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5 Best Android VPNs 2017

Android is now the most popular way to get online in the world, so it’s not surprising that there is a great deal of interest in using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for Android to protect privacy.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are spying on just about everybody. The US government just gave Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the power to sell customers’ web browsing histories. The UK government has recently enacted the most “extreme” surveillance laws in the history of modern Western democracy. All over the world, similar stories are playing out.

The Best VPNs for Android

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. IPVanish
  3. NordVPN
  4. VyprVPN
  5. Private Internet Access

The ordinary internet-using public is right to be concerned about privacy. Thankfully, technology exists that can dramatically improve that privacy. This technology is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). I will discuss precisely what a VPN is later in this article.

As an Android user, you should be pleased to note that pretty much every VPN service supports the Android platform. Less pleasing to know is that the recent surge of interest in VPNs has led to a glut of “cowboy” Android VPN apps hitting the Play Store. At best, these are poorly designed and will do little to protect your privacy. At worst, they will actively imperil your privacy and online security by tracking your activities as you surf the web, accessing sensitive data stored on your device, installing malware, and more. For the full gory details, please see here.

When considering VPNs for Android, it is therefore vital to pick a reputable VPN service that is recommended by a reputable source (such as BestVPN.com, of course!). This almost invariably means using a paid-for VPN.

Best VPN for Android: Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish LogoIPVanish
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site
EXCLUSIVE: 50% OFF! Ends Today! Enter Voucher Code: WAR4WEB

3

NordVPN LogoNordVPN
Read Review8.4/10
$3.29 / monthVisit Site

4

VyprVPN LogoVyprVPN
Read Review8/10
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

5

PrivateInternetAccess LogoPrivateInternetAccess
Read Review7.4/10
$3.33 / monthVisit Site

*All prices shown in US dollars

* Advertiser Disclosure
Editor's Choice Award

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

best Android VPNs

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Great customer service
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): yes
  • ConsCONS
  • Connection logs
  • A bit pricey

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

ExpressVPN keeps 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).

Get the best VPN app for Android now!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money-back guarantee

2nd place

IPVanish

4.4/5

best VPN app for Android

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Smart DNS included
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • P2P allowed
  • ConsCONS
  • 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.

Visit IPVanish »


3rd place

NordVPN

4.2/5

NordVPN

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 47 countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • “Double-hop VPN”
  • ConsCONS
  • Speeds can be slow

Based in Panama, NordVPN is well outside of the immediate reach of the NSA. It backs up this distinction by being very privacy-focused. NordVPN keeps no logs at all, uses strong encryption, and accepts payment via bitcoins. Some may appreciate NordVPN’s “double-hop” VPN chaining feature, although I am dubious about its value.

nordvpn-android

The encryption used by NordVPN is very good. Speeds on many of NordVPN’s servers can be rather slow, but you can find fast servers with a little trial and error. Android users are well-served with a dedicated Android VPN client, which in addition to OpenVPN provides the option to use the Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) protocol.

Additional features: P2P permitted, DNS leak protection, per-app kill switch (desktop clients).

Visit NordVPN »


4th place

VyprVPN

4.4/5

VyprVPN

  • ProsPROS
  • Very fast due to own infrastructure
  • Servers in over 70 countries countries
  • Funky Android app
  • Port selection
  • “Chameleon” stealth servers
  • ConsCONS
  • Some connection logs
  • P2P: no

VyprVPN is notable for being one of the rare VPN services that owns and controls its entire network infrastructure. The result is fantastically fast connection speeds around the world. Features are excellent (as is encryption) and it includes a free Smart DNS service. Customer support is also great and the VPN keeps no usage logs. With a 30-day money-back guarantee and a three-day free trial, there is little reason not to give this service a go.

Android_Vypr

VyprVPN offers “Chameleon” stealth technology, specifically designed to defeat the Great Firewall of China. It uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port selection in its apps to help defeat port blocking and other throttling issues. Both of these features are available in its funky Android app. Do please note, though, that VyprVPN does not permit torrenting.

Additional features: no usage logs.

