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The Best Free & Paid Mobile VPN Apps

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Fact-checked by JP JonesAdditional Research by Harry Ferrigno

Our Verdict

The best VPN for mobile is ExpressVPN due to its easy-to-use and fully-featured apps for iPhone and Android. You can use ExpressVPN on your handheld device to safely access public WiFi networks, hide your IP address, and unblock geo-restricted streaming services in HD.

Mobile VPN apps

Despite the risks inherent to mobile devices — like unsafe WiFi networks — VPN services tend to prioritize their desktop apps more. As such, mobile VPNs often have fewer features, weaker security, and worse performance than their desktop equivalents.

We’ve tested 65 VPNs to compile a shortlist of mobile apps that match the overall quality and performance of desktop while still being easy to use on the go.

The Best VPNs for Mobile

  1. ExpressVPN: Best Mobile VPN Overall
  2. Surfshark: Best VPN for Mobile Features
  3. Proton VPN Free: Best Free VPN for Mobile

To assist in our recommendations, we’ve created testing criteria tailored to handheld devices, with a particular focus on ease of use, mobile features, and the VPN’s performance.

You can use the table below to see how the top-rated mobile VPNs compare based on their performance:

The Best VPNs for Mobile Devices (Detailed Analysis)

1. ExpressVPN: The Best VPN for Mobile Overall

ExpressVPN's mobile apps for Android and iOS

Pros Cons
User-friendly VPN apps for iPhone & Android Doesn’t work with iOS Shortcuts
Minimal feature disparity with desktop apps Protection Summary is obstructive & unnecessary
Fast speeds on WiFi & cellular data Expensive
Seven-day free iOS trial Drains battery faster than rivals
Android-specific privacy features No GPS spoofing tool on Android
Unblocks Netflix, Max, Hulu & more
24/7 customer support

Overall Mobile Rating: 8.6/10

Mobile App Usability: 9.5/109.5

Mobile App Features: 8.5/108.5

Mobile Connection Time: 10/1010

Mobile Battery Usage: 3.5/103.5

Speed: 9.7/109.7

Privacy & Logging Policy: 9.2/109.2

To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

ExpressVPN is our highest-rated mobile VPN, combining an intuitive user experience with advanced VPN features and functionality.

ExpressVPN’s iOS and Android apps are easy to install, deliver fast speeds, and can be used to unblock geo-restricted content like Netflix and Disney+.

Its only drawbacks are the lack of mobile integrations, such as iOS Shortcuts and widgets, as well as the noticeable drain on your smartphone’s battery life.

User Experience

It’s easy to use ExpressVPN on mobile, you just need to tap the central power button to connect. We’ve always found this process to be instantaneous and our testing confirmed that ExpressVPN only takes one second to connect on mobile.

This is an exceptional result and ensures you can seamlessly switch between WiFi and cellular data networks without disruption.

You can see how ExpressVPN’s time to connect compares to its rivals in the chart below:

A bar chart comparing the connection times of popular mobile VPNs with ExpressVPN performing best and Surfshark taking the longest

ExpressVPN provides a streamlined user interface on mobile with its power button, server list, and menu tabs clustered in the bottom half of the screen for easy access. That said, we’d like the option to remove ‘Keys’ from the menu tabs considering most users won’t require a password manager.

Similarly, we found ExpressVPN’s Protection Summary feature to be useless and a waste of screen space. Thankfully, this can at least be disabled in the Android app.

Mobile App Features

Unlike most VPNs, ExpressVPN’s mobile apps have near-identical features to their desktop counterparts.

This includes ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol, a VPN kill switch, and its Advanced Protection feature.

You can use the table below to see the minor differences between ExpressVPN’s apps:

However, we were disappointed by the absence of mobile-specific features, especially on iOS. You can’t use Siri with ExpressVPN and there isn’t an option for dark mode.

For Android devices, there’s a privacy feature that hides the ExpressVPN app and your real IP address in multi-Window mode. We also appreciate that the Android app automatically matches the light or dark mode of your device.

