Best VPN for Android In 2018
If you want secure connectivity while out and about and Android is your preferred mobile platform, you’ll want to invest in a good VPN solution.
With over 2 billion active monthly users, Android is by far the largest mobile operating system in the world. Yet without a reliable VPN to tunnel and encrypt connections, every time users connect to public Wi-Fi networks they could be putting their personal information at risk.
We looked at some of the best solutions on the market to find the best VPN for Android. What do you need to look out for in a good Android VPN app? And how can you use your connection safely and legally?
Read on to find out.
Why Use a VPN for Android?
Boasting more than 2 billion active monthly users (that’s more than a quarter of the world’s population!), the Android ecosystem is gigantic in proportion.
And one of the first things a prudent Android user will want to do is subscribe to a VPN service to protect their public connections.
Android users will frequently connect to unknown networks while on the move. With one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 150 people on the planet, that’s simply part and parcel of being a modern smartphone user. But without encrypting browsing traffic, any institution that offers a hotspot Wi-Fi connection – such as a coffee shop, university, or airport business lounge – could be spying on the traffic being sent to your Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel.
If it’s an open network, your traffic is pretty much fair game to anyone with rudimentary packet sniffing skills (or ‘digital eavesdropping’ in non-tech jargon). And even if the network is secured with an encryption methodology such as WEP, WPA-PSK, or WPA2-PSK, advanced users and network owners with the decryption key can also intercept your communications.
Thankfully, as with everything Android-related, you have plenty of options. Want some recommended providers and guidance on how to make the most of your Android VPN? We have you covered.
What Should an Android VPN Offer?
A good Android VPN should offer more or less the same core benefits as one for desktop or laptop users with some important exceptions. Easy user interfaces (UIs) are particularly important on mobile, for example, as you probably won’t want to be manually editing configuration files in a code editor when trying to get a connection running during a business meeting.
Those evaluating a VPN for Android should also keep an eye out for:
- Quick speeds: Laggy connection speeds will slow down multimedia apps like YouTube and Spotify and render them practically unusable. A reliable server network with good upload and download speeds is a must for Android VPN users.
- Netflix VPN: Android is as popular on tablets as it is with smartphone users. And seriously, who wants a tablet if it can’t stream Netflix?
- Protocol selection: With over 24,000 different types of Android devices around, it’s particularly important that VPN apps for Android cater to as wide an array of VPN protocols as possible.
- Value for money: Besides an affordable monthly price, a money back guarantee and trial period are important pluses.
- Automatic connection: Because mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can be rebooted more frequently than fixed platforms, the ability to enforce automatic VPN connections is especially important.
- Split tunneling: Some Android VPN apps support split tunneling, which allows users to enforce VPN connections only for certain applications.
How To Set Up a VPN On Your Android Phone
All Android apps that have been approved by Google can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
To download one of the apps mentioned in this article, simply:
- Open the Google Play Store app on your device
- Alternatively, if you’re signed into your Google account on a PC, visit play.google.com
- Type the name of the app you want to download into the search box and click ‘install’ or ‘buy.’
While it’s possible to bypass the Play Store by installing Android Application Package (APK) files directly onto your device’s storage (and some of the providers reviewed offer this option), this is substantially more likely to introduce viruses to your system. If you’re a VPN user, we recommend continuing to play it safe!
How We Selected the Best Android VPN Apps
We put the following apps through their paces on Android smartphones and tablet devices to find the best VPN app for Android as well as the best free VPN for Android. Here’s how the providers we assessed ranked.
If you don’t like the ExpressVPN Android app after its generous 30-day free trial, you may have a tough time finding a platform that meets your needs.
This effectively gives you the best free VPN for Android for a whole month and lets you take advantage of the full breadth of its stellar features.
These include use of the high-performance OpenVPN protocol, the one-click ‘VPN On Button’ to turn on the VPN connection no matter where you are in your device, and access to ExpressVPN’s outrageously fast server network which is reputed to be the best in the business.
Pricing-wise, it’s $12.95/month or $6.67/month for 15 months (which includes three months for free). All plans include a 30-day money back guarantee.
