Having a virtual private network on your mobile device, phone or tablet gives you additional protection, whether you’re casually browsing social media at home or taking advantage of public Wi-Fi connections. A mobile VPN works by encrypting your online use by routing your activity to a server in a different location altogether. Your browsing goes into stealth mode, meaning your internet service provider and mobile carrier won’t be able to see the sites or services you’re using while on your mobile device. As an added bonus, a mobile VPN can also put a stop to location-based ads from interrupting your browsing sessions.
If a TV show or movie is blocked from viewing in your location, a mobile VPN can also help. These apps disguise your true IP address and replace it with that of the server you’re being redirected to. One simple click can unlock geographically restricted content that may have been unavailable for streaming, previously.
A VPN for mobile devices is particularly useful for anyone who travels a lot or anyone whose work, location or online activities require heightened privacy. If you’re a journalist, doctor, attorney, dissident, activist or whistleblower, for example, you’d benefit from a mobile VPN to protect your online privacy while you’re on the go. If you’re in a location where the government censors the internet or engages in online surveillance, you can use a mobile VPN to circumvent the censorship efforts while keeping your online activity private. And a mobile VPN is a handy tool if you’re simply looking for a way to watch your Netflix shows while traveling abroad.
The best VPN providers all offer excellent mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. And mobile VPN apps continue getting better and more useful as online services overall continue becoming increasingly mobile-first. It’s more important than ever to use a VPN on your mobile device, but if you’re an iOS user, you need to be aware of a vulnerability that can compromise your privacy while using a VPN on your iOS device.
How we tested mobile VPNs
To determine the best mobile VPN, I tested the mobile apps of each of the VPNs highlighted below on both iOS and Android for speed, DNS leaks, streaming, features and usability. Each of the VPNs here is worthy of its designation as one of the best mobile VPNs available, but one may be a better fit for you over another, depending on your budget or individual circumstances.
A word of caution about VPNs on iOS
There’s been a fair amount of chatter from VPN companies and independent researchers over the past few years about iOS devices leaking data outside of the VPN tunnel unencrypted. Proton VPN outlined a potential workaround that could be universally applied to other iOS VPN apps. The trick is to connect to a VPN server, then enable and disable Airplane mode. This should kill all existing processes connected to the internet on the device and allow them to reconnect through the VPN tunnel.
To be clear, this issue is on Apple’s side and affects all VPNs on iOS devices, so it didn’t influence my assessment of the top mobile VPNs, but is nonetheless crucial for iOS users to know. The vulnerability was reported to be present since at least iOS 13. Apple has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the issue, including whether the company plans to issue a fix ahead of the expected release of its latest mobile operating system, iOS 17, later on this fall.