Best VPN for Mobile 2021: Staying Safe on Android and iOS

VPN apps can differ dramatically between their desktop and mobile versions, so what works for one platform may not work as well for the other. We’ll explore what mobile users need to keep in mind when searching for the best mobile VPN.

Max Pitchkites
By Max Pitchkites (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-09-13T10:31:07+00:00 Facts checked by Elisabeth Ivey

Smartphones are indispensable these days, but mobile technology also makes it easier for cybercriminals to compromise your privacy. Whether your mobile device is connected to your home network or a public WiFi network at a coffee shop, everything you do online without a VPN can be monitored. That’s why we’ll suggest the seven top choices for the best mobile VPN apps.

Key Takeaways:

  • ExpressVPN is the best mobile VPN option, followed closely by NordVPN and Windscribe
  • Look for a VPN with the IKEv2 protocol. It’s a faster alternative to OpenVPN and handles network changes well, so you won’t have to worry about OpenVPN dropping out as you travel (but it is less secure).
  • Kill switches are useful to have in case your VPN connection drops out and will prevent you from using the web without protection.

Public WiFi networks are particularly risky because they have few to no security precautions to keep your data from being spied on and intercepted by malicious third parties.

Even while you’re at home, your internet service provider (ISP) can see everything you do if your connection isn’t encrypted. Keep reading for our full list of the best VPNs for mobile use.

  • 09/06/2021

    Updated information for ExpressVPN, VyprVPN and NordVPN. Expanded the list and replaced CyberGhost and Private Internet Access with Windscribe, Surfshark, IPVanish and Hotspot Shield.  

  • Windscribe has earned its spot as our top free VPN for mobile devices. It’s a surprisingly fast and secure free VPN with a customizable paid plan that lets you purchase additional server locations and data.

  • ExpressVPN is our first choice for protecting your mobile device, although it has several worthwhile competitors to consider as well. VyprVPN is a security-focused VPN you can rely on, but it falls behind in speed.

Best VPNs for Mobile

  1. 1
    • : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
    • : 5
  2. 2
    • : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
    • : 6
  3. 3
    • : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Paymentwall
    • : Unlimited
  4. 4
    • : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
    • : Unlimited
  5. 5
    • : PayPal, Credit card
    • : Unlimited
  6. 6
    • : PayPal, Credit card
    • : 5
    • : No
  7. 7
    • : PayPal, Credit card, UnionPay
    • : 30

What Makes the Best Mobile VPN Service?

Mobile users are more likely to switch between various WiFi networks and LTE connections than desktop users because you carry your phone with you wherever you go. Keep your eyes peeled for a mobile app that uses VPN protocols that can smoothly transition between connections. 

  1. ExpressVPN — Our top VPN for mobile covers all the bases when it comes to speed, security and features
  2. NordVPN — A close second choice that also works as an all-purpose mobile VPN
  3. Windscribe — An impressive free VPN with Premium and Build-a-Plan options
  4. Surfshark — A network of 3,200 servers and unlimited simultaneous connections
  5. IPVanish — An older provider that’s better for security than streaming
  6. Hotspot Shield — Fast enough for streaming HD video but lacking on the privacy front
  7. VyprVPN — A reliably secure and feature-packed VPN, but not the fastest

OpenVPN is the standard protocol for most VPNs, but despite its security and speed, OpenVPN has a tendency to drop out if you abruptly lose your connection or switch to different LTE and WiFi networks as you travel.

The IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2) protocol is an agile protocol that’s better adapted for frequent network switching. If you want to read more about the details of IKEv2, OpenVPN and other protocols, check out our VPN protocol breakdown article.

Kill switches come in handy when you unexpectedly lose your connection. Even if you choose to use OpenVPN while traveling, a kill switch will automatically halt the flow of information from your device if you abruptly lose connection to the VPN. This feature keeps your unencrypted communications from leaking onto the web.

Ease of use matters when you’re looking at such a small screen. ExpressVPN and Windscribe are two VPN providers that come with a simple mobile interface featuring a large button in the center of the screen that will instantly connect you to the server network.

The 7 Best Mobile VPNs

ExpressVPN is our highest recommendation for keeping your mobile devices secure, and NordVPN isn’t far behind. If you’re willing to invest in a VPN app on the more expensive end of the market, you’ll get everything from fast connection speeds and strong security to a wide selection of servers and plenty of features.

The other VPN services on this list tend to put their emphasis on some areas while making sacrifices in others. IPVanish and VyprVPN trade speed for security, while Hotspot Shield makes the opposite trade-off.

1. ExpressVPN

expressvpn mobile app
Keep your online activities hidden with ExpressVPN.

