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, plus an easy way to communicate with people anywhere in the world. It also lets you share plenty of amusing pictures of cats.
The Perfect Fit
- Super fast : ExpressVPN has always been at the top of the game in terms of raw speed!
- Super secure: 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption ensures no-one can access your data
- Unlimited downloading
- 30-day no quibble money-back guarantee: just give it a try
- 24/7 Customer support: world class!
The Perfect Fit
- Great for Privacy : No logs at all so nothing to trace what you do online
- Based in Panama: so no government spying or link to the NSA
- 6 simultaneous connections Good for the whole family!
- Servers in 61+ countries
- 30-day money back guarantee – so you have nothing to lose!
A Virtual Private Network (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’ve looked at the BestVPN.com team’s pick of the best VPNs for Android.
What are the Best VPNs for Android?
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- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No usage logs
- Servers in 94 countries
- Great customer service
- Peer-to-peer (P2P): yes
- 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.
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).
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- No logs at all
- Six simultaneous devices
- Servers in 61+ countries
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- “Double-hop VPN”
- 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.
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).
- No logs at all
- Five simultaneous connections
- Smart DNS included
- Accepts bitcoin
- P2P allowed
- 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. 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.
- Servers in 190+ countries
- Two simultaneous connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Can still unblock Netflix
- 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. 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.
- No logs policy
- Servers in over 24 countries countries
- Five simultaneous connections
- Five-day money-back guarantee
- Excellent customer support
- 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.
VPN Apps for Andoird: Side-by-Side Comparison
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How We Picked the Top Android VPN for 2018
Here at BestVPN.com we’re fortunate to have some of the VPN industry’s foremost experts as staff members. Based on our detailed VPN reviews and data collected as part of our BestVPN.com Awards process, we’ve carefully considered a range of factors that go into making a great all-round Android VPN service.
We recognize that due to the versatility of VPN technology, what makes a great Android VPN for one user may miss the mark for another. As such, these top VPN for Android picks are a consensus choice made after much careful deliberation by the BestVPN.com staff.
Guide to VPN Apps for Android in 2018
Want to find out more about Android VPNs? We’ve got you covered. Simply click the link most relevant to your query in the table of contents below to jump straight to the answer!
- How we picked the top Android VPN for 2018
- What is a VPN?
- What is a VPN app for Android?
- What can a VPN app do on Android?
- What makes a good VPN for Android?
- How does a VPN on Android work?
- Fast VPNs for Android phones
- Using an Android VPN at school or work
- Can I use a VPN on a rooted or jailbroken Android phone?
- Can I use a VPN with my Android Tablet?
- Best Android VPN for China
- Free Android VPN Apps
- How else can I secure my Android Phone?
- How do I set up VPN for Android?
What Is a VPN?
A VPN is a way to securely connect your computer or mobile device to a “VPN server” run by a commercial VPN provider. Your device then connects to the internet via this VPN server.
- Using a VPN is arguably the single most effective measure you can take to improve your online privacy and security.
- All data passing between your computer (which includes mobile Android devices) and the VPN server is encrypted. This is sometimes referred to as an “encrypted tunnel.” The VPN hides your data from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), so that it cannot spy on what you do online.
- VPN providers usually run servers in different locations around the world. This is great for avoiding censorship, as you can simply connect to a server located in a country where there is no such censorship.
- When you connect to the internet via a VPN server, anyone on the internet will see the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the VPN server, not your real IP.
What Is a VPN App for Android?
In order to connect a device to a VPN server, you need to run VPN software on that device. On desktop operating systems such as Windows or macOS, this is usually called a VPN client. On mobile devices, it is called a VPN app.
These apps aren’t really any different to any other app you have on your phone. Most are somewhat lightweight versions of their desktop siblings, but some are surprisingly fully featured.
VPN apps for Android are usually downloaded from the Google Play Store in the regular way, although some providers let you direct-download apk files for manual installation.
What Can a VPN App Do on Android?
VPNs are very versatile tools. With a VPN on your Samsung S8, Pixel 2, or Android tablet you can:
Protect Yourself from Hackers When Using Public WiFi
Public WiFi hotspots are a gift to hackers. However, with a VPN connection to a VPN server, your data is encrypted. This makes it is impossible for hackers to intercept your data.
