Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

May 26, 2018

Your smartphone is packing more power than even the most powerful desktop computer from just a few years ago. This means that using a VPN for Android is as essential for your online privacy and security as it is for a more conventional PC or laptop.

Indeed, you’re likely carry your phone around with you at all times and rely on it to not only manage the details of daily life, but also as your all-in-one anti-boredom system. This arguably makes using an Android VPN App even more essential than a desktop VPN.

So it’s good news that a VPN for mobile can protect you just as well as a desktop VPN client! We will look at using a VPN on your mobile device in detail in just a bit, but first let’s first look at our choice of Best VPNs for Android.

The best Android VPN apps: Side-by-side comparison

ProviderPriceOur ScoreVisit
1Visit Site »
ExpressVPN review »
From
$6.67
/month

9.8

Our Score
Visit Site »
ExpressVPN review »
Special Offer: 49% off today!
2
Buffered review »
Visit Site »
From
$6.60
/month

9.4

Our Score
Visit Site »
Buffered review »
3
PrivateVPN review »
Visit Site »
From
$2.73
/month

9.2

Our Score
Visit Site »
PrivateVPN review »
4
VyprVPN review »
Visit Site »
From
$4.17
/month

8.9

Our Score
Visit Site »
VyprVPN review »
5
IPVanish review »
Visit Site »
From
$3.33
/month

8.6

Our Score
Visit Site »
IPVanish review »

What is the best VPN for Android?

9.8/10.0

ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 49% off today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Great customer service
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): yes
CONS:
  • A bit pricey - but worth it!

Great customer service and ease of use are the primary reasons that ExpressVPN remains such a popular choice for Android VPN users. As with its Windows, Mac and iOS clients, the ExpressVPN Android app strips things down to ensure that using it is simplicity itself. This focus on customer satisfaction is also amply demonstrated by ExpressVPN’s 24/7 customer support and industry-leading, 30-day money-back guarantee. Android VPNs expressvpn When reviewing ExpressVPN, we found they keep no usage logs, but it does keep some connection (metadata) logs. It is based in the British Virgin Islands, but how this affects privacy is a little unclear. Users in China will appreciate ExpressVPN’s special “stealth” servers in Hong Kong, which also work using its Android app.

Additional features include three simultaneous connections and free Smart Domain Name System (DNS).

Special Deal: Save 49% Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »30-day Money Back Gaurantee

9.4/10.0

Buffered Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 49% off today!
  • Great customer support
  • Strong privacy policy and OpenVPN encryption
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • Android app
  • Servers in 37 countries
CONS:
  • No kill switch
  • Some connection logs

Buffered is now based in Gibraltar with its central server located in the Netherlands. It keeps no usage logs (but some connection logs), has servers located in 37 countries worldwide, and even promises to add servers upon request should users need them! It generously permits up to 5 devices to connect at once and offers 24/7 live chat support.

Buffered's unique “port discovery” feature is intriguing. It searches for open ports, allowing you to login to the WiFi at airports and hotels etc. without having to ask reception for a password.

With a 30-day money-back guarantee on offer (which is valid for ten hours of VPN use), it is easy to trial Buffered risk-free. What’s more, Buffered gives automatic refunds to subscribers who don’t use the VPN for the first seven days. All in all, a formidable VPN that is well worth the money if you commit for a year.

9.2/10.0

PrivateVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Best value for your money
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 6 simultaneous connections
  • Great customer service
  • High streaming speeds
  • Strong encryption
CONS:
  • DNS must be configured manually

Sweden-based VPN provider, PrivateVPN, is an excellent choice for Android VPNs, especially after winning BestVPN.com’s “Best Value VPN” of 2018. Not only do you get a full service VPN on your mobile device at an affordable price, but you get 54 server locations, excellent customer service, super fast server speeds, and great encryption.

PrivateVPN is particularly ideal for getting into Netflix on your Android device; supporting 16 different Netflix regions! PrivateVPN also offers six simultaneous connections, WiFi protection, and a 30-day money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers.

8.9/10.0

VyprVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Very fast due to own infrastructure
  • Servers in over 70 countries
  • Port selection
  • “Chameleon” stealth servers
  • No usage logs
CONS:
  • Connection (metadata) logs
  • P2P: no

VyprVPN is notable for being one of the rare VPN services to own and control its entire network infrastructure. The result is fantastically fast connection speeds around the world.

We strongly recommend avoiding its PPTP-only basic plan, but VyprVPN otherwise offers a great selection of features, such as a SmartDNS service, robust customer support, port selection, and servers in over 70 countries.

