5 Best Android VPNs 2017 - Setup on Phones & Tablets Guide - BestVPN.com
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5 Best Android VPNs – Secure Your Phone or Tablet in 2017

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

August 30, 2017

Sitting in your pocket is arguably the defining technology of our times. Even the most humble Android handset allows you previously undreamed-of access to all of human knowledge, and an easy way to communicate with people anywhere in the world.

It also lets you share plenty of amusing pictures of cats.

More people now access the internet using Android phones than with any other device. This means that installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your phone is at least as useful and important as it is on a desktop device.

Quick Links to our best 5 VPNs for Android Phone or Tablets

  1. ExpressVPN Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  2. NordVPN
  3. IPVanish
  4. HideMyAss
  5. StrongVPN

With a VPN on your Android phone or tablet you can:

  • Protect yourself from hackers when using public WiFi
  • Spoof your location, so you can watch services such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer from abroad
  • Hide what you get up to online from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and government
  • Hide you real identity (IP address) from websites you visit
  • Torrent safely

In other words, a VPN for Android can do everything on your phone or tablet that it can on a full desktop computer. There are, however, a couple of caveats to this. I will discuss these after we have looked at the BestVPN.com team’s pick of the best VPNs for Android.

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Great customer service
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): yes
CONS:
  • 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 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

#2 Best VPN for Android: NordVPN

NordVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • No logs at all
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 61+ countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • “Double-hop VPN”
CONS:
  • 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: Torrenting permitted, DNS leak protection, per-app kill switch (desktop clients).

#3 Best VPN for Android: IPVanish

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

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.

#4 Best VPN for Android: HideMyAss

HideMyAss Homepage
PROS:
  • Servers in 190+ countries
  • Two simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Can still unblock Netflix
CONS:
  • Keeps extensive logs
  • Known to betray users

Fourth on this tightly jostled list is high-profile VPN provider, HideMyAss (HMA). HMA boasts arguably the largest server network on the market - it currently stands at 190 countries and counting - but this positive is dampened by its serious lack of privacy. Not only does HMA keep extensive connection logs, but it's been known to betray its users and hand over information when asked by the authorities. hma-android Some perks to make up for its lack of security measures? HMA is one of the only services that can still access Netflix, and you can watch it on up to two simultaneous connections. Give the 30-day money-back guarantee a look below.

#5 Best VPN for Android: StrongVPN

StrongVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • No logs policy
  • Servers in over 24 countries countries
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Five-day money-back guarantee
  • Excellent customer support
CONS:
  • A little slow
  • Random VPN protocol allocation
  • US company

StrongVPN is another US-based VPN provider that offers good value for money if you’re in the market for a VPN for Android. If you get a yearlong subscription you pay a paltry $5.83 for month. A bargain, considering that you can use one subscription on up to five of your devices!

StrongVPN offers other perks besides its wallet-friendly pricing. This includes accepting Bitcoin as payment, zero logs, servers in over 24 countries, and extra-strong encryption. What’s more, you can experience these all yourself without committing to the service, thanks to StrongVPN’s five-day money-back guarantee.

VPNs for Android: What to Consider?

Avoid Mobile Apps

Using a VPN on your Android device routes all your data via a VPN server. However, the benefits of this can be rendered useless if the app you are using is sending your phone’s unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, Global Positioning System (GPS) location data, contact lists, Google Play/iTunes ID and more to the app publisher and/or Google.

Many perfectly legitimate apps do this. In order to gain the full privacy benefits of using a VPN for Android, or if you want to hide your real location, use a service’s web portal via your phone’s mobile browser rather than downloading the app for it.

Say, for example, that you want to browse for certain items on Amazon privately. Do turn on your VPN and visit amazon.com using your favorite web browser (e.g. Chrome) – without logging into your account, of course! Don’t fire up the Amazon app, or Amazon will know exactly who you are and where you are.

The good news is that VPNs will work for the Netflix apps if those specific services have not been blocked by Netflix.

Beware Free VPN Apps

There are shocking numbers of cowboy and malicious VPN apps available 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, avoid any that are “free.” Running a VPN service costs money, so if you’re not paying with money then you’ll be paying in some other way.

Reputable free 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!

Secure Your Android!

If you’re using a VPN on your Android device because you want to improve your online privacy and security, that’s a great start!  As I discuss in our VPNs for Beginners guide, a VPN is a vital tool in your privacy and security toolkit. It should not, however, be your only one.

Android phone encryption

Check out How to Encrypt your Android Phone for a full look at pros and cons of taking this step

Below are some ideas for further improving the security, and above all the privacy, of your Android phone.

Use the Firefox Browser with These Privacy Add-ons

The Chrome web browser that comes bundled with all versions of Android is basically spyware for Google. After all, that’s what Google does. Ditch it for open source Firefox, developed by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation.

This is a great start, but you can improve Firefox with the following open source add-ons:

  • 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 – this 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.

Remove Google Play Services

As I hinted at above, Google’s business model is in direct conflict with any notions of privacy. It makes money by harvesting as much information about you as possible. It then uses that data to generate highly targeted advertising revenue.

Although undoubtedly a pain in the rear, it is therefore worth considering de-Googling your Android phone. Most crucially, you should consider removing the Google Play Services framework. This is closed-source code that allows Google to perform extensive low-level surveillance on almost every Android device.

Note that removing Google Play Services and other Google system apps (Gapps) will prevent other apps from working properly. Good news is that F-Droid allows you to download many apps that either don’t need Gapps, or have been modified to no longer need them.

Here are some further suggestions on how to get by without Google on your phone.

How to De-Google Your Android Phone

A guide to disabling default system apps (including Google ones) without rooting your phone is available here. If you want to completely remove all Google apps, this can be done using Titanium Backup. However, this does require rooting your phone.

Another option is to replace the version of Android your phone came with with modified version of Android (often called a “custom ROM”) that has already been de-Googled.

CyanogenMod custom ROM

Popular examples of Google-free custom ROMs include LineageOS (above) and, for the really privacy-conscious, Copperhead.

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 using Stingray devices, and more.

Most online messaging and internet telephony (VoIP) apps are little better. No matter what promises a service makes, if it doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption 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) 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 recipient’s phone. No trust in a third party is required.

The most well-regarded such app among privacy and security experts is Signal, from Open Whisper Systems. Check out our full Signal Review to find out why.

A Google-free version of Signal can now be downloaded directly from Open Whisper Systems

How Do I Set up a VPN for Android?

Many, if not most, VPN providers offer custom Android apps. Simply download them from the Play Store and sign up when the usual free trial expires, or sign-in with your existing account details. If you are going Google-free, most good VPN services will allow you to download the .apk file for their apps if you ask them.

As I discussed earlier, just be sure to download a reputable VPN app!

Most decent VPN providers also provide setup guides for manually configuring their services on your Android device. Even so, I’ll outline the main steps below.

PPTP and L2TP/IPsec Manual Setup

Android comes with a VPN client baked right into the operating system. This VPN client can be manually configured with a provider’s settings in order to run a VPN using the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) VPN protocols.  If you don’t know what these are, please check out VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide.

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 (preferably unique)

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

OpenVPN Manual Setup for Android

OpenVPN is now the industry standard VPN protocol. It is the one that BestVPN.com recommends you use under almost any circumstances.

The main third-party OpenVPN apps for Android are OpenVPN Connect and the more fully featured and open source OpenVPN for Android. Below are instructions for configuring OpenVPN for Android, which now features full Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leak protection.

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, then hit “Import.”

Android ovpn 1

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

Android ovpn 2

4. Once done, you’ll 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.

It is also possible to configure OpenVPN to act as a kill switch. Please see A Complete Guide to IP Leaks for instructions on how to do this.

Best VPNs for Android: Conclusion

Mobile phones are not privacy-friendly, and never will be. With a VPN and various other steps, however, they can be made much more privacy-friendly, especially if you use online services via their websites rather than their apps.

A VPN will also protect you from public WiFi hackers and allow you to access many service that are otherwise blocked based on where you are.

Given that a good VPN service typically costs just a few bucks each month, it is silly not to use one!

Best Android VPNs: Summary

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.

27 responses to “5 Best Android VPNs – Secure Your Phone or Tablet in 2017

    1. Private Internet Access is a good VPN and it is cheap. However, it has been suffering from a lot of complaints about close to none existent support in recent months. For this reason, it has slipped off some of our lists. Android users aren’t always techy minded and do need help at times, and a help service that can take weeks to get back to consumers simply isn’t considered good enough to recommend to Android users at this time.

        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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