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Best Mobile VPN of 2022

Whether you're on iPhone or Android, you can boost your browsing privacy with these virtual private networks.

Whether you use the new iPhone 14 or the latest Android, a top-performing VPN for mobile is a good way to enhance your privacy on the go. The best mobile VPN can give you an extra layer of protection when you log into your personal sites on public Wi-Fi. It can also prevent your internet service provider from tracking which sites you visit and help you avoid intrusive, location-based advertising. Plus, a virtual private network comes in handy for dodging restrictions on your favorite streaming services while you travel.

There are limits to the privacy VPN services currently offer iOS users, however. Recent independent research has emerged suggesting that iOS (and some MacOS) users' browsing and internet data may be sent to Apple despite the protections offered by an encrypted VPN tunnel. We'll continue to update our recommendations as more information surfaces around this issue. 

Meanwhile, the battle for the best mobile VPN has continued into 2022 as the industry's three biggest providers roll out competitive privacy apps for iPhones and Android devices. Google and Apple have also both recently broadened their mobile encryption offerings. But if you're serious about your mobile privacy, nothing can take the place of an unaffiliated and independent VPN on your phone. That's what you'll find here in our list of recommendations for the best mobile VPN.

This is essentially a subset of our main best VPN list. That's due to the fact that during our VPN research and hands-on testing process, we closely scrutinize each service's mobile VPN app experience. While not every VPN service is the best option to use with your phone, an increasingly mobile-first approach among most top VPN service providers has, in this case, paid off for subscribers. Most recently, the reigning champions on CNET's overall best VPN list have made competitive strides with their product's mobile VPN offering for both Android and Apple devices, and we expect that trend to continue. 

For that same reason, this best mobile VPN list currently reflects the same rankings you'll find on this list of the best iPhone VPNs and the best Android VPNs. If and when a VPN provider offers a mobile client more closely tailored to the environment of either of those phones, you'll see those changes reflected in their respective directory. 

As always, I strongly recommend you avoid free VPNs and instead use a thoroughly tested, paid VPN whenever possible. I'm actively working on more testing and research, so keep checking back. This list will be periodically updated as CNET stays on top of security improvements, user-friendliness, speed rankings and cost value for each of these mobile VPN apps. 

ExpressVPN
  • Simple, fast, effective iOS app
  • Number of servers: 3,000-plus in 160 locations across 94 countries
  • 2022 testing: Zero data leaks and less than 2% internet speed loss. 
  • Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands

ExpressVPN is currently the fastest VPN we've tested in 2022, causing us to lose less than 2% of our total internet speeds. Its apps for iOS and Android are designed with a streamlined approach aimed at connecting fast without a fuss. A single button on its landing screen directs you to connect quickly, with the only accompanying option a drop-down server location selector with your fastest nearby city selected by default. 

ExpressVPN's other options -- its security and privacy tools, account and settings options, and support page -- are all kept neatly tucked away under a garden variety three-bar icon in the screen's top left corner. And they're worth checking into. ExpressVPN has included an on-board IP address checker, along with two leak testers and a password generator.

In the past year, ExpressVPN increased its independent third-party audit count, published details about its TrustedServer deployment process, joined the i2Coalition to call for improved VPN industry ethics, and released an open source Lightway encryption protocol.

All of our top-rated VPNs have wide compatibility across platforms and operating systems, but ExpressVPN's collection of setup guides, detailed FAQs and troubleshooting articles give it a clear advantage for users. So does its 24/7 customer support, and its no-questions-asked, 30-day money back guarantee. 

The company has been in business since 2009, and ExpressVPN has a substantial network of more than 3,000 RAM-only servers spread across 160 locations in 94 countries. ExpressVPN's best plan offers five simultaneous connections for $100 a year (which includes three extra months, for a limited-time deal totaling 15 months of service). You can also opt for a $13 per-month plan, or pay $60 for six months.

Read our ExpressVPN review.

 

ExpressVPN
  • Competitive speeds
  • Solid security suite
  • Company is based in privacy-friendly jurisdiction
49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)
Surfshark
  • Intuitive app interface, with plenty of power under the hood
  • Number of servers: 3,200-plus
  • Number of VPN server locations: 65
  • Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands

Despite its customizability and powerful performance as a virtual private network, Surfshark's iOS VPN app and Android VPN app offer an interface that is surprisingly intuitive for first-time users. Its four-tab design elegantly conceals a host of privacy tools and connection options, highlighting a single-click connection button on the app's landing screen. 

Quickly access one of Surfshark's multihop connection options -- one of its most promising features, which jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your trail -- through its main location-selection screen, with no need to rummage through the app's VPN settings. Surfshark also gets bonus points for making its customer support options readily available, including its help ticket feature and user guide library. 

