Global Mobile VPN Report 2019

Over 480 million mobile VPN apps were downloaded around the world in the last 12 months, which is 54% more than the year before. Browse the interactive map to see where the most downloads took place.
Simon Migliano

UPDATED 22 Nov 2019 11:31 GMT to include additional supporting data.

Key Findings

  • 480.1M mobile VPN app downloads globally in last 12 months, a 54% year-over-year increase
  • 75% of all downloads for Android (358.3M). There were 121.9M iOS downloads.
  • Biggest markets: Indonesia (75.5M), US (74.6M), and India (57M)
  • Fastest growing markets: India (405%), Jordan (387%) and Kazakhstan (210%)
  • 84% of all mobile VPN downloads in last 12 months were free services
  • Most popular mobile VPN service: Turbo VPN (51.3M installs Android & iOS, free)
  • Most popular paid mobile VPN service: NordVPN (15.5M installs Android & iOS)

Introduction

The 2019 Global Mobile VPN Report is the first study of its kind and includes app download data for 73 countries, dating back to 2016.

It shows global demand for mobile VPN apps from Apple’s App Store and Google Play is growing rapidly: the number of downloads worldwide has increased by over 50% two years in a row.

As mobile internet users around the world endure the various effects of digital authoritarianism and become more aware of the value of their browsing data, it’s clear that VPN apps are an increasingly mainstream anti-censorship and privacy tool.

This report provides mobile VPN app download data at the global, regional, country and app-level, with a focus on the last 12 months, starting October 2018, compared to the previous period.

We also looked at:

  • The biggest growth markets for mobile VPN
  • Correlations between internet shutdowns and month-to-month surges in downloads
  • Free/paid VPN app distribution
  • The most popular mobile VPN services
  • Fastest growing mobile VPN apps
  • Top mobile VPN apps by platform and country

Global Mobile VPN Downloads

By 12-month Period

Each 12-month download period runs from October to September.

Period Total Downloads Growth (YoY)
2018/19 480.1M 54.3%
2017/18 311.3M 57.2%
2016/17 198M

By Platform

12-month period starting Oct 2018

  • Android: 358.2M (74.6%)
  • iOS: 121.9M (25.4%)

Downloads by Region

 

REGION DOWNLOADS 2018/2019 GROWTH (YOY)
APAC 188.4M 122%
EUROPE 79.6M 20%
LATAM 48.7M 50%
MEA 81.9M 43%
NORTHAM 81.5M 16%

Top 20 Countries by Downloads

Note: China is excluded from this report despite the historic prevalence of VPN use in that country.

This is due to the increased unreliability of download data following the removal of VPN apps from Apple’s App Store in 2017 and the ongoing censorship of all Google services, including the Play Store.

The countries with the most mobile VPNs downloaded over the 12 months starting October 2018 are ranked below. The most rapidly growing markets, such as Indonesia, India and Vietnam are examined in more detail in the next section.

Other countries in the table experienced strong but more stable year-over-year increase in 12-month download totals. In the US and the UK, the collection of consumer browsing data by ISPs for both profit and surveillance continues to drive demand. As do threats to net neutrality in the US.

UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan all operate under highly-censorious, conservative and authoritarian governments.

Meanwhile, Brazil bears a mix of media conservatism and a desire to move away from US telecommunication infrastructure after revelations of US spying surfaced in 2013.

COUNTRY DOWNLOADS 2018/2019 GROWTH (YOY) RANK
Indonesia 75.5M 111% 1
US 74.6M 17% 2
India 57.0M 405% 3
UAE 30.6M 32% 4
Brazil 23.5M 76% 5
Saudi Arabia 19.9M 14% 6
Turkey 16.4M 39% 7
UK 14.0M 33% 8
Russia 10.9M 19% 9
Pakistan 10.4M 60% 10
Mexico 8.2M 27% 11
Philippines 7.9M 28% 12
Canada 6.9M 9% 13
Ukraine 6.4M -18% 14
South Korea 5.8M 65% 15
Egypt 5.8M 95% 16
Vietnam 5.6M 140% 17
Argentina 5.4M 37% 18
Germany 5.3M -1% 19
Colombia 5.3M 51% 20

Jump to full list of countries, alphabetized.

Biggest Markets by Download Growth

The following list is ordered by increase in downloads year-on-year as a percentage. Download period is the 12 months from October to September. Absolute download totals for 2018/19 are in brackets.

