If you’re like us, you love to tinker with and upgrade your Android, and there’s no better upgrade for the security of your phone or tablet than a VPN. Today, we review the best VPN apps for Android, and show you how to tweak them for optimal performance and privacy.
Using a VPN on your Android device isn’t as technical as you might think. But finding the best VPN for Android is a task that requires thorough research. We’re trying to simplify things by identifying the right services so that you can enjoy a simple, inexpensive VPN without sacrificing speed or device usability.
Data privacy is an increasingly hot topic. With ISPs logging and selling information, hackers stealing data, and websites tricking users out of their personal details, it seems like someone’s always out to compromise our security. Staying safe while browsing the internet has become a concern even for casual users, and it’s especially important for Android owners who carry their devices everywhere they go.
The easiest and most accessible way to protect your data online is to use a virtual private network. VPNs act like a tunnel between your Android phone and the internet. Instead of sending raw web browsing data tied to your IP address, a VPN encrypts information and sends it to servers around the world. This makes it nearly impossible to identify individual users, keeping your privacy intact no matter your location or which network you connect to.
Essential features of a good Android VPN
Getting the best VPN for your Android device is a daunting task. There’s a lot of information to assimilate, everything from server distribution to privacy policies, cost, speed, compatibility, and more. To streamline the process, we focused on evaluating trusted VPN providers using several key areas.
There’s no point in signing up for a VPN service if they don’t support Android devices. Most major VPNs have either a custom Android app or fully support OpenVPN, which available as a free download for all Android users. Keeping a lightweight interface is especially useful on mobile devices with small touch-based screens.
A good VPN never keeps logs. Even though data sent through VPN servers is encrypted, if a third party or government agency seizes the computers, it’s possible the information can be decrypted. If a VPN doesn’t keep logs, data loss is impossible, plain and simple. Every provider below has a straightforward zero-logging policy that’s enforced without exception.
Wide server distribution
Whether you’re traveling or just want to access content not available in your country, being able to switch virtual locations is a major benefit of using a VPN. Make sure your chosen VPN maintains a large server network worldwide to maximize your connection options.
For all the benefits they offer, VPNs are notorious for one major drawback: download speed. Encryption overhead causes a lot of slowdown, as does connecting to a server physically located across the globe. To help offset this, we’ve selected VPN providers that go the extra mile to ensure speeds remain as high as possible, even on Android devices.
No traffic limitations
One of the best features of Android is its wide support for files and apps from a variety of sources, making each device function like a pocket desktop computer. Some VPNs are known to ban certain types of downloads, most frequently P2P traffic or torrents. To make sure your Android experience is as seamless and useful as possible, we made sure none of the VPNs below block any type of traffic, period.
Top VPN apps to boost your Android’s security
We’ve scoured the market for the best providers with Android-compatible apps, and determined the following VPNs to be the best in class:
ExpressVPN has a well deserved reputation for speed. The service delivers consistently high numbers on speed tests from a variety of locations, including mid-sized cities and smaller. The entire network boasts 3,000 servers in 148 locations in 94 countries, which is one of the widest selections any VPN provider offers. Plenty of options are available when it comes to bypassing content restrictions or looking for a faster server.
ExpressVPN doesn’t skimp on the privacy features, either. The service has a strict zero-logging policy to ensure your data is as inaccessible as possible, and you also get to take advantage of unlimited bandwidth as well as a complete lack of file type restrictions. Perfect for Android users who use their phone for everything, everywhere.
One unique feature that’s worth pointing out is the ExpressVPN built-in speed test. If your connection seems to be lagging, a few taps is all it takes to get numbers on speed and latency. You can then switch locations with just a few more taps, perform another speed test, and repeat until you’re content. This feature is available in the desktop PC builds of the ExpressVPN software as well as the Android version.
ExpressVPN offers both an app for Android as well as access through OpenVPN. The custom software has a lot of features that make it easy and convenient to use, including the speed test mentioned above, along with live support, smart location suggestions, server favorites, and more. It’s a fast, easy to use VPN that has stellar support for mobile devices, PC, and tablets. ExpressVPN also works with all the content we have tested, including the Netflix Android app. It even works in China, where many VPNs are blocked. A solid choice for Android users; all you have to do is download, enter your login details, then browse the internet with total privacy.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocking Netflix USA, iPlayer, Amazon Prime
- 3,000+ super fast servers
- OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2 Encryption
- No logs for personal data
- Live chat support available.