While these are useful features, we’d like to see ExpressVPN rival Surfshark and include GPS spoofing in its Android app.


On average, we recorded a download speed loss of just 3% while connected to the ExpressVPN app.

This is fast enough for full HD streaming, online mobile games, and general browsing.


ExpressVPN was able to unblock every streaming app we tested, including Netflix, Max, Hulu, and Disney+.

In each instance, our test handsets loaded the stream immediately in the maximum quality without any buffering.

We were also able to use ExpressVPN to unblock streaming services in our mobile browser where there wasn’t an app available in the US store region, such as BBC iPlayer.

ExpressVPN Video Review

Watch our short video below reviewing the user experience and features of ExpressVPN’s mobile apps:

2. Surfshark: Best VPN for Mobile Features

Surfshark's mobile VPN apps for Android and iOS

Pros Cons
Android GPS location spoofing tool Android app interface requires streamlining
Affordable subscription Kill switch isn’t enabled by default
Works with iOS Shortcuts iOS app lacks advanced features
Seven-day free trial on mobile devices Mobile apps promote Surfshark One too heavily
Fast download speeds & in-built ping checker Slow to connect on mobile apps
Works with the Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ & Max apps
Unlimited simultaneous connections

Overall Mobile Rating: 8.2/10

Mobile App Usability: 8.3/108.3

Mobile App Features: 9.8/109.8

Mobile Connection Time: 5.5/105.5

Mobile Battery Usage: 4.0/104.0

Speed: 9.1/109.1

Privacy & Logging Policy: 8.7/108.7

To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

Surfshark is the most fully-featured mobile VPN, with GPS spoofing, a custom kill switch, multi-hop servers, and more.

It’s also an excellent choice for streaming thanks to its fast internet speeds and access to every popular streaming service.

Its only significant drawback is that Surfshark’s mobile apps struggle to accommodate its vast suite of features, resulting in an overwhelming home screen.

Surfshark might offer more mobile features than ExpressVPN, but it’s unlikely you’ll need most of them regularly, they can come at the expense of user experience.

User Experience

Surfshark’s mobile apps are attractive and modern but we find its interface overly cluttered.

Its home screen includes recently used locations, a server list, a connect button, and a scrollable navigation bar. We’d prefer if Surfshark adopted ExpressVPN’s approach and simplified this screen to one or two buttons.

Surfshark's iOS app with the quick-connect button highlighted

We suggest tapping the quick-connect button if you find the app too overwhelming.

That said, it’s easy to start using Surfshark on mobile by tapping the Quick-connect button at the bottom of the screen.

This conveniently connects you to a nearby server, but our connection time tests revealed that this takes up to 11.5 seconds on average — 10.5 second longer than ExpressVPN.

Mobile App Features

Surfshark’s Android app is unrivaled for its number of device-specific features, most notably its GPS spoofing tool. This allows you to unblock streaming sites that monitor your phone’s GPS coordinates, such as bypassing blackouts on

Unlike most VPNs, Surfshark provides its own kill switch instead of relying on Android’s native connection settings. This is better for your privacy as the VPN kill switch will continue to work regardless of your device’s settings or system version.

Another Android-exclusive is the option to switch to smaller data packets for improved compatibility with mobile networks.

Surfshark allows you to easily toggle between light and dark mode on its iOS and Android apps, and it provides custom connection rules for staying safe on public WiFi.

Moving forward, we’d like to see Surfshark’s iOS app become as fully-featured as its Android equivalent, and we’d prefer if Surfshark One was advertised less on both apps.


Though slower than ExpressVPN, we were impressed by Surfshark’s average download speed loss of 5%. This is an impressive result and ensures fast speeds on both WiFi and cellular data.

You can also use Surfshark’s ping checker on its Android app, represented by a timer icon, to minimize any lag while playing online mobile games. We found this particularly useful when testing VPNs with PUBG Mobile on our Android phone.