  • India – 405% (57.0M)
  • Jordan – 387% (3.6M)
  • Kazakhstan – 210% (4.1M)
  • Algeria – 205% (4.8M)
  • Vietnam – 140% (5.6M)
  • Indonesia – 111% (75.5M)
  • Nigeria – 107% (5.3M)
  • Egypt – 95% (5.8M)
  • Singapore – 83% (1.9M)
  • South Africa – 82% (1.5M)

Note: Countries with less than 1M downloads over last 12 months were excluded from this list

The largest increases in mobile VPN downloads year-over-year, in India, Jordan, Kazakhstan and Algeria, were largely driven by specific spikes in demand in those countries, which we explore in the next section of this report.

Other, more incremental growth markets, shared a common theme surrounding either the introduction or tightening of cybercrime-related legislation.

Vietnam and Singapore both passed new laws in 2019, which allow authorities to censor online content through obliging technology companies to relinquish user information and remove unfavorable posts.

Egyptian authorities made use of their new 2018 Cybercrimes Law , to block 34,000 websites connected to an opposition campaign called “Void”.[1] The campaign had gained 250,000 signatures against Egypt’s constitutional referendum earlier this year. The referendum extended President el-Sisi’s political reach and presidential term to 2030.

Similarly, Nigeria has ramped up targeted attacks on journalists and publicly critical postings that exposed police brutality, corruption and covert oil blocks in the Niger Delta on the basis of breaching “cybercrime” regulations.[2]

VPN downloads increased in South Africa when the government was caught undertaking mass surveillance on all communications. The government tried to justify this breach of their own Regulation of Interception of Communications Act of 2002 (RICA) and the National Security Act of 1994 (NSIA) on national security grounds. This was rejected by the High Court, which ruled the state’s activities were unlawful.[3]

Countries with smaller volumes of total downloads but who also experienced significant year-over-year increases included:

Zimbabwe – There were over 320,000 mobile VPN downloads in last 12 months. This 250% surge compared to the prior year coincided with the suppression of social media access from January 2019 in response to mass unrest prompted by a 150% jump in fuel prices.

The government has also moved to block VPNs that the public were using to bypass website restrictions. Since the shutdown, VPN specific searches from Google also increased by over 850%.

Lebanon – Almost 995,000 mobile VPN apps were downloaded over the last 12 months, an increase of 119% year-on-year. Over the same period, the country experienced a spike in online content-related arrests of citizens, activists and journalists. The LGBTQ community also became a target with arrests relating to LGBTQ content online, while popular LGBTQ app Grindr was blocked in January 2019.[4]

A block of 50 websites also targeted adult entertainment, illegal gambling and Israel-related content. New laws granted security officials unlimited access to all telecommunications metadata.

Jump to full list of country-level download data, alphabetized

Spikes in VPN Demand

Analysis of monthly download data around the world revealed frequent surges in demand for Android and iOS mobile VPNs. Many of these spikes came in response to internet shutdowns as local internet users sought to circumvent the restrictions imposed upon them. Notable highlights follow:

Oct-Dec 2018, India: increased 66% on average each month for three months. India endured 134 internet shutdowns in 2018 alone, with almost all of them targeting mobile internet services. The shutdowns were imposed due to a range of issues: civil conflicts, local elections, political killings, and, in particular, to control the flow of information in the disputed region of Kashmir. A ban on 827 adult websites in October[5] could also explain the spike in VPN downloads. This is supported by a correlating surge in VPN related searches in the month following the ban.

Feb 2019, Algeria: 73% increase in downloads, likely due to internet shutdowns taking place during protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeking a fifth consecutive term.

Feb 2019, South Korea: 75% jump following enforcement of a ban on 895 blacklisted websites by the government. This was shortly followed by a ramp up in government mass surveillance techniques.

May 2019, Indonesia: 126% spike due to bandwidth throttling, slowing speeds to prevent video and photo uploads to Twitter and other social media platforms in the wake of escalating election protests.[6]

May-June 2019, Kazakhstan: 111% climb resulting from multiple short-lived social media blocks and a brief total internet shutdown, surrounding national election unrest. A further 93% spike in June is likely due to continued protests and a root certificate distributed by the government, found to be used for mass-surveillance.