Visit VyprVPN »


5th place

Private Internet Access

3.7/5

PrivateInternet Access

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • Great OpenVPN encryption
  • Client features kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • P2P: yes
  • ConsCONS
  • No free trial
  • US-based company

When reviewing Private Internet Access (PIA), we found they keep no logs and, although optional, its security can be first rate (up to 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) OpenVPN, SHA-256 (Secure Hash Algorithm) hash authentication and 4096-bit RSA handshake). Its desktop software supports multiple security options, a VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection, and port forwarding. Up to five simultaneous connections are permitted and PIA boasts excellent connection speeds.

pia-android

Unusually, PIA’s Android app is almost as fully featured as its desktop one. All advanced encryption options are available, as are a kill switch, and local and remote port forwarding. All in all, one of the best Android VPNs out there.

Visit Private Internet Access »


Best Android VPN: Considerations

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted. As a result of this setup, VPNs:

  • Provide privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP/cell phone provider (and government).
  • Allow you to evade censorship (by school, work, your ISP, or government).
  • Allow you to “geo-spoof” your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location (or when you are on holiday).
  • Protect you against hackers when using a public WiFi hotspot.
  • Allow you to P2P download in safety.

In order to use VPN, you must first sign up for a VPN service. This typically cost between $5 and $10 a month, with reductions for buying six months or a year at a time. A contract with a VPN service is required to use a VPN.

Please see my in-depth VPNs for Beginners guide for a detailed discussion on VPNs in general.

How does VPN work on Android?

VPNs work well on Android devices. They encrypt your data and hide your IP address for all internet connections. When accessing websites through your browser for P2P downloading, therefore, you are fully protected when using a VPN.

But (and it’s a big but)… although all data will go through the VPN, individual Android apps can and do send a great deal of highly personal data back to their publishers. This can include your phone’s unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, Global Positioning System (GPS) location data, your contact lists, your Google Play ID, and much more.

Android DNS leak

Unlike many providers’ custom Android VPN apps, OpenVPN for Android provides Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) leak protection, and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leak protection. It can also be configured to act as a kill switch. Please check out A Complete Guide to IP Leaks for information on these features.

There is nothing a VPN can do to stop this. This information is obtained via the permissions you grant an app, and is sent directly to the publisher. Android versions 6.0+ do allow you to reign-in the permissions an app can request, but doing so will often result in apps ceasing to function.

This situation is made even worse by “leaky apps.” Many apps, while not malicious in and of themselves, are poorly designed. They suffer from permissions “overreach,” and then do not secure the information they collect properly.

Leaky apps

Image credit: Rovio Entertainment

Much of the publicity surrounding leaky apps focused on mobile games, and Angry Birds in particular. However, all kinds of apps collect too much information about you, and social media apps are among the worst offenders. The Facebook app, for example, collects detailed location data and asks permission to access your Short Message Service (SMS) messages.

Organizations such as the NSA and GCHQ routinely blanket-collect such information and use it to profile targets.

So… Is There Any Point In Using VPNs for Android?

Yes indeed. However, to gain the full advantage of using a VPN on an Android device, you should avoid using custom apps as much as possible. This is especially true of apps from publishers you have no reason to trust. That handy ad-funded spirit level app you downloaded for free? Ditch it.

The most private and secure way to access online services using a VPN on your Android device is via their webpage or web interface using your browser. I recommend using the open source and all-round privacy friendly Firefox for Android browser.

Android Marshmallow (6.0)+ gives users much greater control over app permissions, but denying an app the permissions it requests often results in it simply not working. Basically, avoid using apps wherever possible (VPN apps excepted!).

Additional Privacy Recommendations for Android

Privacy Browser Extensions

I recommend installing the following great Firefox browser extensions. These all work the same in Firefox for Android as they do on the desktop:

  • uBlock Origin – a lightweight free and open-source software (FOSS) ad-blocker that does double duty as an anti-tracking add-on.
  • HTTPS Everywhere – developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), this tries to ensure that you always connect to a website using a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) connection, if one is available.
  • Self-Destructing Cookies – automatically deletes cookies when you close the browser tab that set them. This provides a high level of protection from tracking via cookies, without “breaking” websites. It also provides protection against Flash/zombie cookies and Etags, and cleans Document Object Model (DOM) storage.

Note that using any browser add-on makes you more susceptible to being tracked by browser fingerprinting.

