home, community, local ISP, and nation has a different infrastructure. Once you choose, it’s essential that you test for all your likely usage profiles and only then decide whether to keep the service or request a money-back guaranteed refund.

These VPNs also have solid money-back guarantees; we would not have recommended them otherwise. 

Check out our comprehensive VPN testing methodology page for a more extensive breakdown.

Suppose you’re at your desk and want to access a website like this one. To do this, your computer initiates a request by sending some packets. If you’re in an office, those packets often travel through switches and routers on your LAN before transferring them to the public internet through a router.

Also: What is a VPN, and why do you need one? 

Once on the public internet, those packets travel through many computers. A separate request is made to a series of name servers to translate the DNS name ZDNET.com to an IP address. That information is sent back to your browser, which sends the request again through many computers on the public internet. Eventually, it reaches the ZDNET infrastructure, routes those packets, grabs a webpage (a bunch of separate elements), and sends all that back to you.

Each internet request usually involves a series of communication events between multiple points. A VPN encrypts those packets at the originating point, often hiding the data and the information about your originating IP address. The VPN software on your end then sends those packets to the VPN server at some destination point, decrypting that information. 

There is rarely an exception to a simple answer: none. The free ones that sound good will take you, your data, and your security for a ride. Avoid them. 

A good VPN service requires hundreds of servers worldwide and many networking resources. If you’re not paying to support that infrastructure, who is? Probably advertisers or data miners. If you use a free service, your data or information will probably be sold, and that’s never good. After all, you’re using a VPN to keep your data secure. You wouldn’t want your data to go to some company to sift through — it completely defeats the purpose of a VPN.

However, we do recommend one offered by ProtonVPN, a trustworthy security and privacy-focused company. The trade-off is that the free option is extremely limited. 

If you’re traveling or using the internet in a public place like a coffee shop, data encryption is critical. Most public Wi-Fi hotspots are open and unencrypted, which means anyone on the network can see what you send, eavesdrop on your activities, and steal passwords. If you can, stick to cellular networks.

The war between VPNs and streaming services has heated up. This is a gray area of the law, but despite this, many VPNs market themselves as great options for streaming and accessing geo-locked libraries and content. 

However, using a VPN might go against the terms of service set by streaming service providers. So, while you can stream with a VPN enabled — although access can change when streaming services block IPs — it might not always be legal to do so.

AlsoBest VPN for streaming 

It’s the maximum number of VPN connections you can have anytime. For example, if you’re using your smartphone, laptop, and tablet over a VPN at the same time (I’ve done it on business trips), and back home, your partner is using their smartphone, PC, and tablet over the VPN, and you have five simultaneous connections…there’s a problem.)

One of your connections won’t be private any longer. Having access to more simultaneous connections is a good thing.

A fully functional VPN should protect your privacy and mask your location and IP address. If you’re unsure if your VPN is working correctly, some tools make checking your VPN’s performance easy.

You can find out your IP address and location using whatismyipaddress.com. Compare the IP address and location when connected with a VPN vs. without one. If they are different, then your VPN is doing its job.

It’s also possible that your VPN is leaking your data and potentially exposing your online activity. You can run tests on a site like DNS Leak Test to ensure your VPN has no DNS or IP leaks. Plenty of tools allow you to test for leaks, but VPN providers own many, and it may not always be clear who developed the tool, which could be a conflict of interest. You may want to run tests with several different sites and compare the results.

Yes. There are some circumstances when it doesn’t, but those tend to be rare. Generally speaking, you’ll get from 50% to 90% of your real-world speed through a VPN connection, depending on your original location and the country server you select. 

Faster is better. But you probably already knew that. 

There are many free VPNs available for mobile devices. However, nothing in life is truly free, and you will likely be handing over your data in return for the service. They may also not be trustworthy, may be ad-supported, and may track your online activities. 

Free VPNs from trustworthy companies are few and far between. ProtonVPN’s free VPN is an option we support, although it is constrained. 

Alternative mobile VPNs to consider

View at CyberGhostView at Proton VPNView at Hotspot Shield