More details about ExpressVPN:

  • Pricing: $99 for 12 months, plus three months free the first year
  • Provider website: expressvpn.com

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • One of the fastest VPNs
  • Includes IKEv2
  • Great security & privacy

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest option
  • No kill switch for iOS

ExpressVPN is an ideal choice for streaming, gaming and torrenting because it’s one of the fastest VPNs out there. ExpressVPN runs a large server network of more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the world, so you will have a lot of geographic variety for unblocking streaming content.

It reliably accesses platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Even if you don’t stream very much, ExpressVPN is a fast and secure VPN app for general use and to protect your online privacy. One subscription buys you five simultaneous connections.

ExpressVPN’s interface makes it easy to use on small mobile device screens and requires little configuration. Just press the large “connect” button in the center of the screen and you’re good to go. You can also enable its auto-connect feature so your device will be protected every time you turn it on.

Best Mobile VPN with IKEv2 Protocol

ExpressVPN offers a wide range of protocols to choose from including its proprietary Lightway protocol. Its other options include OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP and the WireGuard protocol. ExpressVPN automatically selects the best protocol, but you can manually choose your preferred protocol.

expressvpn android cta
Stay secure everywhere you go.

ExpressVPN’s major downside is its price. The best deal ExpressVPN currently offers is $99 for the first 15 months followed by the same price for every 12 months, effectively giving you three free months free when you start out. ExpressVPN also offers one- and six-month plans, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

ExpressVPN is a VPN provider that hits all the right marks on nearly every front. Its mobile app is easy for first-time VPN users and comes with the IKEv2 protocol that will come in handy when you’re traveling. For more information about the best overall VPN, make sure to check out our full ExpressVPN Review.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN Android app
NordVPN offers over 5,200 servers worldwide, including more than 190 in Australia.

More details about NordVPN:

  • Pricing: $3.67 per month on the two-year plan
  • Provider website: nordvpn.com

Pros:

  • Large server network
  • Specialty servers
  • Malware/ad blocker
  • A no-logging policy

Cons:

  • Inconsistent speeds

NordVPN is a close runner-up for securing your mobile device. Its server network includes more than 5,200 servers spread across 60 countries worldwide that can unblock content from most of the top platforms in streaming, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer and more.

NordVPN comes with a built-in defense against ads, malware, phishing threats and other cyber hazards called CyberSec. It functions as a content blocker, but operates at the system level rather than as a browser extension. Six simultaneous connections come with a single subscription.

Specialty Servers for Extra Security

Its standard servers are sufficient for privately browsing the web, but extra privacy-focused users can connect to a selection of servers optimized for double VPN usage, P2P, dedicated IP and Onion Over VPN servers.

nordvpn ios download
NordVPN is available for several platforms, including iOS.

Its two-year plan is its best deal and costs $99, or half the price of an ExpressVPN subscription. You can always get a full refund within the first 30 days if you decide to go with a different VPN provider.

NordVPN is an effective all-around VPN for general internet privacy and data-consumptive activities like downloading. Its default security settings are more than enough to keep your online activity hidden from your ISP and malicious third parties. Check out our full NordVPN review for more information about NordVPN’s fast and secure mobile apps.

3. Windscribe

windscribe android
Windscribe’s Android app uses the IKEv2 protocol by default.

More details about Windscribe:

  • Pricing: Free, or $4.08 per month on the 12-month plan
  • Provider website: windscribe.com

Pros:

  • Impressive free option
  • Customizable payment plan
  • Split tunneling, kill switch & other features
  • Secure & affordable

Cons:

  • Three-day refund period
  • Slow OpenVPN performance

Windscribe is a feature-packed VPN for mobile users on a budget. You will never have to worry about data exposure if your VPN fails between connections because Windscribe comes with a built-in kill switch. The emergency kill switch will automatically cut your internet connection in case of a sudden loss of connection to the VPN, thus protecting your data from exposure.

In addition, Windscribe now offers split tunneling in its Android, Windows and Mac apps. Windscribe will let you select which apps go through the encryption tunnel and which remain unprotected. Split tunneling is an easy way to unblock geo-restricted online services without losing access to locally available content.

The Best Free VPN for Mobile

If you’re not ready to make the investment in ExpressVPN or NordVPN, Windscribe offers a robust free version that doesn’t disappoint. Windscribe is among our highest rated free VPNs and works almost as well as a full-price service; it simply lacks the full server selection and bandwidth. 

windscribe android cta
Windscribe provides an app for Android devices.

Its customizable “Build-a-Plan” option lets you purchase individual servers and blocks of data so you can gradually transition from the free version to the paid version. If you want to jump right into Windscribe’s full version, you can buy its yearly plan for $49 or pay $9 for its monthly plan.