De-Google Your Phone

Arguably the biggest threat to your privacy when using an Android device is Google. After all, this is a company whose entire business model relies on compromising your privacy.

The Google Play Services framework is considered a particularly strong threat to privacy. This proprietary software gives Google the ability to perform extensive low-level surveillance on users’ devices.

  • A guide to disabling default system apps (including those from Google) is available here. Root access is not required for this. Disabling Google Play Services (in particular), however, will likely prevent many other apps from working correctly.
  • F-Droid allows you to download many apps without need of the Google Play Store (or Services).

See here for some suggestions on how to get by without Google apps (Gapps).

CyanogenMod custom ROM

The default LineageOS 13 home screen is a clone of the now discontinued CyanogenMod 13.

The measures outlined below require you to root your Android device:

  • Titanium Backup can be used to completely remove any app that came with your device (including all Google apps).
  • You can replace the regular Android operating system (OS) completely with a custom read-only memory (ROM) that does not come bundled with Gapps. Good examples include LineageOS and (for the really privacy-conscious) Copperhead.

Encrypting Your Android Phone

Google has reneged on its promise that all new Android devices would ship with full disk encryption. Fortunately, it is a simple matter to manually encrypt Android devices (Gingerbread 2.3.4+) and any Secure Digital (SD) cards they use.

Please see How to Encrypt your Android Phone for a full guide on how to do this. The guide also provides an in-depth discussion on the pros and cons of doing this.

You will suffer an approximately 10% performance loss (which in real-life use I don’t notice), your device will take considerably longer to boot up, and there are issues if you use a password to secure your phone.

Android phone encryption

On the other hand, you will have a much more secure phone!

Use Signal Instant Messaging App

Your cell phone provider, anyone using a stingray device, hackers, and so forth, can all easily intercept your phone and SMS messages. Signal is widely regarded as the most secure end-to-end way to communicate that does not involve whispering in-person into another individual’s ear.

Signal 1

In the past, one of the main criticisms of Signal was its reliance on the Google Play Services framework. This has now been addressed. You can download the .apk for Signal directly from Whisper Systems here.

How to Set Up a VPN for Android

Custom VPN Apps

By far the easiest way to set up a VPN for Android is to download a custom VPN app from the Play Store. This works just like installing any other Android app. You might be able to sign up for the service (often after a free trial) via in-app purchases, or you may need to visit the provider’s website in order to do this.

Please bear in mind, however, what I said at the beginning of this article. There are a great many cowboy apps available through the Play Store. Even more worrying is that many of these have favorable reviews from ordinary users who are not qualified to assess their privacy implications.

So I’ll say it again: please only download apps that have been recommended by a reputable source! Free apps, in particular, should be rigorously avoided.

Set Up Your VPN Manually (PPTP and L2TP/IPsec)

Most Android device manufacturers try to “improve” the OS with their own custom skins. In addition to this, there are many versions of Android to be found in the wild. Details may therefore vary by device, but the instructions below should be close enough for most Android users:

1. Go to Settings –> More networks -> VPN. Note that you are required to set up a lock screen for this. If you have not already done so, just follow the prompts.

2. Touch + to Add VPN network. Enter a name for your VPN connection, choose Type, and enter the details given by your VPN provider.

Android PPTP

PPTP setup is ridiculously easy, but is horribly insecure, so don’t bother.

Android L2TP 1

L2TP/IPsec setup is still pretty easy, but is much more secure. It usually requires you to enter a long, pre-shared key.

3. Check you are connected.

Android VPN connected

The key icon in the taskbar lets you know that you are connected to a VPN server.

Setting Up OpenVPN Manually

OpenVPN Connect is a perfectly good app, but in this tutorial I shall use the more fully featured and open source OpenVPN for Android. As of version 2.4.0, this features full IPv4, IPv6 and WebRTC leak protection. As noted above, it can also be configured to act as a kill switch.

1. Download the OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN provider’s website. Unzip them (if required) and transfer to a folder on your Android device. Alternatively,  download them directly to your Android device and unzip them with an app such as ZArchiver.

2. Download, install and run OpenVPN for Android (if you haven’t already). Touch the + icon to the top right of the screen to Add Profile. Give the profile a suitable name, and hit “Import.”