Surfshark works with all major streaming services, including 9 Netflix libraries, Hulu, Peacock, and Max.

Each stream loaded at maximum video quality and we didn’t encounter any buffering or VPN error codes.

Surfshark Video Review

Watch our 60-second video review of Surfshark’s mobile apps below:

3. Proton VPN Free: Best Free VPN for Mobile

Proton VPN's free mobile apps for Android and iOS

Pros Cons
Free with no payment details required Doesn’t work with US Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or Max
Open-source apps for iPhone & Android Free plan is limited to 1 simultaneous connection
Unlimited data allowance Paywalls many advanced features
Includes device-specific features for iOS & Android Outdated apps require a rework
No-logs policy & Swiss jurisdiction Doesn’t let you manually select your server location

Overall Mobile Rating: 7.5/10

Mobile App Usability: 6.5/106.5

Mobile App Features: 8.0/108.0

Mobile Connection Time: 7.5/107.5

Mobile Battery Usage: 5.0/105.0

Speed: 9.4/109.4

Privacy & Logging Policy: 9.5/109.5

To learn more, read our VPN testing methodology.

Proton VPN is the best free mobile VPN thanks to its unlimited data cap, no-logs policy, and mobile-specific features.

As a free VPN service it does come with some limitations, including a small server network and an inability to access every geo-restricted streaming service.

We also found its mobile apps poorly-designed and in need of a cosmetic update.

User Experience

Proton VPN’s smartphone apps lack the modern design and feel of competing VPNs. Its map view on Android is especially dated and both mobile apps would benefit from reducing their amount of lists.

It can be frustrating to connect to a server too, with Proton VPN automatically selecting your closest location. If you want to change to a different server in the same country, you’re made to wait for 90 seconds which is something we’ve never seen before.

We also found the decision to use the Proton VPN logo as its connect button, instead of the universal power symbol, confusing and unintuitive.

Proton VPN Free's settings on iOS

We’d like the option to hide Proton VPN’s paid features in the app.

We did appreciate the explainer text for advanced features, but it sometimes looked odd when next to grayed out premium-only features.

Mobile App Features

Proton VPN Free isn’t as sophisticated as its paid version, but it includes some advanced features on mobile such as DNS leak protection and alternative routing.

Due to Proton VPN’s compatibility with iOS Shortcuts, you can also use Siri to quickly connect and disconnect from the VPN.

Moreover, Proton VPN is one of the few VPN services that can be added as an Apple widget for more convenient access.

Proton VPN’s Android app is far less-integrated into its OS, with an absence of any device-specific features. Crucially, Proton VPN doesn’t provide a custom kill switch on Android and relies on Android’s native settings.


Our download speeds decreased by just 2% while connected to a close by Proton VPN server.

This may be partly due to our proximity to Proton VPN’s free US server. We can’t guarantee you’ll get the same speeds, especially if you’re not located near Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, or the US.


Proton VPN won’t work with any streaming services on its free plan.

If streaming on mobile is a priority for you, we recommend installing ExpressVPN or Surfshark instead.

Proton VPN Free Video Review

Watch our short video summarizing the best and worst aspects of Proton VPN Free’s mobile apps below:

VPNs You Should Avoid on Mobile

As part of our testing process, we came across several VPNs that are simply too dangerous or ineffective to install on mobile.

Many of these VPNs lacked the necessary security features to qualify as safe to use, and others were actually ‘copycat’ apps masquerading as a VPN service.

Our investigation into unsafe free VPNs also uncovered mobile apps with malware, shady ownership, and intrusive permission requests.

We’ve listed some of the mobile VPNs you should avoid installing below, alongside our reasons for doing so:

Norton Secure VPN

Norton Secure VPN logs your real IP address and it’s incorporated in the US, which puts your personal data at risk.

The Norton Secure VPN apps for Android and iOS

We were also disappointed by its outdated mobile apps which consist of a few lines of text on a white background. You can’t customize this interface and there isn’t an option for a dark mode.