VyprVPNs “Chameleon” stealth technology is great for defeating censorship in places such such as China or Iran. Like ExpressVPN, VyprVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

8.6/10.0

IPVanish Homepage
PROS:
  • No logs at all
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Smart DNS included
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • P2P allowed
CONS:
  • Based in the US
  • So-so support

Although based in the US (so not for the more NSA-phobic out there), this high-profile VPN company has good privacy credentials. It keeps no logs (at all), accepts payment in bitcoin, and permits torrenting. IPVanish also throws in a free Smart DNS service for all customers. ipvanish-android Much like its desktop client, IPVanish's Android VPN app is a little basic. However, it's easy to use and works well, making it a great VPN for Android.

Additional features include apps for Android and iOS, and servers in 61 countries.

VPN Android | FAQs

What is a VPN for Android?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that greatly improves your privacy and security on the internet. A VPN app connects you to a VPN server run by a VPN provider. Most VPN providers run lots of servers located around the world, and the connection between your device and the VPN server is securely encrypted.

As you can imagine, there’s much more to a VPN than the process described here. If you would like to know more, head over to our VPNs – What You Need to Know guide.

Why do I need an Android VPN?

A simple VPN setup on your Android device lets you do some very cool things: Such as:

Hide What You Get up to Online

From your Internet Provider

All data passing between your device and the VPN server you connect to is encrypted so that your ISP (including your mobile internet provider) cannot “see” it.

In addition to this, your ISP can usually see and log every website you visit, and even every webpage on a website you visit (unless that website is protected by HTTPS). When using a VPN your ISP can only see that you have connected to the VPN server. Everything else you do on the internet is hidden from it.

From your government

Since most government mass surveillance is simply a matter of requiring ISPs to keep logs on what they know about you, using a VPN is a very effective way to prevent untargeted government surveillance.

Just be aware that if your government is interested in you as a targeted individual, then a VPN won’t stop it infecting your devices with spyware. For more information on Government spying practices, we recommend checking out our guide on five, nine and fourteen eyes.

But not the VPN provider

The other thing to be aware of is that, although your ISP cannot see what you get up to on the internet, your VPN provider can. Unlike ISPs, however, most VPN providers build their business models around privacy. Privacy-focused VPNs mitigate the issue by using shared IPs so it is hard to tell who is doing what online, and by keeping few or no logs of users’ activities.

If you would like to know more about VPN logging practices, or want one that doesn’t keep any logs, check out our no logs VPN list.

Hide your IP from websites you visit

Websites just love to track everything you do online. A VPN helps prevent this by hiding your real IP address so all websites you visit see is the IP of your VPN server. This is great, but a VPN should also be combined with browser privacy add-ons for a more robust anti-tracking solution.

For further information on staying secure when surfing the web, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Online Privacy.

Stay protected from WiFi hackers and untrustworthy WiFi hosts

Android is a mobile operating system, so it’s very likely that you use your Android phone or tablet to connect to public WiFi hotspots when visiting cafés and when travelling (pesky roaming mobile data charges!).

Unfortunately, criminal hackers routinely exploit such public networks to steal users’ data. Common tactics include deploying “evil twin” hotspots that fool the unwary into connecting to networks that are actually owned by the hackers, and snooping on unencrypted connections to poorly configured WiFi routers.

And it’s not just hackers you need to worry about. Whoever owns the router can see what you get up to online (unless only visiting secure websites), so how do you know that your WiFi host can be trusted?

A VPN protects you when using any public WiFi hotspot because all your data is encrypted so that no-one can see it – even if you are using a router owned by a hacker!

If you want to stay secure when you’re out an about, head over to our best VPNs for WiFi hotspots list to see which providers we recommend.

Spoof your real location

If you connect to a VPN in a different country, then, as far as the internet is concerned, you are in that country. This is great for accessing streaming services such as BBC iPlayer which are only available to residents of a particular country, or US Netflix, which has a much larger catalog of titles than is available elsewhere, even though everyone pays about the same monthly price (read more about this on our Notflix page).

A slight catch for Android users is that mobile streaming apps may blab information such as your mobile network provider’s name and GPS data directly to the app’s publisher. This can make simply hiding your IP address with a VPN redundant. Fortunately, the solution to this is easy – just use your mobile web browser to access the service!

It is also worth noting that many streaming services (including BBC iPlayer and Netflix) are actively trying to block users of IP addresses known to belong to VPNs. It is therefore best to take full advantage of any free trials VPNs and/or money back guarantees on offer to ensure your chosen VPN works with the services you wish to unblock.