The high price tag on some services can alienate first-time VPN users, but Windscribe offers a 10GB free version that doesn’t leave newcomers behind. Windscribe is a flexible and full-featured VPN that anyone can use. See our full Windscribe review to learn more about what makes Windscribe our favorite free VPN.

Build a Plan
  • Per “Pro” server location
  • : 10 GB
  • : Unlimited

4. Surfshark

surfshark android
Surfshark can automatically connect to the fastest available server.

More details about Surfshark:

  • Pricing: $2.49 per month on the two-year plan
  • Provider website: surfshark.com

Pros:

  • Unlimited devices
  • Split tunneling
  • Supports ChaCha stream cipher

Cons:

  • Unstable speeds

Surfshark is a relatively new VPN that’s quickly risen in popularity since its launch in 2018. It’s much cheaper than our top two VPNs and packed with plenty of useful features — including a network of over 3,200 servers — but it doesn’t deliver the same level of performance.

For a relatively low-priced VPN, Surfshark comes with a wide selection of encryption protocols including OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard and Shadowsocks. The IKEv2 protocol is exceptionally fast on Surfshark’s mobile apps and quickly recovers dropped connections. In 2019, Surfshark added support for the ChaCha stream cipher as a faster alternative to the standard AES block cipher.

Protect Every Device With a VPN Connection

One of Surfshark’s standout features is its unlimited number of simultaneous connections. A single subscription with Surfshark will let you connect as many devices as you want, making it a great VPN for families.

surfshark ios
You can keep all of your devices protected at once with Surfshark.

A full-featured Surfshark package costs $95.52 for two years, which includes other Surfshark products such as its antivirus software, alert features and search engine. The VPN alone costs $59.76 for the first 24 months, after which it’s billed annually at the same rate. A single month costs $12.95. Surfshark does not come with a free plan, but at least provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Mobile users on a budget will be able to browse the web anonymously with Surfshark, no matter how many devices you own. Its IKEv2 protocol and ChaCha cipher facilitate fast and secure mobile connections that can quickly recover after abrupt changes in connection. Take a look at our full Surfshark review, where we take a deeper dive into this VPN app.

5. IPVanish

ipvanish android interface
Split tunneling is available on the Android, Android TV and FireOS apps.

More details about IPVanish:

  • Pricing: $3.75 per month on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: ipvanish.com

Pros:

  • Supports 5 VPN protocols for mobile including IKEv2
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Unlimited device support

Cons:

  • Split tunneling only on Android
  • Doesn’t unblock streaming sites very well
  • Somewhat expensive

IPVanish has a smaller-than-average server network at just 1,900 servers in more than 75 locations around the world. However, it has trouble consistently unblocking some of the top streaming services, despite having fast enough speeds for streaming. Nonetheless, this VPN’s security features and unlimited simultaneous connections make it a worthy consideration.

The split tunneling feature is only available for IPVanish’s Android apps. While it isn’t ideal for split tunneling to be exclusive to a single app, Android users will benefit from the ability to pick and choose which applications go through the encryption tunnel.

Comprehensive Protocol Suite

IPVanish’s six supported protocols include OpenVPN over TCP or UDP, L2TP, IKEv2, IPSec, WireGuard (in beta) and PPTP (Windows only), all of which are secured with the industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption. 

The OpenVPN protocol is the standard for most security-focused VPNs, but the IKEv2 protocol keeps your mobile connection secure with the speed and flexibility to adapt to sudden network changes.

ipvanish android download
IPVanish’s Android app comes with plenty of security features.

IPVanish offers a yearly plan that costs $44.99 for the first year, then goes up to $89.99 for each subsequent year. The monthly plan costs $10.99 per month. No free trials are available, but the yearly plan comes with a 30-day refund period.

IPVanish is better suited for security purposes than streaming, despite its fast server speeds. Mobile users will have a strong encryption standard and plenty of VPN protocols to keep them secure while on the go, especially with the IKEv2 protocol. Android users will get the most out of IPVanish since that’s the only app that supports the split tunneling feature.

While IPVanish is inconsistent in some of its features and isn’t the cheapest, it’s more than enough to keep mobile users private and secure. Check out our full IPVanish review to learn more.

IPVanish Monthly
  • $4.99 for the first month
  • : Unlimited GB
  • : 10
IPVanish Yearly
  • $39.99 for the first year
  • : Unlimited GB
  • : 10

6. Hotspot Shield

hotspot shield android
You can try out Hotspot Shield’s free VPN app before you buy.