- Slightly pricier than competition.
NordVPN has some of the most unique features of any VPN service. The biggest standout is its signature double encryption process that wraps all data in an unbeatable 2048-bit SSL encryption. According to the company, not even a supercomputer can break encryption that strong. Mix that with a constantly growing network of 5,500+ servers in 58 countries and you’ve got a recipe for a private yet dynamic VPN provider that can meet all of your needs.
NordVPN keeps speed test results high by configuring servers to handle different types of traffic. If you’re streaming a movie, for example, your data will likely be funneled through a server designed to stream movies. This adds up to an incredibly fast network, no matter which server you’re connected to.
The NordVPN Android app runs natively on the operating system, ensuring an easy to use experience that’s incredibly light on resources. Installation is as quick as downloading and logging in, and once you’re connected, switching servers and monitoring your connection is just a few taps away.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
- Mind-boggling number of servers
- No IP/DNS leaks found
- No logs and encrypted connections for total privacy
- Great customer service via chat.
- Some servers can be slow and unreliable
- Can't specify City or Province in App.
PureVPN was established as a safe haven for privacy advocates looking for fast, reliable, and unrestricted access to the internet. The company offers unlimited switching between 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries, unbeatable encryption practices, zero-logging, unlimited bandwidth, and no file type restrictions. All of this is backed by a fantastic 99.99% uptime rating, ensuring you’re never without access to a private internet connection, no matter where you are.
One of PureVPN’s standout features is a surprisingly high simultaneous connection limit. Most providers put the cap at three devices connected through your account at a time, but with PureVPN, it’s five. With so many Android devices out there, it’s good to know you and your whole family can use them at once.
The PureVPN Android app is custom built and includes a ton of useful features for mobile VPN configurations. You can mark favorite countries to automatically receive a list of connections from that area, ping servers to see which offers the best connection, even submit support tickets from within the app. Everything is packaged in a single lightweight download, so even older or slower phones won’t have any trouble keeping the VPN alive.
Read our full PureVPN review.
IPVanish operates a top tier VPN network that refuses to compromise on speed or security. It offers access to over 1,300 servers in over 60 countries, each locked down with 256-bit AES encryption and a no-exceptions zero-logging policy. Unlimited bandwidth, no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic, and amazing speed test results make it a fantastic choice for Android users looking for privacy without compromise.
The IPVanish Android app is custom built and supports devices as old as Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0. It includes all of the features that make the IPVanish network so useful, including strong encryption as well as automatic server suggestions, a variety of security protocols, and overall fast connections. As a nice bonus, the IPVanish app is available to download and install as a raw apk as well as from the Google Play store.
Read our full IPVanish review.
VyprVPN has made a name for itself by taking privacy a step further. The company owns and operates its entire network of 700 servers in 70+ countries, allowing it to customize hardware and software for optimal privacy and speed. By not outsourcing maintenance and development tasks to third parties, VyprVPN has more control over its network, and that translates to better security for your information.
Rounding out the rest of its privacy features, VyprVPN delivers unlimited bandwidth with no file type restrictions, has a strict zero-logging policy, and deploys the proprietary Chameleon technology to defeat VPN blocking measures so you have truly free access to the internet. This is even the case in countries that block VPNs, such as China and Turkey.
The VyprVPN Android app has a lot of functionality, all packed into a single lightweight download. For starters, Android is the only non-desktop operating system that supports the company’s Chameleon technology, which is a huge bonus for Android owners. Vypr unblocks geo-restricted content services such as the Netflix Android app. It app also lets you switch servers with just a few taps, manage connections on a per-app basis, and automatically activate the VPN when you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
Why should I use a VPN on Android?
Using a VPN neatly circumvents many privacy issues facing internet users today. Encryption ensures your information stays scrambled, even as it moves around the world, and the ability to switch virtual locations allows you to access content otherwise unavailable in your area.