June 2019, Algeria: 263% surge in downloads as social media is blocked to prevent school exam cheating. Internet disruptions also occurred due to ongoing political protests, as Algeria’s former PM and Finance Minister appeared in court.[7]

July 2019, Jordan: 676% spike in downloads in the wake of the controversy surrounding TV show Jinn, much-hyped as the first Arabic Netflix series.[8] Jordan’s conservative government forced Netflix to pull the show for local viewers. This act of censorship took place against a backdrop of increased suppression of freedom of speech online due to growing unrest in the country.

Free VPN vs Paid

In the last 12 months, free VPN app downloads continued to hugely outnumber those of paid services. Over eight in ten mobile VPN installs were for free VPN services.

  • Free downloads as a percentage of all global mobile VPN downloads: 84.3%
  • Regionally that figure is:
    • APAC: 89.8%
    • EUROPE: 77.2%
    • LATAM: 90.3%
    • MEA: 91.0%
    • NORTHAM: 68.1%

The following charts show the free to paid mobile VPN download ratio globally, followed by the distribution of all free downloads by region, then all paid downloads by region.

Free VPN mobile app downloads vs paid VPN charts

Top Mobile VPN Services

Most popular services (i.e. combined across platforms and app versions) and the number of times they were downloaded in the 12 months starting October 2018.

APP NAME DOWNLOADS 2018-2019 PLATFORMS FREE/PAID
TurboVPN 51.3M Android & iOS Free
Hotspot Shield 42.8M Android & iOS Free
Betternet 29.9M Android & iOS Free
Psiphon 25.8M Android & iOS Free
SuperVPN 16.7M Android only Free
NordVPN 15.5M Android & iOS Paid
Hola 14.6M Android & iOS Free
ExpressVPN 14.3M Android & iOS Paid
Proxy Master 11.4M Android only Free
Secure VPN 11.3M Android only Free

Fastest Growing VPN Apps

The following table highlights the 10 VPN apps where the relative increase in the number of downloads over the 12-month period starting October 2018 was most pronounced in comparison with the previous period.

What’s most notable is the lack of established brands among these free VPN services that enjoyed such rising popularity. However, even amongst these lesser-known apps, a handful were also among the most-downloaded apps in the last 12 months on their respective platforms: VPN – Super Unlimited (10.5M installs, Android), Solo VPN (8.5M, Android), Best Ultimate VPN (6.2M, iOS).

To avoid distorting the results, the above table excludes free apps that were downloaded fewer than 1 million times in 2018/19 and paid apps downloaded fewer than 250,000 times over the same period.

Downloads by Country

The following tables show top-level data for each country included in the report. “Downloads” refers to the number of times a VPN app was downloaded in each country over the 12-month period starting October 2018.

Jump to countries I-P
Jump to countries Q-Z

Countries A-H

COUNTRY DOWNLOADS 2018/2019 DOWNLOAD GROWTH YOY FREE DOWNLOADS*
Algeria 4.8M 205% 96%
Argentina 5.4M 37% 94%
Australia 4.1M 32% 56%
Austria 0.5M 1% 65%
Belarus 0.5M 38% 83%
Belgium 0.8M 28% 65%
Brazil 23.5M 76% 90%
Bulgaria 0.3M 36% 72%
Canada 6.9M 9% 70%
Chile 1.9M 30% 87%
Colombia 5.3M 51% 92%
Croatia 0.3M 21% 77%
Czech Republic 0.4M 13% 67%
Denmark 0.5M -3% 50%
Ecuador 2.0M 38% 95%
Egypt 5.8M 95% 95%
Estonia 1.0M 2% 70%
Finland 0.4M 1% 44%
France 4.6M 29% 64%
Germany 5.3M -1% 64%
Greece 0.7M 2% 87%
Hong Kong 1.8M 27% 78%
Hungary 0.5M 34% 74%

*Downloads of free VPN services as a percentage of all mobile VPN app downloads

Countries I-P

COUNTRY DOWNLOADS 2018/2019 DOWNLOAD GROWTH YOY FREE DOWNLOADS*
Iceland 0.8M 55% 69%
India 57.0M 405% 89%
Indonesia 75.5M 111% 96%
Ireland 0.7M 20% 66%
Israel 1.7M 56% 85%
Italy 3.6M 48% 74%
Japan 2.5M 11% 56%
Jordan 3.6M 387% 93%
Kazakhstan 4.1M 210% 95%
Kuwait 1.4M 34% 93%
Latvia 0.1M 10% 77%
Lebanon 1.0M 119% 89%
Lithuania 0.2M 30% 79%
Luxembourg 0.1M 37% 63%
Malaysia 5.0M 50% 85%
Mexico 8.2M 27% 87%
Netherlands 2.2M -3% 69%
New Zealand 1.1M 21% 72%
Nigeria 5.3M 107% 82%
Norway 0.5M 14% 48%
Oman 3.0M 27% 94%
Pakistan 10.4M 60% 89%
Peru 1.5M 2% 90%
Philippines 7.9M 28% 84%
Poland 1.2M 32% 74%
Portugal 0.7M 39% 70%