More details about Hotspot Shield:

  • Pricing: Free, or $7.99 per month on the one-year plan
  • Provider website: hotspotshield.com

Pros:

  • Fairly fast speeds
  • Split tunneling
  • Kill switch

Cons:

  • Data collection
  • Proprietary VPN protocol
  • Expensive

Hotspot Shield is a fast VPN with useful features like split tunneling and a kill switch, but it suffers from a questionable privacy guarantee that relegates it to a lower spot on this list.

Hotspot Shield’s supported protocols include its proprietary Hydra protocol, IPSec (IKEv2), OpenVPN UDP/TCP, and WireGuard. Hydra is very similar to OpenVPN and purports to use optimized algorithms for a connection that is both fast and secure. 

Although Hotspot Shield delivers fast connection speeds, its proprietary nature makes it impossible to perform a security audit, so your only option is to take the provider’s security promises at face value. IKEv2 is a useful protocol for mobile users, but it would be nice if Hotspot Shield at least offered the option to choose from other protocols like OpenVPN.

A Great VPN Provider for Streaming

Hotspot Shield shines most brightly as a streaming VPN. It operates a network of about 1,800 servers spread across 80 countries that can reliably unblock and stream HD video content from Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites.

HotSpotshield homepage 2020
Hotspot Shield can unblock just about any streaming service.

Hotspot Shield offers one free and two paid plans. The Premium plan is the best deal and costs $7.99 per month (billed at $95.88 annually). The Premium Family plan costs $11.99 per month, billed at $143.88 annually.

If a fast internet connection is the main thing you want, Hotspot Shield isn’t a bad choice. Its IKEv2 protocol, split tunneling and kill switch will all come in handy for fast mobile browsing, although it’s not the strongest VPN in terms of security. We get into detail in our full Hotspot Shield review.

Free
  • 500MB/day
  • : 1
1 Month Premium
  • : Unlimited GB
  • : 5
1 Year Premium
  • : Unlimited GB
  • : 5
1 Month Family
  • : Unlimited GB
  • : 25

7. VyprVPN

best-vpn-for-android-vyprvpn
VyprVPN will keep you connected in censorship-heavy regions.

More details about VyprVPN:

  • Pricing: $1.67 per month on the three-year plan
  • Provider website: vyprvpn.com

Pros:

  • Works in China
  • Protocols can be combined
  • Scrambles packet metadata

Cons:

  • Not the fastest VPN
  • Small server selection

VyprVPN excels on the security front, even though that means making some sacrifices on speed. VyprVPN offers 256-bit AES encryption, an audited no-logs policy and the ability to bypass geo-restricted streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. 

It’s true that VyprVPN has considerable unblocking power, but its inconsistent connection speeds mean that it’s not the best for streaming.

Customize Your VPN’s Protocols

Despite its shortcomings on speed, VyprVPN is a flexible service that supports four VPN protocols plus the ability to combine some of them for a personalized level of performance. Its supported protocols include IKEv2, IPSec, OpenVPN and its proprietary Chameleon protocol. 

OpenVPN comes in first place in security at the cost of speed. IKEv2 reverses the tradeoff on its own, but can be combined with IPSec to reach OpenVPN-level security without losing too much security value. The IKEv2-IPSec combination also supports the mobile-friendly ChaCha20 stream cipher.

Chameleon is based on OpenVPN but includes the added bonus of scrambling packet metadata. This feature is what makes VyprVPN one of the few VPNs that actually works in China. It’s key for thwarting deep packet inspection (DPI) practices that censors in China use to identify and block VPN usage.

vyprvpn android download
VyprVPN is one of the most secure and affordable VPN services.

For the value, VyprVPN is one of the less expensive VPNs out there. The 36-month plan is the best deal and costs $60 every 36 months, equivalent to $1.67 per month. Its 18-month plan is billed at $45 every 18 months (or $2.50 per month) and its two-month plan costs $6.47 per month, billed at $12.95 every two months.

VyprVPN is full of useful features including some that most VPNs don’t have at all. If your main goal is to fortify your mobile device with a high level of security, VyprVPN will satisfy — but keep in mind that it comes at the cost of a fast connection. 

Fortunately, VyprVPN’s supported protocols are flexible enough to let you choose between a faster or a more secure connection. Read our full VyprVPN review to find out more about this VPN provider’s capabilities.

Final Thoughts: Best Mobile VPNs

Whether you’re an Android or iOS user, you have several options for keeping your mobile connection secure as you travel with these mobile VPNs. Some VPNs put their emphasis on speed while others value security, and there’s a wide spectrum of options between them. ExpressVPN is our number one mobile VPN on this list, but each user’s needs are unique, and no one VPN can provide everything.

What do you think makes for a good mobile VPN? Do you prioritize speed, security or something else? Is there a great mobile VPN not mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.