Nord’s Android app gives you the ability to really hone down into the fine details of your connections. This includes the ability to set up a manual connection using any of the app’s supported protocols, which range from PPTP to IKEv2.
Like the desktop app, users can also avail of the company’s proprietary CyberSec protection which filters against phishing attempts, DDoS attack attempts, and various forms of malware. There’s also an Auto-Connect feature that can fire up a connection as soon as the app launches.
The app costs $11.95 for one month’s membership falling all the way to $5.75 for an annual subscription – a 52% saving. They now have a 24-month promotion running at $3.29/mo – a 72% saving. There’s both a 30-day free trial option and a 30-day money back guarantee for all accounts in good standing.
HMA’s Android app enjoys wide support from its user community. The HMA! Pro VPN Android app features full OpenVPN support, one tap connection support, and the ability to mark servers as favorites to speedily connect to them during future browsing sessions. The app also features the same clean but powerful user design philosophy that the app has become known for in the VPN community.
HMA is $11.52/month or $6.56 for 12 months, a 43% saving. All new orders are covered by the company’s “no questions asked” 30-day money-back guarantee.
Based in Israel and founded under five years ago, SaferVPN is one of the newer kids on the block, but it has quickly established a strong reputation among users and reviewers with its 24/7 customer support, automatic diagnostics, and no-log policy.
Its Android app lives up to the company’s reputation and provides 256-bit ‘bank-level internet security’ for its connections, imposes no limitations on bandwidth, and runs completely silently in the background allowing users to get on with using other apps. The app also includes the ability to automatically select the best server based on users’ current location.
SaferVPN costs $9.99/month and $4.49/month for the annual plan. A 30-day money-back guarantee is included.
This Swedish, zero-logs provider operates a relatively meager server network, but features a totally anonymous signup process and currently works with Netflix despite the latter’s ongoing attempts to crack down on connections tunneled through VPN providers. This is, of course, a major plus for anyone that wants to tuck up to Netflix on their Android tablet.
The app itself features a classic minimalist design that provides users with clear information about their connection time and displays their public IP address to verify that a connection is working. There’s also a reconnect option to force a connection pickup in the event that it drops and an easily accessible connection log where users can quickly diagnose the cause of any issues that they may be experiencing.
PrivateVPN is currently on deal for $5.48 for one month or $2.77 for a 13-month subscription, with the last month free. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on the off chance that it doesn’t light up your holiday season.
Torrenting is increasingly popular among mobile users, which makes IPVanish a good choice for Android users that want to tap into the power of P2P downloads (torrenting is supported on all its servers).
The Android app uses military-grade AES-256 encryption over OpenVPN to secure connections, providing users with fast but safe server connections. On the server side, there’s a load balancing mechanism to provide users with the fastest connections possible and it’s also a zero logs provider.
There’s currently an extra special deal for those hoping to fill their virtual stockings with secure Android connections. One year of IPVanish can be snapped up for just $54.59 – that’s a 30% saving on the usual price.
Use an Android VPN at Work or School
Once you’ve selected the best Android for your needs, you’ll probably want to know when to start using it.
If you’re like most modern humans, you probably spend a substantial part of your life at an educational institution or workplace.
These institutions want to keep you productive and/or focused. Therefore, they will frequently censor certain websites that will hamper productivity. This includes social networks like Facebook, multimedia streaming services like YouTube, and a blacklist of specific websites that the network administrator has decided to block access to.
What’s your option if you want to bypass these blocks? If you can use your own Android device at work or on campus, install a VPN on it and connect to the network.
As an Android user, you can also take advantage of your device’s ability to set up a mobile hotspot to create a private network from your institution’s Wi-Fi connection while connected, on your mobile, to an Android VPN. This will allow you to use your school or workplace’s computers without filtering and not use your precious data in the process.
Although tethering and using a VPN generally requires a rooted device, here is how to set it up (these instructions may vary per device).