*Downloads of free VPN services as a percentage of all mobile VPN app downloads

Countries Q-Z

COUNTRY DOWNLOADS 2018/2019 DOWNLOAD GROWTH YOY FREE DOWNLOADS*
Qatar 3.7M 4% 97%
Romania 1.3M 34% 87%
Russia 10.9M 19% 83%
Saudi Arabia 19.9M 14% 95%
Singapore 1.9M 83% 81%
Slovakia 0.2M 29% 71%
Slovenia 0.2M 28% 72%
South Africa 1.5M 82% 83%
South Korea 5.8M 65% 83%
Spain 2.8M 8% 80%
Sweden 1.1M 7% 59%
Switzerland 0.6M 12% 53%
Taiwan 1.8M 25% 72%
Thailand 4.0M -8% 89%
Tunisia 0.9M 116% 91%
Turkey 16.4M 39% 92%
Ukraine 6.4M -18% 93%
UAE 30.6M 32% 88%
UK 14.0M 33% 65%
US 74.6M 17% 68%
Uruguay 0.3M 4% 84%
Venezuela 0.6M 29% 86%
Vietnam 5.6M 140% 86%
Zimbabwe 0.3M 250% 91%

*Downloads of free VPN services as a percentage of all mobile VPN app downloads

Top Mobile VPN Apps: Android

Top Mobile VPN Apps: iOS

Fastest Growing VPN Apps: Free

Only free apps that were downloaded at least 1 million times in 2018/19 have been included, to avoid distorting the results. Download period runs from October to September.

Jump to the top apps by download volume and platform over the last 12 months.

Fastest Growing Apps: Paid

Only paid apps that were downloaded at least 250,000 times in 2018/19 have been included, to avoid distorting the results. Download period runs from October to September.

Jump to the top apps by download volume and platform over the last 12 months.

Top Mobile VPN Apps: US

Top Mobile VPN Apps: UK

Top Mobile VPN Apps: Australia

Top Mobile VPN Apps: Canada

Top Mobile VPN Apps: Indonesia

*N/A indicates that there were no downloads in the previous 12 months (2017-2018)

Top Mobile VPN Apps: India

*N/A indicates that there were no downloads in the previous 12 months (2017-2018)

Top Mobile VPN Apps: Brazil

*N/A indicates that there were no downloads in the previous 12 months (2017-2018)

Methodology

We analyzed every mobile VPN app discoverable in Google Play and Apple’s App Store across multiple locales, for a total of 293 unique apps. Apps were deemed unique based on the app IDs used in the respective stores.

App information and statistics sourced from the Apple App Store, Google Play and App Tweak. App installs are compiled from 73 countries and date back to 2016.

Apps were deemed to be “free” if offered a fully-usable VPN service without providing credit card details. This included any “freemium” services that met that definition.

Download 2016 to 2019 top-level data for the top 250 mobile VPN apps by 2019 downloads as a Google Sheet or as a PDF.


References

[1] https://netblocks.org/reports/egypt-filters-34000-domains-in-bid-to-block-opposition-campaign-platform-7eA1blBp

[2] https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/9504/2019/en/

[3] https://techpoint.africa/2019/09/17/court-declares-bulk-surveillance-unlawful/

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/grindr-lebanon-ban-lgbt-rights-dating-app-gay-a8933556.html

[5] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/blocking-websites-only-fuels-india-s-appetite-for-porn-data/story-lOIoiGepi4ZUiIyfiWFC4H.html

[6] https://netblocks.org/reports/indonesias-sophisticated-internet-filters-are-blocking-twitter-photo-and-video-uploads-aAwq4EyM

[7] https://netblocks.org/reports/facebook-twitter-instagram-whatsapp-and-other-social-media-blocked-in-algeria-eBOgJxBZ

[8] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/6/14/netflixs-first-arabic-original-series-sparks-uproar-in-jordan