Even with its simple design, we found it frustrating to use Norton’s mobile apps with key features distributed among different tabs.

Similarly, we found it unusual that the Android app advertises multiple P2P-optimized servers but tapping them redirects you to the same Netherlands server location.


Though popular on mobile, Speedify VPN’s logging policy is highly intrusive. When using the service, it collects your real IP address, device information, connection timestamps, and bandwidth usage.

Speedify's logging policy

Speedify admits to logging your real IP address.

We also discovered that the VPN’s kill switch is only available for premium accounts, leaving free users unprotected.

Secure VPN – Safer Internet

Secure VPN is an Android-only VPN owned by Signal Lab, the developer behind Thunder VPN.

Following our investigation into free mobile VPN ownership, we found that Signal Lab actually has ties to China despite advertising themselves as US-based.

Secure VPN's data-sharing disclaimer

Secure VPN shares your personal data with 200 third-party organizations.

Coupled with its basic logging policy and unprofessional support emails, we advise against installing Secure VPN onto your Android.

Cellular VPN

Cellular VPN is actually a peer-to-peer proxy service on Android which shares your real IP address and internet bandwidth with other users.

Cellular VPN's description on the Google Play Store

Cellular VPN is not safe to use and should be avoided at all costs.

This is similar to how Hola VPN functions and it poses a major privacy and security risk as other users can access illegal and dangerous content using your IP address.

We’re also concerned by the lack of information surrounding the service with its Google Play store listing linking to a non-existent website.

We strongly recommend you avoid installing Cellular VPN.

Choosing a Mobile VPN: What to Look Out For

Mobile VPNs carry more risks than their desktop counterparts as they’re usually downloaded from a third-party app store instead of directly from the VPN provider’s website.

On the Google Play Store in particular, there are malicious apps pretending to be legitimate VPN services and ‘copycat’ apps that mimic well-known VPNs.

There are also factors unique to mobile which should be taken into consideration, such as the file size of the VPN app, its history on the Google and Apple app stores, specific mobile features, and more.

To help inform your decision, we’ve highlighted the most important features you should look for when choosing a mobile VPN in the table below:

In the sections that follow, we’ve provided an example of an untrustworthy VPN on the Google Play Store along with some tips for identifying similar apps:

1. Don’t Always Trust the Play Store Figures

Thunder VPN's Google Play Store listing

It’s likely that many of Thunder VPN’s reviews have been left by bots.

Millions of downloads and positive user reviews are not necessarily indicators of a trustworthy service.

Users may be unaware of the VPN’s privacy and security issues or simply not care about them.

It’s also common for shady VPN developers to pay for bots to leave positive reviews of their product.

We recommend referring to one of our VPN reviews, written by real experts, before downloading a new VPN onto your device.

2. Check for Typos & Grammatical Inaccuracies

Thunder VPN's app description with typos and errors highlighted

We’ve highlighted two inaccuracies in Thunder VPN’s description.

Another indicator of an unsafe mobile VPN app is misspelled words and poorly-written information.

Even if the mobile app is legitimate, typos are unprofessional and indicate a lack of care and investment from the VPN service.

We suggest you carefully read through the description and privacy policy of any VPN app you consider downloading onto your phone.

3. Check the VPN Provider’s Website

Thunder VPN's website homepage

Thunder VPN’s website is threadbare and poorly-designed.

The quality of a VPN provider’s website, or the absence of a website entirely, can provide another signal of the VPN’s overall trustworthiness.

We’ve outlined some of the features of a poorly-built website below:

  • Hosted on a http server instead of https
  • Blocked by your ISP
  • Minimal graphical elements
  • Only displays a single web page
  • Typos & inaccurate VPN information
  • Outdated or missing copyright
  • Excessive cookie requests
  • Intrusive ads

What Can't a VPN Protect You From on Mobile?

Although VPNs are useful for enhancing your online privacy and security while using your smartphone or tablet, they come with some limitations.

