Best mobile VPN services for 2019

Welcome to the CNET directory of mobile VPN services for 2019. In this directory, we're taking a look at 10 of the best mobile-oriented commercial virtual private network (VPN) service providers on the Internet. All of these vendors charge for their services, but that way you know who's paying the bills. We're always a bit wary of the free services, because we don't know who's paying the bills or where their loyalties lie.

Most folks think about VPN services on their laptops, and that's the focus of our of main list of best VPNs. To be clear, there is plenty of overlap between that list and this one, and that's intentional -- most services are cross-platform. But when looking at mobile VPN services, we particularly examined the app support for phones, tablets, and other devices.  

For example, we almost always recommend avoiding free Wi-Fi when you're out and about. Because those free Wi-Fi services have no encryption, they can be monitored by anyone. That's risky. Instead, we've often suggested you use your mobile data plan, because while mobile data can be intercepted, it's far less common than Wi-Fi sniffers.

But, if you're using a VPN service on your phone or tablet, you are much, much safer. Once you turn on your phone-based VPN service, you can be reasonably free to surf open Wi-Fi access and save your mobile data plan's allocated bandwidth. That said, we never, ever recommend you surf to sensitive sites on open Wi-Fi, regardless of how secure your VPN service may be.

While every provider we list below has support for iOS and Android, a few support outlying phones like Blackberry, the secure Blackphone and Windows phones. We also spotlight additional platforms and devices supported, including gaming consoles and TV set top boxes that you might use on hotel Wi-Fi for instance. 

The ratings below are tentative, based on our initial examination of the features and privacy options offered by each provider. We're working on longer individual reviews -- ratings may change based on subsequent experience. (More explanation on rating criteria can be found at the bottom.)

Services are ranked by rating (highest to lowest), and then alphabetical within each rating tier.

NordVPN - 5/5

·Mobile: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

·Computer: Linux, Windows, Mac

·Price: $11.95 per month or $69 for a year

·30-day money back guarantee

As you may have noticed, NordVPN is our first 5/5 winner. It also picked up the most points of any of our vendors in our comprehensive evaluation matrix. We also need to point out that NordVPN supports an absolutely insane number of platforms ranging from all the way back to Windows XP, forward to the Raspberry Pi, Synology, Western Digital along with QNAP NAS boxes, Chromebook and a whole bunch of routers.

The company's jurisdiction is Panama. That said, NordVPN has a strict no-logging policy, along with a selection of more than 3,500 servers located in more than 61 countries. 

For those of you traveling with multiple devices, you'll be happy to know you can connect up to six devices simultaneously on one account. NordVPN also offers a full selection of protocols and security features, including a robust system and application-level connection kill switch feature.

While the usual cautions apply to the idea of streaming content across national boundaries, it's worth noting that NordVPN offers a comprehensive SmartPlay system that makes international streaming a breeze.

Private Internet Access - 5/5

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Mac, Windows

·$6.95 a month or $39.95 per year 

·7-day trial

While we're on the topic of 5/5-rated providers, we'd like to introduce you to Private Internet Access, the company with the absolutely lowest per-year price of all the services we've reviewed. When you combine a top score with the lowest price, you know you've got a winner.

Private Internet Access is a US-based company, with 3,069 servers located in 28 countries across the globe. Among our favorite things about this 5/5 winner is that they don't log any data, and they actively support many privacy and open source projects. You can even pay for your service anonymously.  

The company accepts payments from a vast array of gift cards, so whether you need to caffeine up your surfing using a balance from a Starbucks card or you'd prefer to avoid the inevitable calories from your See's Candies gift card by transferring the balance into your VPN account, Private Internet Access is a tasty solution.

TorGuard - 5/5

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Mac, Windows, support for routers

·$9.99 per month or $59.99 for a year

·7-day money back guarantee

In order to earn a 5/5 rating, a VPN provider must not keep any logs whatsoever, and TorGuard met that requirement handily. The company offers a wide range of security protocols, but we are particularly intrigued by the anonymous email plans the company offers - a real boon to travelers who want to fully protect their communications.

The company hasn't disclosed the number of IP addresses it makes available, but the number of servers (more than 3,000), has pretty much doubled in the last six months. No matter where you are in the world, TorGuard's native support in more than 50 countries should keep you well-protected.

The company accepts payment in bitcoin, as well as the new up-and-comer in the crypto-currency world, litecoin.

 CyberGhost VPN - 4.5/5

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Windows, Mac

·Support for routers

·$11.99 per month or $59.88 for a year

·30-day money back guarantee

If you really want to get the best bang for your buck, get CyberGhost's $99 plan for three years. That's $2.75 a month, and also gets you a free McAfee subscription. The company supports OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec, a connection kill switch feature and P2P along with BitTorrent in most locations.

If you're on the road, you'll be pleased to know that CyberGhost has 365 servers located in 115 locations across the planet. As you surf, you can use any of 1,400 (and growing) individual IP addresses, so your surfing will always be anonymous.

While we're on the topic of security, the company does not log connection data, and has custom app protection, plus IPV5 support, along with DNS, IP and WebRTC leak prevention. All this means that whether you're in a coffee shop, airport or restaurant, you'll be as stealthy as a ghost.

ExpressVPN - 4.5/5

·iOS, Android, BlackBerry

·Linux, Mac, Windows, support for routers

·PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV, Fire TV

·$12.95 per month or $99 for 1 year (3 free months with first year)

·30-day money back guarantee

Have you ever wanted to take a vacation in a tropical oasis? Well, now your data can be protected by warm weather, balmy winds and no data retention laws. Based out of the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN keeps no connection logs.

In fact, no matter where you go, you'll be able to be protected by ExpressVPN. With more than 1,700 servers in 148 cities and 94 countries, you can route your data through whatever jurisdiction and nationality you choose. It's your data, after all.

We liked that ExpressVPN offers a wide range of protocol options including OpenVPN, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP. The company also has a connection kill switch. If you really want to protect your privacy, consider paying them with bitcoin, which is fully supported.

Best plan is $6.67/mo for an annual package with three months free.

Buffered VPN - 4/5

Buffered VPN doesn't disclose much about the size of its network, but the 30-day money back guarantee means that you can take their service for a test drive and really get a feel for how well it performs for you. The company lost a few points from us because they do keep some connection information. They gained points for their client support, unlimited bandwidth, and generous number of simultaneous sessions allowed.

The company is relatively new, founded in 2013. It's based in Europe, so those who prefer an EU-based company might prefer Buffered. We like how Buffered has made a strong commitment to Internet freedom, and an equally strong commitment to providing quality customer support.

At $12.99 per month and $99.00 for a year of service, they don't offer the least expensive plan, but we do recommend giving them a try. 

Goose VPN - 4.5/5

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Mac, Windows

·Android TV, Kodi, support for routers

·Starting rate at $2.99 per month

·30-day trial

The standout feature of Goose VPN is its unlimited device policy. No matter how many mobile devices you travel with, Goose VPN will support them all.

Based in the Netherlands, the company has 86 servers in 39 locations across the world, so you've got some pretty good flexibility in how you connect. One feature we like is that Goose VPN indicates which servers are best for media streaming and which servers allow you to use P2P connections.

As always, your use of VPNs to alter streaming locations is something that may or may not be legal (or supported in your terms of service) in your home country, the country you're currently in or the country that's providing the media you're trying to reach.

Goose VPN does have the lowest per-month price we've seen at $2.99 for a month without a multi-year commitment, but it is bandwidth-constrained to 50GB or less per month. If you want unlimited bandwidth, you can step up to the $12.99 per month plan or spend $59.88 for a year's worth of service, one of the best full-year deals we've seen for VPN service.

When we first looked at Goose, it did not support a kill switch feature. Now, as of version 3.2.2, the company does support a kill switch - but sadly, it's limited to Windows users only. We're hoping to see kill switch support implemented for other platforms.

IPVanish VPN - 4.5/5

·Mobile platforms: iOS, Android Windows Phone

·Computer platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac, Chromebook

·Other platforms: Fire TV ($49 at Best Buy), support for routers

·Price: $7.50/month and $58.49 for a year for the first year, $10/month and $77.99 a year thereafter

·7-day trial

No matter where you decide to travel, IPVanish has you covered. They have more than 1,000 servers in 60 locations throughout the world and offer a whopping 40,000+ IP addresses. If you often work across multiple devices (for example, using your laptop for writing along with an iPad ($250 at Amazon) as a second lookup screen), you'll be happy to know you have five mobile devices connected at any time.

We were very happy to see that the company says it keeps no traffic logs, so you can rest assured that no matter where you are in the world, you won't leave a trace in IPVanish's records.

Add to that unlimited bandwidth, unlimited P2P traffic, anonymous torrenting, OpenVPN as well as L2TP/IPSec VPN protocols and a connection kill switch if you ever drop service. That said, if you ever do need help, the company, based out of the US, does offer 24/7 customer support.

PureVPN - 4.5/5

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/CNET

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Mac, Windows

·Kodi, Android TV, Fire TV, support for routers 

·$10.95 per month or $69 for 3 years

·7-day money back guarantee

PureVPN has a really excellent support site, with sections containing problem solvers specifically aimed at users in China and those attempting to access Netflix. While the company does log some technical information, they have a strict no-browsing-log policy. That's not as footprint-free as we'd like, but it's good enough for all but the most careful users.

The company has a huge bank of more than 95,000 IP addresses, more than 750 servers (a fifty percent growth in servers since we last looked at them) and local access support in more than 140 countries across the planet.

We're very intrigued with PureVPN's advanced protection (which is available with every service tier). This beta program offers antivirus and malware protection in real-time, a feature that makes total sense in a VPN, to the point we're wondering why we haven't seen it more often. The company offers all the usual protocols, a solid Internet connection kill switch, web filtering, app filtering and a firewall-style function that allows you to specify which apps are and are not allowed to access the internet. 

StrongVPN - 4.5/5

One quick glance at the list of supported devices will show you why StrongVPN is so strong. No matter how you want to connect to the Internet, and what device you use, StrongVPN has you covered. What makes StrongVPN interesting, and scored it points in our evaluation, is how simple the app are to use on your mobile device. All you need to do is click one button. Boom! You're connected. And protected.

Continuing on the simplicity theme is StrongVPN's pricing plan. Unlike many providers who try to confuse you with different tiers, a whole set of subscription periods, and bandwidth limitations, StrongVPN just gives you two simple, clear choices: $10 paid per month, or $69.99 if you pay for a full year.

The company offers OpenVPN, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. Since PPTP is an older and weaker form of protection, the company wisely recommends you avoid if you possibly can. So why do they offer it? It's part of the company's DNA: meet customer needs and some customers are limited to only that protocol.

World travelers will be happy to know that the company has 683 servers in 70 locations, with 59,500 IP addresses. We awarded a 5/5 in large part because the company doesn't log any data, has a kill switch, advanced IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and industry-leading security throughout their entire architecture. Oh, and they own their own network infrastructure, so their policies are their policies. And that's good for you.

Hide My Ass - 4/5

·iOS, Android

·Linux, Mac, Windows, support for routers

·$11.99 per month, $83.88 for a full year

·30-day money back guarantee

Hide My Ass is definitely giving Goose VPN a run for its money in terms of most amusing VPN service name. If all HMA offered was a silly name, we couldn't recommend them. Fortunately, the company has a robust suite of VPN services.

Hide My Ass has 830 servers in 280 locations across the planet, and a home jurisdiction in the UK. You can also protect your anonymity by using any of 3,106 IP addresses the company has available. We had to deduct points because the company does log some connection data.

That said, we like the clear documentation provided, the wide selection of protocols and the fact that HMA specifically allows the use of P2P and torrents, rather than the wink-wink, nudge-nudge approach to P2P permissions we've seen from some other vendors. The company also offers a connection kill switch, so even if your connection drops, your privacy doesn't.

VyprVPN Services - 4/5

·iOS, Android, Silent Circle Blackphone

·Linux, Mac, Windows

·Android TV, Kodi, Boxee, Apple TV, QNAP, Synology, Anonabox, support for routers

·$9.95 per month or $60 for a year

·3-day trial

VyprVPN is not exactly generous with the amount of time they allow you to try out their service, for only a 3-day trial. That's the shortest return policy or trial period of any VPN service we've evaluated, and it does contribute to the company losing a point.

But let's focus on some of the very big positives of the Switzerland-based VyprVPN service. We are particularly impressed by their incredibly large bank of more than 200,000 IP addresses, more than 700 servers and 70+ locations throughout the world.

If you're traveling to China, you might be interested in how VyperVPN scrambles OpenVPN packets to keep traffic flowing, despite China's practice of deep-packet VPN inspection. Beyond their own high-performance Chameleon protocol, the company supports all the standard protocols, along with a range of privacy protections. The zero-knowledge DNS and NAT firewall services that are included as part of the basic service are of particular note.

Rating methodology

The above vendors have been carefully selected for our best VPN directory. We've looked carefully at their offerings, and have assigned a rating scale based on some important criteria. All these vendors are excellent, but you may find you prefer one over another because of features, privacy capabilities or price.

In preparing this article, we cataloged capabilities from each vendor and awarded a rating on a 1 to 5 scale. We awarded extra points based on features they provide (with points for each feature). We awarded extra points based on the number of simultaneous sessions allowed, and the number of protocols (beyond OpenVPN) supported.

We also awarded points for price. Some vendors' services are more than twice the price of the services of other vendors. Less expensive vendors were rated higher than more costly vendors.

Finally, we awarded extra points for money-back guarantees. Those that offered short trial periods (or no refunds at all) got fewer points than those with generous 30-day money-back guarantees.