While Surfshark's network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes up for it in features. Let's start off with the biggest win it offers: unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark's VPN, you don't have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers antimalware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.

Surfshark received generally high marks when its Chrome and Firefox extensions were audited for privacy by German security firm Cure 53 (PDF link of full report) -- though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.

The VPN provider has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, FireTV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important. 

Along with multihop, Surfshark also offers two more special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn't know you're using a virtual private network. And NoBorders Mode "allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions." 

Just be careful. Doing any of those things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we didn't see a DNS leak or IP address leak and had no trouble accessing Netflix. 

Unlike many other VPN providers, Surfshark doesn't offer a one-year plan. Its best offer is $2.30 a month for its two-year plan (you pay about $60 upfront). A 12-month plan is $3.99 a month (about $48 upfront), and month-by-month plans are $13 a month. Definitely take advantage of its generous 30-day trial to decide if you like this service (and if you choose the two-year plan, maybe set a reminder in 23 months to see if you can talk the VPN provider into a continued discount rate).

Read our Surfshark VPN review.

 

Surfshark VPN
  • Market-leading speeds
  • Doorbuster pricing
  • Multihop VPN
$2.30/mo + 2 months free (2 year plan)
NordVPN
  • Among the fastest VPNs, with only 13% speed loss
  • Number of servers: 5,200-plus servers in 62 countries
  • Apps: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Android TV, Fire TV
  • Country/jurisdiction: Panama
  • $3.99 a month for a two-year plan

NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers a generous simultaneous connection count, with six simultaneous connections through its network, where nearly all other providers offer five or fewer. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP option, for those looking for a different level of VPN connection, and the ability to VPN into Tor. More than half of Nord's 5,000-plus server fleet is optimized for peer-to-peer sharing, though Nord has blocked torrenting in 14 countries.

In our latest test rounds we noticed a few hiccups in Nord's killswitch when using its iOS app, which could be a concern for torrenters. However, Nord has a sideloaded iOS available on its website that it recommends for users. In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN's performance recovered from middling speed scores of 2021 and zoomed back into the ranks of the fastest VPNs we've tested, causing us to lose just 13% of base internet speeds. 

NordVPN doesn't accept PayPal payments, but you can purchase a subscription with any major credit or debit card, AmazonPay, Google Pay or ACH transfer. If you'd rather pay anonymously, you can pay with a variety of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether and Dogecoin. NordVPN has also partnered with a handful of retail stores like Staples, BestBuy and Walmart where you can even purchase your VPN with cash.

Read our NordVPN review.

 

NordVPN
  • Reliable, competitive speeds
  • RAM-disk servers
  • Feature-rich software
62% off with 24-mo plan
IPVanish
  • Most customizable VPN app 
  • Number of servers: 1,600
  • Number of VPN server locations: 75
  • Country/jurisdiction: US

A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. With both its iOS and Android apps, IPVanish manages to pack the same extensive suite of digital knobs and dials into a smaller screen to impressive effect. 

If you're looking for the ability to do some precision-tuning to your VPN connection, IPVanish is a solid bet. From generating visual graphs of your internet activity to a bevy of switches controlling split-tunneling, LAN connection allowance and more -- IPVanish is an app for the methodical tech tweaker who enjoys having exact control over their mobile traffic. 

Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN. 

A unique feature of IPVanish, and one we're intrigued by, is the VPN's support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. The integrated IPVanish Kodi plugin provides access to media worldwide.

At $11 a month or $60 a year, IPVanish VPN is obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. We're a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee. That said, the company gets kudos for its recent increase from 10 to now unlimited simultaneous connections. We also liked its connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing. 

Read our IPVanish review.

 

IPVanish
  • Competitive speeds
  • Interface encourages learning
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
63% off with 12-mo plan

What is a mobile VPN?

Use a mobile-friendly VPN solution to avoid slower speeds and ensure greater data privacy for your whole device. Mobile VPNs generally have a smaller memory footprint, and require less processing power than desktop VPNs, so they run faster and save more battery. Our top three VPNs listed above all have excellent, easy-to-use mobile app options for their services. Some VPNs will only work with one type of platform -- like Apple or Android -- and some are universally compatible. To find the right mobile VPN for you, check out our other mobile-specific VPN guides below. We routinely update them with our re-testing information so check back often. 

What's the best free VPN?

None of them. Seriously. While there are plenty of excellent free security and privacy apps online, VPNs sadly aren't among them. Safe VPNs cost companies a lot of money to operate and keep secure, and a free VPN app is almost always a malware-laden data snoop. But there's good news: The burgeoning VPN market is hyper-competitive right now, so prices for even the best VPNs regularly drop to less than $5 a month. In fact, the least expensive VPN client we've seen so far ranks in our top three VPNs overall for security and speed. Check out our quick list of budget-savvy VPNs to find one in your price range. 

More VPN advice