There are many vulnerabilities inherent to iOS and Android that a VPN cannot prevent or mitigate against.

We’ve outlined the most notable security flaws and privacy risks associated with mobile, and why a VPN cannot prevent them, below:

Google’s Telemetry Data

Google collects large amounts of your personal data as part of its Telemetry whenever you use your Android phone. This includes your device’s IP address, serial number, and MAC address, which is more than enough to identify you.

As this happens at a device-based level, installing a VPN app onto your Android can’t prevent this.

In fact, it is impossible to disable Google’s Telemetry, but you can reduce how much of your browsing data it logs by completing the following steps:

  1. Open Chrome on your Android device.
  2. Click the overflow menu in the top-right corner. This menu is shown as three vertical dots next to the address bar.
  3. Find your privacy options. Tap Settings > Privacy and security.
  4. Enable “Do Not Track”. Tap Send a “Do Not Track” request and toggle the switch to On.

Android’s Open-Source OS

All Android devices run on an open-sourced operating system developed by Google. While this has many advantages, it also allows malicious third-parties to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in the source code.

This can allow hackers to gain access to your Android device and even take control of your smartphone.

For example, the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) identified an exploit on Google devices running Android 11 to 13. This allows a third-party to gain control over your Android device by simply running an application.

As this concerns Android’s source code, a VPN cannot be used to protect against this vulnerability.

iOS 16 DNS Leaks

In 2020, Proton VPN’s team discovered that iOS 13.4 leaks DNS requests and causes Apple’s proprietary services to bypass active VPN tunnels.

These services include iCloud photo syncing, iMessage, and other services which contain sensitive personal data.

This is still an issue on the current version of iOS with no known fix.

How We Tested & Chose the Best VPNs for Mobile

To identify the best free and paid mobile VPNs, we tested 65 VPN services with a custom-built methodology.

This methodology is divided into two sections: our testing team’s experience of the VPN and its features, alongside a quantitative analysis of its performance in our testing.

As an additional factor, we consider the privacy policy of each mobile VPN to ensure that your online anonymity isn’t compromised by the service.

You can find a detailed walkthrough of our mobile VPN testing methodology in the sections below:

1. Mobile App Usability (30% of Overall Rating)

We expect top-rated mobile VPNs to provide apps which are easy to install, setup, and use regardless of your mobile OS.

Plus, these apps should integrate seamlessly into your mobile device without requiring the installation of additional software or unnecessary learning curves.

We rewarded VPNs with a compact and intuitive mobile app design. Specifically, we looked for decluttered home screens, clearly labeled features, and buttons which are sensibly spaced and responsive.

Mobile VPNs which included ads or data limits were automatically disqualified from the selection process.

To calculate a usability rating, multiple members of the testing team independently assigned each VPN a rating out of 10 based on their personal user experience. We then used this to calculate an average and multiplied it by 0.3 to account for its 30% weighting.

2. Mobile App Features (30% of Overall Rating)

The best mobile VPNs should offer the same features as their desktop counterparts as well as features built for mobile devices specifically.

As a minimum, every recommended VPN has a kill switch, full server network, modern protocols, and functioning GUI on their mobile apps.

Our mobile app features rating calculator can’t be detailed fully here, but the following ranges provide an overview of what each rating means:

  • 0.1 – 3.0: Poor mobile apps. Only provides a connect button and a server list, essentially a proxy service.
  • 3.1 – 5.9: Inadequate mobile apps. Includes basic features but lacks mobile-specific integrations and the sophistication of its desktop counterpart.
  • 6.0 – 7.9: Moderate mobile apps. Functional, with the essentials covered, but lacks advanced features or mobile-specific ones.
  • 8.0 – 9.4: Excellent mobile apps. Very little feature disparity with its desktop counterparts and one or more mobile-specific features.
  • 9.5+: Fully-featured mobile apps. Achieves near-total feature parity with desktop apps and includes multiple features optimized for mobile.