Even if you connect to an “evil-twin” hotspot, or the hotspot leaves your connection unencrypted (and therefore liable to WiFi packet sniffing by hackers), you will be protected.
Similarly, using a VPN on your Android device will stop your Airbnb host, dorm supervisor, or boss from snooping on your browsing habits when connected to a router controlled by them.
It should be noted that the recent KRACK attack is effective against almost all WiFi networks, and Android devices are particularly vulnerable. A VPN will protect you against such an attack.
Spoof Your Location So You Can Watch Services Such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer from Abroad
Although this is not behavior we encourage, many people use VPN connections to access streaming services that are restricted to residents of a certain country, or which offer better catalogs of titles to people in some countries than others.
Hide What You Get up to Online from Your ISP, Mobile Provider and Government
A VPN encrypts all data traveling between your Android device and the VPN server. This means that your ISP cannot see it. In addition, your mobile provider or ISP (if using WiFi) connects you to the VPN server, but after that it cannot see the web addresses of any website you visit.
Thus, using a VPN is a great way to hide everything you do online from your mobile provider and ISP. And because governments usually obtain mass surveillance data directly from ISPs and mobile providers, using a VPN is a very effective way to prevent Big Brother looking over your shoulder.
Hide Your Real Identity (IP Address) from Websites You Visit
Websites routinely log the IP addresses of all visitors. Combined with other data, this allows them to track you as surf the web in order to deliver highly targeted ads to you.
VPNs are a great anti-censorship tool. If a website is blocked in your country, simply connect to a VPN server somewhere it isn’t blocked. This makes VPNs an invaluable tool for those living under the yoke of state censorship. This includes those in China, Iran, and the UAE.
BestVPN.com doesn’t condone copyright piracy. Nonetheless, a VPN will protect peer-to-peer (P2P) users when downloading to their Android devices. Please see Five Best VPNs for Torrenting for more details.
What Makes a Good VPN for Android?
For Protecting Yourself from Hackers
Any VPN app will protect you when using public WiFi and in situations where you don’t trust the WiFi operator. It will also protect you against KRACK attacks. Strong encryption is ideal, but even weak encryption should stump most WiFi hackers.
A new feature offered by an increasing number of VPN apps is “WiFi protection.” This detects when you connect to a new WiFi network and offers to enable the VPN in order to protect you.
For Spoofing Your Location
The first consideration, of course, is that the VPN app offers servers in the location you want to spoof! Speed is also important if you want to avoid buffering problems, so try to choose a VPN with the fastest servers.
It’s also important to check that a VPN service works with the content you want to access before you subscribe.
Note that a VPN may or may not work with dedicated streaming apps. As discussed below, apps may use information gathered from your phone to tell their publishers directly where you really are. This makes spoofing your IP rather redundant. You should still be able to access such services, however, via their mobile web portals.
For Hiding Your Online Activity from Your ISP and Government
Any VPN app will hide your online activity from your ISP or mobile provider. If you’re worried about your government (or the NSA) pressuring your VPN provider in some way for this information, be sure to choose a good no logs provider.
Strong technical security isn’t as important for privacy as a VPN’s logging policy, but it is a factor. Most Android apps use OpenVPN, which is good. Note, however, that “256-bit encryption” is widely advertised, but is almost meaningless in and of itself. To understand the encryption terms that do matter, please see VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide.
For Preventing Tracking by Websites
As discussed below, dedicated apps may blab your real identity to online services. It’s therefore much “safer” to access them via their web portals instead.
For Bypassing Censorship
In most situations, any VPN app will do for bypassing censorship. Just pick an international VPN service and use a VPN server located somewhere that is not censored.
If VPN websites and/or the VPN protocols themselves are blocked where you are, please see How to Bypass VPN Blocks – A Guide. Most of the advice in that article applies just as well to Android phones and tablets as is does to desktop systems.
Please check out Five Best VPNs for Torrenting.
How Does a VPN on Android Work?
An Android VPN on your Samsung or HTC phone works in exactly the same way as a desktop VPN client. It securely routes all your internet traffic through a VPN server. It therefore provides all the privacy advantages usually associated with a VPN – except for one kink…
Avoid Mobile Apps
The benefits of using a VPN app can be rendered useless if an app you’re using sends 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 (for example, Firefox) – without logging into your account, of course!
- Don’t fire up the Amazon app, or Amazon will know exactly who and where you are.
