ExpressVPN

5 Best Android VPNs – October 2016

Android phones and tablets are powerful computers. It is therefore every bit as vital to protect yourself using a VPN when using one, as it is when using your desktop PC or laptop. In fact, given that you likely carry your Android phone around in your pocket or purse everywhere you go, it can be argued that it is even more important! In this look at the best Android VPNs, I will also discuss other security issues related to using an Android device.

When it comes to security and privacy, you should always remember that any mobile phone is a serious liability. whatever the operating system it runs. On Android phones, ditching the default version of Android you bought it with and flashing a more privacy-friendly ROM can certainly improve the situation.

But even then, you should strictly manage your privacy expectations. Tablets without cellular functionality are better in this regard, as cell towers track mobile phones everywhere. GPS location awareness and Google Services, however, still present major threats.

With regards to using Android VPN clients. These will, in general, provide all usual benefits of running a VPN. An important caveat, however, is that apps often send all sorts of data directly back to their developers.

I will discuss the implications of this further, after we have looked at BestVPN.com’s recommendations for the best Android VPN!

Best VPN for Android Summary

Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish Logo
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

3

NordVPN Logo
Read Review8.4/10
$5.75 / monthVisit Site

4

SaferVPN Logo
Read Review8/10
$7.50 / monthVisit Site

5

PrivateInternetAccess Logo
Read Review7.4/10
$3.33 / monthVisit Site
Editor's Choice Award

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

best Android VPN

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Great customer service
  • 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.

ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs, but does keep some connection (metadata) logs. How being based in the British Virgin Islands affects privacy is a little unclear. Users in China will appreciate ExpressVPN’s special “stealth” servers, however, which also work using its Android app.

Additional features: Three simultaneous connections, “stealth” servers in Hong Kong, free SmartDNS.

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. Much like its desktop client, IPVanish’s Android VPN app is a little basic. But it is easy to use, and works well, making it a great VPN for Android.

Additional features: Apps for Android and iOS, 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 the immediate reach of the NSA! It backs up this distinction by being very privacy-focused. NordVPN keeps no logs at all, use strong encryption, and accept payment via Bitcoins. Some may appreciate NordVPN’s “double-hop” VPN chaining feature, although I am dubious about its value.

The encryption used by NordVPN is also very good. Speeds on many of NordVPN’s servers can be rather slow, but fast servers are available with a little trial and error. Android users are well-served with a dedicated Android VPN client, that in addition to OpenVPN provides the option to use the IKEv2 protocol.

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

Visit NordVPN »


4th place

SaferVPN

4/5

VPN android

  • ProsPROS
  • Free trial
  • Accepts Bitcoins
  • Good speeds
  • ConsCONS
  • Basic app
  • Keeps some connection logs

This professional new Israeli VPN service impressed us with great connection speeds and a robust attitude to privacy (although it does keep some connection logs). We also found the software easy to use, and appreciated the 24-hour free trial and 14-day money back guarantee. SaferVPN has servers located in 24 countries, offers 24/7 support, and accepts payment via Bitcoins. As with many custom Android apps, SaferVPN’s Android VPN is a little basic, but works well.

Additional features: iOS and Android apps, IKEv2 support, accepts Bitcoins, SmartDNS service promised soon, 24-hour free trial (or three-days for users of the Android app) and 14-day money back guarantee.

Visit SaferVPN »


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

PIA keeps no logs, and although optional, its security can be first rate (up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN, SHA-256 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.

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

Additional features: five simultaneous connections, port forwarding, great Android app.

Visit Private Internet Access »


Best Android VPN List Considerations

Avoid using apps!

Apps send data back directly to their publishers. Depending on the permissions you grant them, this can amount to a huge amount of personal information, including cellular network and registration details, GPS location data, and more.

In fact, have you ever wondered why that handy spirit level app you downloaded requires permissions to access your location data, files and photos, microphone, and contacts? Many free apps monetize themselves by collecting personal information from users, and selling it to ad and analytics companies.

And even when the app publisher is “legit”, Google makes it far too easy for publishers to “collect it all” anyway. This means that even the most innocuous app publishers usually know far too much about you. And app publishers such as Facebook are far from “innocuous”!

Leaky apps

This problem is compounded by the fact that mobile apps are often “leaky”, and allow organizations such as the NSA and GCHQ to spy on their users.

Indeed, according to documents obtained by Edward Snowden, leaky smartphone apps allow them to discover everything from “phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location”, to “users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger”(!).