Once we assign a value from this scale, we then multiply it by 0.3 to account for its 30% weighting.

3. Mobile Connection Time (10% of Overall Rating)

To test mobile connection time, we always use:

  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro (iOS 17)
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro (Android 12)
  • Dedicated WiFi network
  • Digital stopwatch

A VPN’s connection time is a measurement of how long it takes to connect to a nearby server.

This is particularly important for mobile users, as cellular data is more prone to connection drops due to inconsistent network coverage.

Similarly, you’re more likely to use a mobile VPN with public WiFi, which is more susceptible to third-party attacks and snoopers.

Therefore, a fast connection time is essential to protect your personal data on mobile. It’s also an indication of how responsive and easy-to-use the VPN app is.

We measured each mobile VPN’s connection time by timing how long it took to connect to the nearest server on its default protocol. We performed this test three times each for iPhone and Android device and then averaged the results into an overall mobile connection time.

To generate a rating, we converted the final average into a value on a scale of 1 to 10 and multiplied it by 0.1 to reflect its 10% weighting.

You can see our full mobile connection time results and ratings in the table below:

4. Mobile Battery Usage (10% of Overall Rating)

To test mobile battery usage, we always use:

  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro (iOS 17)
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro (Android 12)
  • The same test video
  • Consistent VPN protocol & server location

An active VPN connection significantly drains your mobile’s battery and is often one of the leading consumers for battery usage.

The exact amount is difficult to determine and depends on several factors including: the selected VPN protocol, the type of encryption, your signal strength, and your phone’s model.

We’ve created a standardized test to determine the approximate battery usage of each mobile VPN, but it is not exact for the reasons outlined above.

While connected to a nearby VPN server, we streamed a 60 minute video in Full HD quality and recorded our mobile’s battery level before and after streaming. We did this three times each on iOS and Android, using the same test video, to determine an average battery loss.

To calculate the rating, we converted the final average into a value on a scale of 1 to 10 and multiplied it by 0.1 to reflect its 10% weighting.

5. Speed (10% of Overall Rating)

To test mobile speed, we always use:

  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro (iOS 17)
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro (Android 12)
  • Fixed 100Mbps connection
  • Bespoke speed test servers

Fast speeds are an essential part of a VPN service, especially when connecting to unreliable mobile networks.

To test this, we regularly connect to VPN servers in five different continents and aggregate the results into an average.

The final results are converted into a rating using our speed test calculator and then multiplied by 0.1 to reflect its 10% weighting.

You can find a selection of each mobile VPN’s speed test results, alongside their speed rating, in the table below:

6. Privacy & Logging Policy (10% of Overall Rating)

To test privacy & logging policy, we always use:

  • Custom-built logging policy calculator
  • Multiple testers to independently examine the policy

A VPN’s logging policy outlines how much of your data is monitored and collected by the service. If too much is logged, then your mobile activity can become linked to you and exposed by a hacker or court case.

We test this by reading every word of a mobile VPN’s logging policy and then recording what it logs, where it’s stored, and how long it’s kept for.

We also take into consideration the VPN’s jurisdiction and whether it uses any additional measures to protect your privacy, such as diskless servers.

To calculate this rating, we take it from the Privacy & Logging Policy section of the VPN review. We then divided it by 0.1 to account for its 10% weighting.


Can You Use a VPN on Mobile Data?

Yes, you can use a VPN on mobile data in the same way you can use a VPN on WiFi. However, using a VPN on mobile data can cause your data usage to increase by as much as 20%.

It’s also worth noting that cellular networks are more prone to connection drops and slower speeds. To mitigate against this, we recommend using a VPN on 5G networks where possible.

Can You Leave a Mobile VPN on All the Time?

You can leave an active VPN connection running on your mobile but it can cause your device’s battery to drain faster and your mobile data to be used quicker.

You may also experience slightly slower download speeds on your mobile if you’re connected to a distant VPN server.