The good news is that VPNs will work for the Netflix app if those specific VPN services have not been blocked by Netflix.
Fast VPNs for Android Phones
When it comes to internet speeds, faster is always better! Using an Android VPN will impact your internet speeds, but with a good app this impact can be minimal.
Our new suite of speed tests definitively and scientifically measure VPNs to find out which is the fastest VPN on the market.
In order to improve speeds on your Android device, choose a fast VPN service and connect to a server as close to you as possible. Most VPN services use LZO compression by default. Much like the better known .zip format, this compresses the size of some files types, which can speed up the perceived speed of your connection.
If LZO compression is available as an option in your Android VPN app, be sure to turn it on.
Using an Android VPN at School or Work
Schools and workplaces often block social media platforms on their WiFi networks because they act as a distraction, and other websites because their content is deemed “inappropriate” for one reason or another.
A VPN lets you bypass such restrictions and allows you to Tweet and catch up with cat photos on Facebook to your heart’s content. Schools and offices are aware of this loophole, however, and often take measures to block VPN use. In this case, consult How to Bypass VPN Blocks – A Guide.
Do be aware that your headmaster, dorm supervisor, or boss is unlikely to be impressed if you are caught bypassing their carefully designed blocks…
Can I Use a VPN on a Rooted or Jailbroken Android Phone?
Indeed you can! In fact, if you care about privacy then you should! Android is developed by Google, and Google is in the business of spying on everything you do online so that it can sell you stuff more effectively.
Rooting your Android phone (similar to jailbreaking an iPhone) gives you full control over the device you purchased. Perhaps most importantly, it allows you to banish Google from your life! See below for more on this.
Can I Use a VPN with My Android Tablet?
Most Android tablets work exactly like Android phones. They can use Android apps just like phones do. Just download the VPN app from the Goggle Play Store, and away you go!
A notable exception, however, are Amazon Fire tablets. These use the Amazon App Store to download apps, and not the regular Google Play Store. There are not many VPN apps available on the Amazon store, so this can be a problem. Fortunately, there are ways around this:
- If you can get hold of the VPN for Android apk, you can sideload it. Many providers will give you their apk if you ask, or it may be available through online repositories.
- Download OpenVPN for Android from the Amazon App Store, and configure it using a provider’s regular OpenVPN configuration files. Most VPN services provide full instruction on how to do this. OpenVPN Connect is also a good app for this, although it’s not open source and is not as fully-featured as OpenVPN for Android.
- Root your Fire tablet. You can then either turn it into a regular Android tablet by installing the Google Play store, or replace the Amazon operating system with a custom ROM (see below).
Best Android VPN for China
China is one of the most censored countries in the world. It is therefore great news that VPNs for Android are an effective way to evade the Great Firewall (GFW). China takes great pains to block access to VPNs, but thanks to clever “stealth” VPN technologies, many VPNs work just fine (at least most of the time!).
If possible, it makes life a lot easier to sign up for a VPN service and download its app before entering the country. This is especially true for Android apps, as Google is banned in China!
For an in-depth discussion on this subject, please see Five Best VPNs for China.
Free Android VPN Apps
Free VPNs almost always provide a sub-par experience, even at the best of times. It costs a lot of time, money, and know-how to set up and run a VPN service, so no-one is doing it for free. If you’re not paying money, then you’ll be paying in privacy or bandwidth. You may even be exposing yourself to malware.
Unfortunately, this is particularly true on Android devices, where the market is particularly wild and unregulated. If you must use a free Android VPN app, then at least choose one from a reputable VPN service.
How Else Can I Secure My Android Phone?
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 the only tool.
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.
You can then 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.
Note that using any browser add-on makes you more susceptible to being tracked by browser fingerprinting. For more great privacy and security Firefox add-ons that work on Android, see The Complete Firefox Privacy and Security Guide.
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’s 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. Thankfully, 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. This requires rooting your phone.
Another option is to replace the version of Android your phone came with, with a modified version of Android (often called a “custom ROM”) that has already been de-Googled.
How Do I Set up VPN for Android?
Many, if not most, VPN providers offer custom Android apps. To set a VPN up on an Android device, simply download the VPN’s app from the Google Play Store and sign up when the 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 Android VPN app!
Most decent VPN providers also provide guides to help you manually set up VPN services on your Android device. Even so, I’ll outline the main steps for OpenVPN below.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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’s silly not to use one!