- Connect to the Wi-Fi network you wish to share
- Begin a VPN connection using the Android VPN app you have a subscription to
- Visit settings
- Select ‘more’ and then ‘tethering and portable hotspot’
- Set a name for the network (SSID) and then click the check the box to turn the connection on
- If everything’s gone smoothly, you should now be able to connect to this Wi-Fi network from any device within range of your Android
Just make sure to keep your phone plugged into the charger – converting it to a mobile hotspot does drain the battery. And make sure to turn the hotspot off when you are done, so you don’t waste your data package.
An Android VPN App Should Always Be Used with Public WiFi
As we mentioned, both network administrators and other users on the network have the ability to ‘sniff’ the traffic your Android device transmits on public Wi-Fi networks with relative ease.
Even when surfing networks with more robust security mechanisms, such as WPA2 encryption, advanced users can intercept your traffic and potentially capture your personal information.
We know, that free 60 minutes’ of high-speed internet may seem awfully tempting when you’re running up on your monthly data allowance, but the potential repercussions are simply not worth it. As an Android user, it is best practice to use a VPN whenever you connect to a public Wi-Fi network – no matter how long you intend to stay on the network.
Do Android VPNs Work on Android Tablets
Android apps will run on both smartphones and tablets so long as the version of Android you are using meets or exceeds the minimum version declaration that the developers may have set when releasing the software. That’s not to mention the growing range of so-called ‘phablet’ devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which are perfect tools for mobile streaming (and should, therefore, be protected with a VPN!).
The exception to this rule is the Amazon Fire Tablets which run FireOS, a modified version of stock Android. Although there are relatively easy workarounds available to move beyond the confines of the Amazon Appstore (and install the Google Play Store), users can also choose to select a provider from the list of VPNs available on the Fire Appstore (which includes ExpressVPN). Either way, protecting an Android tablet should be as easy as it is on a smartphone.
Can I Install a VPN on my Android if it is Jailbroken or Rooted?
Short answer: yes.
For those not in on the fun, jailbreaking refers to installing a special bootloader and version of Android to devices in order to be able to access root privileges on the device. This removes whatever limitations the manufacturer may have imposed on the machine and gives the user access to lower level functions on the kernel than would have been possible without going through the procedure.
Although Google’s SafetyNet exclusion filter was introduced to limit the catalog of apps available to users running custom ROMs, it’s not in VPN providers’ interest to add themselves to this list. So far, Netflix remains the only major app to be a part of this program, which means that it will not be accessible for rooted users irrespective of how they connect to it. For installing the VPN apps themselves, the picture remains bright. In fact, some providers even offer more advanced versions specifically for rooted users!
Can I Use a VPN for Android in Countries Where VPNs are Banned?
If you’re reading this from the shores of Turkey or the deserts of the UAE, this probably isn’t a great time to try installing a VPN from the App Store as VPNs are illegal in your current location. China, Iraq, Belarus, Oman, and Russia comprise the rest of the list.
You can, of course, install the app before your getaway, but as VPN traffic still passes through local cellular network infrastructure, such a gambit is ill-advised while in a jurisdiction where the technology has been outlawed.
Is P2P File Sharing Permitted with An Android VPN?
Different VPN providers set different rules for whether or not they permit peer to peer (P2P) traffic through their server network. Such traffic connects to the internet through a different port than regular traffic and can provide users with extra-fast means of downloading large files.
Whereas some VPNs have no restrictions on torrenting, others ban it entirely and others still limit it to certain servers. If you’re downloading torrents from your Android device, it’s advisable to research the VPN provider carefully before making a purchase.
Best VPN for Android – Tested and Approved Android VPN App
Unless you’re that rare breed of Android user that absolutely never uses public Wi-Fi networks it makes sense to have a quality VPN on hand.
Like their counterparts for more stationary devices, Android versions of VPNs need to have certain key features like server speed, reliability, and value for money. Given that they also tend to be used in less ergonomically-friendly situations, easily navigable UIs, automatic connection support, and a good choice of protocol become particularly important.
For these reasons and more, ExpressVPN is our recommended choice of VPN for Android users.