Leaky apps

For some reason, much of publicity surrounding leaky apps focused on mobile games, and Angry Birds in particular. All kinds of apps collect too much information about you, however, with social media apps being among the worst offenders. The Facebook app, for example, collects detailed location data and asks permission to access your SMS messages

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. So basically, avoid using apps wherever possible.

Use your mobile browser instead!

VPNs for Android are of limited help when using apps, as apps can access IP and location data directly from your phone, thereby sidestepping the VPN. If you access services via their web portals, however, you gain all the usual benefits of using a VPN.

Great Firefox privacy extensions

In addition to using an Android VPN, I strongly recommend using the Firefox for Android browser. Not only is it 100 percent open source, but it supports some fantastic browser extensions that will improve your privacy:

  • uBlock Origin– is a lightweight FOSS ad-blocker that does double duty as an anti-tracking add-on.
  • HTTPS Everywhere – was developed by EFF, and tries to ensure that you always connect to a website using a 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 DOM storage.

Do be aware, however, that using any browser add-on makes you more susceptible to being tracked by browser fingerprinting.

Android VPN clients

Unlike iOS VPN apps, almost all custom VPNs for Android apps support the OpenVPN protocol. This is great, but it is also worth noting that the generic open source OpenVPN for Android app is much more fully featured than its open source desktop cousin.

Android DNS leak

Unlike many providers’ custom Android VPN apps, OpenVPN for Android provides both IPv4 and IPv6 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

Encrypting your Android phone

In addition to using an Android VPN and browser add-ons, you can improve the security of your Android device by encrypting its contents. This includes the contents of any SD cards.

There are definitely pros and cons to doing this. But I consider the added security a more than acceptable trade-off for the approximately 9 percent performance hit this incurs. Which in real-life use I don’t notice anyway.

Android phone encryption

A bigger problem is having to use the same master password used to secure the phone in order to disable the lock screen. This is a real pain in the ass if you use a strong password (as you should). If your phone features a fingerprint scanner, however, this is much less of a problem.

Please see How to Encrypt your Android Phone (a Complete Guide) for more details.

Use Signal

Regular phone calls and text messages sent on your Android phone are not secure. At all. And cannot be made so. It’s not the just the NSA and GCHQ; governments everywhere (where they have not already done so) are keen on collecting all phone calls and text messages. At least in metadata form.

Signal by Whisper Systems is widely regarded as the most secure VoIP and messaging app available. It is open source, and securely end-to-end encrypts your voice and text conversations. This means that no-one – hackers, your ISP, or the NSA, can listen in on your conversations.

Signal 1

It is also easy enough to use that you might actually convince your friends and family to give it a try!

Flash your device with a more secure custom ROM

Android is developed by Google, a company whose business model is to invade your privacy in order to direct target ads at you. The biggest privacy-invasive culprits in Android are Google Apps (Gapps). These are the proprietary Google-branded applications that come pre-installed with most Android devices, such as the Play Store, Gmail, Maps, etc.

Fortunately, Google developed Android as a (largely) open source platform. Independent developers have therefore modified the base Android source code to create alternative versions of the OS, known as custom ROMS.

These are often much more secure than standard versions of Android, and thanks to licensing restrictions, do not come with Gapps pre-installed. Gapps can usually be downloaded and installed by users who value their convenience, but using a version of Android without any Google Apps installed will greatly improve your privacy.

CyanogenMod custom ROM

CyanogenMod is easily the most popular custom Android ROM. It comes with a ton of security and privacy enhancements over “regular” Android.  Those looking for a very hardened Android setup might want to consider CopperheadOS (Nexus 9, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P only).

Conclusion

As always when it comes to internet privacy and security, VPNs for Android should be considered vital tools in your privacy and security toolkit. As long as you access services via your browser, they provide all the advantages of using a VPN on your desktop.

Equally, as always there is no magic bullet solution to privacy and security problems. This is especially true for mobile devices, which should always be regarded as inherently insecure.  As discussed above, however, there are things you can do to improve the situation (which includes using VPNs for Android). Just please be aware of their limitations, and act accordingly.

Best Android VPN Summary

Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review10/10
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

IPVanish Logo
Read Review8.8/10
$6.49 / monthVisit Site

3

NordVPN Logo
Read Review8.4/10
$5.75 / monthVisit Site

4

SaferVPN Logo
Read Review8/10
$7.50 / monthVisit Site

5

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

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

Related Coverage


6 responses to “5 Best Android VPNs – October 2016

  1. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *