Why should I use a VPN on my phone?

There are plenty of good reasons why you should use a VPN on your phone, as well as other devices, to protect your data. Here's why

vpn on smartphone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You might already use one of the best VPN services at work or on your home computer, but what about your smartphone? It's probably the device you use most often, certainly on your own time – so should you be using a VPN with that, too?

Let’s look at the reasons why you might want to install a VPN on your mobile.

Privacy and security

A key reason for using a VPN is to maintain the privacy of the data you send online – and you send data from your smartphone just as you do from your PC or any other device. Indeed, as we increasingly use our phones to carry out all manner of tasks online – even sensitive tasks like, say, online banking – the benefit of an Android or iPhone VPN protecting your mobile becomes an even stronger argument.

With a VPN connection, your phone’s data is sent via an encrypted tunnel to a VPN server, before heading to its destination online. And that means the likes of your ISP and other third-parties can no longer see that data, thus avoiding the possibility of them monitoring things like your browsing habits which, potentially, can be leveraged for financial gain.

A VPN also provides security with this encrypted tunnel, and this is particularly useful in scenarios where you’re away from home and using your phone on the go with potentially insecure public Wi-Fi networks – maybe at a café, or airport. In these higher risk scenarios - where the Wi-Fi network in question could potentially be compromised - even if the data sent from your smartphone is somehow intercepted by an attacker, they won’t be able to do anything with that data because it’s encrypted.

why should i use a vpn on my phone

(Image credit: Farknot Architect / Shutterstock.com)

Traveler’s friend

Following on from that last point, when you’re traveling abroad and only have your smartphone (and perhaps your laptop) with you, a VPN may come in handy on all your portable devices for getting around censorship and restrictions. Some regimes ban certain services or social media networks, for example, and with a VPN – which can make it appear as if you’re based in a different location (namely where the VPN server is) – you can get round these blocks and still access the online content you need.

Of course, you can similarly use a streaming VPN which may be geo-blocked based on your region; and watching the likes of Netflix might be a nice benefit for those with phablets, for example.

VPN fears?

To flip the question for a moment: why wouldn’t you want to use a VPN on your phone? What we’re getting at here is that you may have heard stories about VPN software for Android being loaded with malware, and therefore decided that this is just an area you might want to steer clear of with your precious smartphone.

There’s some truth to this, as well – there are dodgy VPN operations out there which produce borderline malicious apps, and even software which is a carrier for malware. So you do have to be careful, although to an extent, that’s true for the entire sphere of mobile apps.

ExpressVPN VPN app

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

However, if you stick to reputable VPN services – like our favorite providers as seen in the best VPNs roundup – then you won’t have to worry about these kind of security concerns. Indeed, if you stick to providers who are regularly independently audited, you have the assurance of a third-party that the security of the VPN is watertight (and that the VPN will maintain your privacy as per its policies on that matter).

Another argument against using a VPN on your phone might be that you don’t want to pay for this service – and that’s fair enough. Depending on exactly how you use your phone and your personal circumstances – such as how much you’re out and about – it may not be worth it. But for some folks, it definitely will; and don’t forget, there are free VPN services out there, albeit with caveats. Again, stick to reputable services like our recommended free downloads, and bear in mind they will have limitations compared to paid plans – or may potentially cost you in other hidden ways such as your privacy.

Why should I use a VPN on my phone?

As we’ve seen, there are some pretty robust arguments in favor of installing a VPN on a smartphone, particularly these days when we tend to carry out a lot more sensitive tasks online with our mobile. Both the security and privacy afforded by a VPN can also be a major boon if you use public Wi-Fi networks a lot when on the go with your phone, or indeed if you’re a frequent traveler.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for T3 across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel was published by Hachette UK in 2013).