Android devices are made to travel. Every time you walk into a cafe or sit in a waiting room, the first thing you look for is an open hotspot. Connecting to public Wi-Fi carries a number of risks, most notably the inability to know if the ISP your data is being sent through is trustworthy. With a VPN active, however, public internet suddenly isn’t so sketchy. Encrypted information makes it much safer to connect to Wi-Fi networks wherever you go.
Access region locked content
Traveling with an Android phone means being subject to the content restrictions of your host country. With a VPN you can switch virtual locations from your chair, gaining access to worldwide content from services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO Go, YouTube, Popcorn Time and more. It’s a great way to keep up with the content you’re familiar with while traveling, as well as step around local censorship and blocked websites.
Stop ISPs from tracking you
Using your Android phone at home isn’t necessarily safer than abroad. Local internet service providers collect and store browsing data and personal information, and in many cases they have the legal right to sell these to third parties without your consent. A VPN helps prevent ISPs profiting from your private information by encrypting data before it reaches their servers.
Better local privacy
VPNs offer fantastic privacy and security measures for data leaving your device. To ensure information stays secure locally, however, you’ll need to encrypt the phone itself. This helps prevent data theft in cases of a lost or stolen device, which can happen when you least expect it.
Pairing a VPN with local encryption is an extremely smart idea. Fortunately, Android offers all the tools you’ll need to encrypt your device from end to end. It doesn’t take long, you won’t need to root or hack your device, and it will barely impact your day to day usability.
For more information and a step-by-step walkthrough, see our guide on How to Encrypt an Android Phone.
What is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is free and open source software that creates secure connections between devices or websites. Because of its ease of use and wide availability, a number of VPN providers use it as their main software for non-standard or less popular operating systems, such as smaller Linux distributions. Some VPNs even rely on OpenVPN for their mobile and desktop applications, which is why many Android users may be familiar with the name.
If you’ve ever researched installing a VPN on your router, you’ve probably encountered OpenVPN once or twice. The software has been embedded in several systems and firmware, including DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato for routers.
A number of VPNs will allow you to use OpenVPN in place of their custom software. This can be useful if their app doesn’t run well on your device or if you simply prefer using open source software whenever possible. OpenVPN runs well on almost all Android powered devices, making it a great and surprisingly easy to use alternative.
VPNs do a lot for maintaining data privacy while you browse the internet. The encryption alone is a must-have feature for Android devices, especially if you travel or access public Wi-Fi on frequent occasions. It’s important to keep in mind that a VPN won’t solve all of your online problems, however. You’ll still need to keep an eye out for malicious websites, suspicious apps, and other threats.
VPNs can be slow
VPNs are almost universally slower than local internet service providers. Encrypting data adds to the packet size, which means you have to transfer more information to perform the same tasks. Sending those packets to servers located farther away also adds to the latency. In general, expect a 10-20% drop in speed when using a VPN. Many of the best providers work to circumvent these issues, however, so the problem is diminishing.
Malware and viruses
A VPN does practically nothing to stop viruses from infecting your Android device. Similarly, downloading malicious apps or visiting suspicious websites aren’t affected by a VPN.
Each VPN provider has a limit to the number of devices you can connect to the service at any given time. In most cases it’s between three and five, which is enough to let you use an Android phone, desktop PC, and maybe a gaming console or set top TV box. If you have family or friends that want to connect through the VPN, you’ll have to increase the base limit or install the VPN on your router.
Free VPNs are everywhere, and they’re not safe
The Google Play app store is loaded with VPNs, most of which promise free and unlimited service. Grabbing one of these would be quick and simple, and it’s extremely tempting to do so if you’re not sure how useful a VPN might be. But as is the case with many freebies, there’s a catch. And in the case with free VPNs, it’s a very big catch.
At this point, you can see why it’s beneficial to install a VPN onto your favorite Android device. Once you do, you’ll have opened a whole new world of formerly geoblocked content while protecting your personal data. We’ve recommended a few of our favorite providers, but at any rate you now have a better idea of what constitutes a great Android VPN.
Which provider do you think you’ll choose? How will you make use of VPN encryption on your Android? Tell us about it in the comments below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.