If you are looking to unblock a particular streaming service on your Android device, you may found some of the information found at the links below useful.

Bypass censorship

One of the most important uses of a VPN is to bypass censorship. Just connect to a VPN server located somewhere that is not censored, and ta da! You can access the web unrestricted. Yay! This works just as well for bypassing blocks put into place by your workplace or landlord, but just remember that they might not be too pleased with you if you get caught!

For more information on unblocking content, take a look at our guide to geo-spoofing with a VPN.

Torrent safely

One of the big advantages of Android over its fruit-themed rival is that you can do what you want with it – including torrenting.

Unlike its overblown desktop sibling, Vuze for Android is a lean and mean torrenting app.

Torrenting on an Android device is more or less identical to downloading on a desktop machine, so check our Best VPNs for torrenting to find out more about how a VPN protects you when doing this.

Using VPN for Android with apps

In general, a VPN for Android works in much the same way it does on any other computer. It will encrypt your internet data, hide what you get up to on the internet from your ISP, and hide your IP address from websites you visit.

The problem, however, is apps. These often know a great deal about you and your device and will send this information directly to their publishers. This can include your phone’s unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, Global Positioning System (GPS) location data, contact lists, Google Play/iTunes ID and more.

If an app is sending all this information back to its publisher, then simply hiding your IP address with a VPN is rather a case of shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted!

Access online services via their web pages

If you want to hide your IP from an online service, you should use its web portal via your mobile browser rather than its app. If, for example, you want to browse for certain items on Amazon privately:

  • Do – turn on your VPN and visit amazon.com using your favorite web browser – without logging into Amazon your account, of course!
  • Do not – fire up the Amazon app, or Amazon will know exactly who and where you are.

As a side-note, Android VPNs do unblock regional content on the Netflix app as long as the particular VPN itself is not blocked by Netflix. Please see 5 Best VPNs for Netflix for a list of VPNs that were not blocked last time we checked.

Is there a best free vpn for Android?

It is an unfortunate fact that there are a shocking number of cowboy and outright malicious VPN apps for Android that can be downloaded from the Play Store. These track your web activity, access your sensitive phone data, and can even infect your Android phone with malware.

In order to avoid such scam apps, it is a very good idea to avoid “free” Android VPNs. Running a VPN service costs money, so if you are not paying with money then you will be paying in some other way.

Reputable free Android VPN apps do exist, but these are invariably very limited, and are aimed at convincing you to upgrade to a full premium service.

The other thing you can do to avoid scams is to only choose VPN providers that are recommended by reputable sources such as BestVPN.com (of course!). In fact, check out our 5 Best Free VPN services page for find the best free VPN for Android!

How to install an Android VPN

We now have a page dedicated to setting up a VPN for Android, which also includes instructions for how to setup a kill switch for any Android VPN app!

Make your Android device more secure and private

Out of the box, Android is not privacy-friendly. Google allows Android apps to ask for far more information than they need to do their job, and Google itself exists to mine your personal data. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve this situation.

If you’re wondering how to make your iPhone more secure, you can find some useful information on our VPNs for iPhone guide.

Take control of your app permissions

Newer Android phones and tablets give you much more control over what apps can know about you (and therefore blab to their publishers) than has been the case in the past. If your device runs Android 6.0+, head to Settings -> Apps -> [Select app] -> Permissions.

Simply disable any permissions you think the app doesn’t need. Disabling some permissions may prevent the app from working correctly, but this is no big deal. Just re-enable them to carry on using the app as normal – or uninstall the app if you are not happy with it accessing this information.

Use Firefox for Android

Pretty much every version of Android comes bundles with the Chrome browser. In many ways Chrome is a good browser, but at the end of the day it is spyware that sends a great deal of personal information back to Google.

To improve your privacy while browsing, use open source Firefox for Android instead. If you want to go the extra length, you can harden Firefox further with the steps outlined in our Complete Firefox Privacy and Security Guide.

For further information on using a VPN with different browsers across all your devices, check out the links below:

Use Signal to chat with your contacts

Making phone calls or sending text messages using your regular phone network is about as private as standing outside a police station and shouting. Your network provider can hear and see everything you say, the police can monitor your conversations directly and more.

Many online messaging and internet telephony (VoIP) apps are little better. No matter what promises a service makes, if it does not provide end-to-end encryption then it can monitor your conversations.