Android ovpn 1

3. Navigate to the folder where you saved the unzipped OpenVPN config file(s), and chose a server (.ovpn file). Once imported, touch the tick ✔ icon to continue.

Android ovpn 2

4. Once done, you will see the server name under the Profiles tab. To start the VPN, just touch it. You can import .ovpn files for as many servers as you like, and they will show up here.

Android ovpn 3

Many providers include all necessary keys and account information in customized .ovpn files, so no further configuration is needed. Others may require that you enter your account information and other details. Please see your provider’s documentation for specific instructions.

Best VPNs for Android: Conclusion

Using a VPN on your Android device can provide all the super-cool benefits of using a VPN on your desktop system. Just be aware that your apps can (and probably will) rat you out, so stick with doing things through your browser (just as you would on your desktop device!).

Most “proper” VPN providers allow you to use two or more devices simultaneously with their service. So if five simultaneous connections are permitted, you can use the same subscription with your Android phone, your Android tablet, your Windows desktop PC, your MacBook, and your partner’s iPhone!

Best Android VPNs: Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish LogoIPVanish
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site
EXCLUSIVE: 50% OFF! Ends Today! Enter Voucher Code: WAR4WEB

3

NordVPN LogoNordVPN
Read Review8.4/10
$3.29 / monthVisit Site

4

VyprVPN LogoVyprVPN
Read Review8/10
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

5

PrivateInternetAccess LogoPrivateInternetAccess
Read Review7.4/10
$3.33 / monthVisit Site

*All prices shown in US dollars

* Advertiser Disclosure

Douglas Crawford 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.

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24 responses to “5 Best Android VPNs 2017

        1. Hi fer,

          I can only say that downloading copyrighted content is expressly prohibited is VyprVPN’s ToS, and that we have received complaints by readers that their accounts have been blocked for torrenting. Please see the comments section of our VyprVPN Review.

    1. Hi Ernest,

      Thanks to its closed eco-system, iOS devices are very secure. But they are not in any way private, as they tell Apple a great deal of information about you. Windows is neither secure nor private and neither is Android by default. You can make Android more private, however, by flahing it with an open source ROM that does not use Google Apps (e.g. Copperhead).

    1. Hi E.Keen,

      Thanks. I am aware that CyanogenMod has been discontinued. Thanks for the link (added to the article).

    1. Hi again Nicolaï,

      In my view HMA is one of the worst VPN services on the market. I finds its software clunky, its encryption to be meh, and connections slow. Even more damning, this UK company keeps details logs and has quite the track record for handing over them over to the authorities.

  1. Thanks Douglas dor article and others for comments. As a total newbie, I am curious as to why you Douglas emphasize so strongly your opposition to GooglApps but then sign off from Google+ ? Contradiction of terms ?
    Thanks. Peace!

    1. Hi Nicolaï,

      To some extent I must admit this is a case of “Do what I say, not what I do.” That said, although I work as an editor here at BestVPN.com, I am also a freelance writer. Many clients prefer me to have a G+ plus page as this is great for providing a cross-publication Author’s profile. If you actually visit my G+ page, though, you will see that I do not take much care over its upkeep.

  2. You’re stup I’d if you think being based in US is not safe and outside US in places like Panama keepa you out of the reach of certain agencies. You have rights as a citizen in anerica. Dumbasaws

    1. Hi Tay,

      As Snowden proved, the NSA and its ilk do not give a rat’s ass about the constitutional rights of US citizens. At least places such as Panama are outside its ability to directly come and subpoena the VPN company and force it log users’ activity and hand that data over to US authorities.

  3. How is it possible to make a best VPN list without AirVPN? Seriously. ExpressVPN has “connection logs” as one of its cons in your list. But in all other lists, AirVPNs main (and often only) con is “too techy”. What’s most important in a VPN? Too techy or having connection logs? You know the answer.

    1. Hi Peter,

      If you have read any of my stuff, you will know that I am a big AirVPN fan (in fact I use it as my personal VPN). The reason it is not on this Android-specific list is easy – AirVPN does not offer a dedicated Android client. As I also discuss in this article, this is not a major problem, as the OpenVPN for Android app is rather excellent, but it does mean that it does not qualify for this category.

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