Best VPNs for Android and some to avoid

Published by on September 26, 2016 in VPN & Privacy

little android figurines
Android phones and tablets come with built-in support for VPNs, but the process of setting one up and getting connected is a tedious pain. On top of that, the protocols available don’t include OpenVPN, which is widely regarded as more secure and open than PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.

So instead of manually configuring a VPN, we recommend subscribing to a provider with dedicated VPN apps for Android. Instead of inputting server domains and pre-shared keys, all you need to do is install the app, log in, choose a server, and hit connect.

A VPN can unblock geo-locked content like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It can also prevent your ISP and mobile carrier from monitoring your online activities. It’s always a good idea to connect your Android device to a VPN when on a public wifi hotspot to stop hackers from snooping on your internet traffic.

Below we’ve curated a list of the best VPNs for Android based on the following criteria:

  • Stable, lightweight, easy-to-use Android VPN apps
  • OpenVPN protocol support
  • No ad injection, tracking, or other privacy incursions
  • Bonus points if P2P allowed and kill switch is built in

ExpressVPN
expressvpn android 2

ExpressVPN’s Android app requires you enter a one-time activation code for the device, after which you don’t have to enter a username or password again. The well-designed app can be set to activate as soon as Android starts up. You can choose between UDP (faster) or TCP (more stable) OpenVPN protocols. Torrenting and other peer-to-peer traffic is allowed.

You can try ExpressVPN risk free with their 30 day money back guarantee. They’ve also been in touch to offer our readers an extra 3 months free with their 12 month plan.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN here.

IPVanishipvanish android 3.0

The IPVanish Android app just got a 3.0 makeover and it is looking fantastic. You can see the load and ping time of each server in the list. A widget can be installed and resized anywhere on your home screen. Dropped connections can be reconnected automatically. P2P is allowed. OpenVPN UDP and TCP connections are both available along with a “Scramble” obfuscation feature designed to bypass network traffic sensors that detect and block VPNs.

Read our full review of IPVanish here.

NordVPN
nordvpn android app

You can choose from either a list of servers or just click a pin on the world map to connect to a NordVPN server. The company’s SmartPlay feature that can bypass anti-VPN firewalls can be toggled on. OpenVPN over both UDP and TCP are available. You can set the app to automatically connect to a specific server on startup. Live chat support is available from within the app. P2P traffic is allowed. NordVPN occasionally run deals as low as $4 per month although it’s still reasonable value at full price.

Read our full review of NordVPN here.

VyprVPNvyprvpn android

VyprVPN’s Android app is the only one on this list to use a kill switch. A kill switch will block all traffic in the event of a dropped connection, which prevents traffic from leaking onto your unencrypted network. This would be an excellent tool for torrenters, but unfortunately torrenting is now allowed. You can also set the app to always connect when on “untrustworthy” public wifi connections.

You can try VyprVPN free for 3 days here and then get the first month half price if you want to keep it.

Read our full review of VyprVPN here.

LiquidVPNliquidvpn android

The LiquidVPN Android app lets you filter servers by region, topology (shared, dedicated, or modulating IP address), and TCP or UDP OpenVPN protocol. The app can be set to start on boot and connect when started. Ping times for the VPNs are displayed alongside each of the servers. P2P traffic is allowed. Update, October 14, 2016: LiquidVPN have been in touch to offer our readers 20% of all plans here, use the code “COMP20” at checkout and the discount will be applied. 

VPNs Android users should avoid

Betternet

Betternet supports itself by using tracking cookies and injecting ads into the websites you browse. Because these ads come from a third party, they are not to be trusted. Furthermore, only two servers are available.

Cloud VPN

Typing “VPN” into the search bar of the Google Play Store will likely return Cloud VPN as the top result. Unlimited bandwidth and no data caps for free sounds enticing, but the app works with third-party advertisers to inject ads and collect some information including your device ID and real IP address. That includes putting unsolicited tracking cookies in your browser. Furthermore, the app will suspend users who attempt to use P2P apps.

No Google Play? Try the APK

If you’re using an Android device without Google Play, finding the app for your VPN can be a pain. Kindle Fire HD tablets and smartphones bought in China, for example, can’t install Google services including the Play Store.

The alternative is to download the APK file for the app and install it manually. To do that, you’ll first need to change the settings in your phone to allow apps from third-party developers. The exact steps will vary a bit depending on your version and fork of Android, but here’s the basic steps for Android 4.0 and later:

  1. Go to Settings > Security (‘Device’ in Kindle Fire)
  2. Scroll down to “Unknown sources” and toggle it on
  3. Confirm if necessary

Next, find the APK file for the VPN app. Hopefully you can get this directly from your VPN provider’s website with a bit of searching. Ask customer support if you can’t find it.

Alternatively, you can download the APK from a third party site. There are a ton of APK hosting sites out there with pretty much every app you can imagine. Just Google “ APK” and it should pop up. Be warned, however, that these are not official downloads from the company and thus could contain malware or be outdated. Always read reviews if they are available, run a virus scan on the file once it’s downloaded, and double check the version. If it looks shady, don’t install it.

Once you’ve downloaded the file, just click on it and Android will ask you if you trust the app. Confirm and let Android do the rest. It should install just like a normal app!

OpenVPN for Android

Not all VPN providers have apps, or maybe you can’t find/don’t trust a third-party APK file. Another option is to use an open-source VPN app. We highly recommend “OpenVPN for Android” over OpenVPN Connect and the other clients out there. It’s easier to use and works with a wider range of configurations.

Once you’ve installed the app, click the plus sign at the top right to add a VPN profile. You will probably want to import an existing config file rather than set up your own, so choose the “import” option. You will need the OpenVPN config file, which can be downloaded from your VPN provider’s website. Find it, select it, and you should be set to go.

Manually Android VPN configuration

As a last resort, you can set up an L2TP/IPSec connection manually in your Android settings. We recommend avoiding PPTP, the other built-in protocol available, as it contains known security vulnerabilities.

  1. Go to Settings > More > VPN
  2. Click the ‘+’ sign in the top right corner
  3. Enter your VPN config details as specified by your provider
  4. Save the profile, then click on it to connect. A key icon should appear in the notifications bar when you are connected

Little android figurines” by Family O’Abe licensed under CC BY 2.0

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