If you want to communicate privately with others, then by far the best option (short of meeting in person and whispering in their ear), is to use a secure end-to-end messaging app.

This means that messages and voice conversations are encrypted on your phone and can only be read or listened to on the intended recipients’ phone. No trust in a third party is required.

The most well-regarded such app among privacy and security experts is Signal. Check out our full Signal Review to find out why. A Google-free version of Signal can now be downloaded directly from the Open Whisper Systems website.

Ditch Google altogether

Google exists to spy on you. Even more than Facebook, its entire business model is to know as much about you as it can so that it can deliver highly personalized ads. And Android is Google’s baby…

Stock Android is primarily built using open source code to which Google has added various proprietary bits and pieces. By far the most invasive of these is the Google Play Services framework that allows Google to perform extensive low-level surveillance on almost every Android device.

Fortunately, it is possible to remove Google Play Services and other Google system apps (Gapps) from your Android device. This is, admittedly, a far from trivial task, and it will almost certainly cause problems that must be overcome. But it can be done.

A guide to disabling default system apps (including Google ones) without rooting your phone is available here. Alternatively, Titanium Backup can completely remove all Google apps, but this does require rooting your phone.

You will find that removing Gapps prevents other apps from working properly. This can be solved (at least in part) by downloading open source apps from F-Droid, which allows you to download many apps that either don’t need Gapps or have been modified to no longer need them.

Yalp Store is a great app available through F-Droid that lets you download apps directly from the Google Play Store as .apk files. This removes their dependency on the Google Services Framework, allowing them to work.

Flash your Phone with a Custom ROM

At its core, Android is an open source operating system (OS). This means that other developers are free to build their own versions of Android known as “custom ROMs.”

Many of these custom ROMs cut out all Gapps and are specifically designed to improve privacy and security. Popular example of such include LineageOS and (for the really privacy-conscious) Copperhead.

CyanogenMod custom ROM

Replacing Android with a custom ROM (a process known as flashing) requires rooting your device and is not a task for the faint-hearted. If you are serious about privacy on your mobile device, however, it is the only way to go.

Conclusion

No mobile phone is privacy-friendly, and the truly paranoid should probably not use one at all. For the rest of us, however, an Android VPN will at least improve our mobile privacy and online security. And it will also let us watch the full library of Netflix shows!

Douglas Crawford
May 26th, 2018

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

29 responses to “5 Best Android VPN Apps – Secure Your Phone or Tablet

  1. I want to know what is the fastest of these VPN’s you recommend for someone living in Virginia? I do a lot of video streaming on Twitch, YouTube, etc. and need something that can provide me with good stable speeds. I’m not concerned with logging, security, and the others things. I just want to know which has the best raw data speeds?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Isaiah,

      Please check out our VPBN speed tests page for our latest test results. On the above list Express is fastest on average, followed by Buffereed, although Buffered is noticeably faster than Express if you are connecting to VPN servers near to Virginia.

  2. First I want to say that this website was God sent.. So much important information and very easy to follow..
    I recently started looking into VPN services when a few apps I use were unreachable through a Pocket WiFi connection at a friends house…
    One of the apps provided a link to Play Store and I discovered **Protect Free VPN+Data Manager** by Onavo.. It seemed to do the trick so I stuck with it for awhile.. I did a little research and read a few comments by Play Store users and noticed that there was more than meets the eye.. After reading their Privacy Policies I discovered that a lot of data can be shared for whatever reason.. I figured well its a “Free” service so I shouldn’t complain.. No biggie because I don’t require to use it so much and I use **Greenify** (with my rooted phone) to keep it from from using my data in the background..
    Well long story short I noticed a mass amount of “Free” VPNs during my Play Store searches and came across **Ultra VPN – Unlimited Proxy & Hide IP** by Digital Seo Web.. Overall it seems to do the job with plenty of countries to chose from..
    Have you had any reviews for this app? I couldn’t find anything searching this site.. Thanks in advance for your professional insight. BestVPN Rocks!!

    1. Hi Sir rioco,

      I’m g;lad you find this website useful! I am not familiar with the VPN servcice you mention. Unfortunately there are literally hundreds of free Android-only VPN services out there, and most of simply cannot be trusted. We always recommend using a paid-for VPN from a reputable and established provider instead. A quick look tells me the Ultra VPN shows no ads, so you have to ask yourself how it makes money (and it will!). Unlike many more reputable VPNs, it is not being offered for free in the hope that you will upgrade to a more fully-featured premium plan.

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