Android phones and tablets come with built-in support for a Virtual Private Network (VPN), 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 with your Android phone, 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.
Connecting to a VPN server, whether that’s with your Sony smartphone, Samsung Galaxy tablet or any other Android device, in the appropriate location can mask your IP address and help you 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 server when on a public wi-fi network to stop hackers from snooping on your online activity.
We get into some depth on each of the VPN providers that feature in this list, but if you haven’t got time to read all the details, here is a quick summary of the top VPNs for Android users:
Best VPNs for Android in 2020:
- NordVPN Best all-round VPN for Android. Has a huge network of extremely fast servers that can unblock most popular streaming services. Solid security features. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark Best budget VPN for Android. Security-first VPN with an outstanding Android app. Offers decent speeds, has plenty of functionality, and allows as many connections as you need.
- ExpressVPN Great Android app that is easy to set up and use. Fast servers are great for streaming and downloads. Privacy and security are top-notch.
- IPVanish Solid Android app. Good speeds and connections are reliable. Also works well with Kodi and Amazon Firestick TV.
- CyberGhost Great for VPN beginners. Easy to set up and start using. Server speeds are impressive for a low-cost provider.
- VyprVPN Android app has kill-switch feature. Can also set it to automatically activate when the device connects to untrusted wifi networks. A bit pricey.
- Windscribe Best free VPN for Android. 10GB monthly data limit is higher than other free services. Strong privacy features and respectable speeds.
The best VPNs for Android devices
Of course, not all VPN providers offer the same service. To make our list as a best Android VPN, services need to meet the following criteria:
- Stable, lightweight, easy-to-use Android VPN apps
- OpenVPN protocol support
- No ad injection, tracking, or other privacy incursions
- Allows multiple devices to be connected simultaneously
- Bonus points if P2P allowed and kill switch is built in
- Fast speeds, suitable for streaming
Best VPN for Android
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to VPNs with Android apps. Here’s our list of the best VPNs for Android.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is our top choice for an Android VPN. Speeds are unbeatable and you can choose from either a list of servers or just click a pin on the world map to quickly connect to a server. The company’s SmartPlay DNS can bypass anti-VPN firewalls on geographically restricted sites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. 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 adheres to a true zero-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t retain any data about what its customers use the VPN service for or how. 256-bit encryption and perfect forward secrecy ensure no one can peek through the secure tunnel. NordVPN offers DNS leak protection and automatic public wi-fi network protection.
Six devices can be connected simultaneously. The Android app can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
- Android app is available on the Google Play store and is easy to use
- OpenVPN protocol support, UDP and TCP
- Privacy-first provider that doesn’t skimp on security or privacy features
- Exceptional speeds for streaming and downloading
- Purpose-specific servers available (streaming, torrenting, P2P etc.)
- Excellent customer support
- Can choose server locations but not able to choose specific servers
BEST VPN FOR ANDROID:NordVPN is our #1 selection. It offers a huge server network, blazing fast speeds, and great unblocking capabilities. This provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee making it risk-free.
Read our full review of NordVPN here.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a budget-friendly provider with an excellent Android app. It allows you to choose between using the app’s kill switch or the native Android one, and enables you to override your device’s GPS location without the need for third-party apps.
One of the best things about this app is that it has most of the functionality that the desktop apps do. There’s 256-bit encryption, a protocol selection menu, a kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and access to multi-hop servers, for instance. With steady speeds and a no-logs policy, Surfshark makes it easy to browse safely on the go.
Connect as many devices as you like. Download the Android app from the Google Play Store or get the APK directly from Surfshark’s website.
- Versatile service with a great Android app
- Fast enough for most purposes
- Similar functionality to the desktop apps
- Doesn’t compromise on security
- Keeps no logs
- Still has the occasional slow server
BUDGET-FRIENDLY:Surfshark is fast, secure, and capable of handling whatever you throw at it. Has no connection limit and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Surfshark here.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN offers an easy-to-use Android app requires you to 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 connect 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.
ExpressVPN operates more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries. It’s very reliable in terms of both performance and ability to unblock geo-locked content from Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, both in a web browser and in each of their respective Android apps. Security includes 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, and DNS leak protection. ExpressVPN keeps minimal metadata logs and will never record your online activity or your IP address.
The Android VPN app is available from Google Play, the Amazon Appstore, and an APK via direct download. ExpressVPN also has an iOS app, and a desktop VPN client for each of the three major operating systems: Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Three devices can be connected simultaneously.
- Works seamlessly with Android devices and the app is easy to use
- Has support for the OpenVPN protocol
- No privacy incursions such as tracking or ad injections
- Has kill switch and torrenting and P2P are allowed
- Tight encryption makes for solid security and privacy
- Priced a bit higher than competitors
HIGHLY VERSATILE VPN:ExpressVPN is easy to use and has a vast server network that is optimized for high-speed connections. Very strong privacy and security. Works with all major streaming services including Netflix. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish is another solid option for an Android VPN . The app lets you see the load and ping time of each VPN server in the list. A widget can be installed and resized anywhere on your home screen. Dropped VPN connections can be automatically reconnected. 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.
IPVanish offers reliable performance and decent speeds. Security includes 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, and DNS leak protection. IPVanish sticks to a strict no-logs policy.
The Android VPN app is available from Google Play, Amazon App Store, and an APK via direct download. The Amazon app is also available on the Fire TV Stick, which makes it great for Kodi users who need a good VPN that’s easy to set up. A bonus with IPVanish is it allows up to ten simultaneous connections, which is double the industry standard of five. This means you can connect all of your household devices under a single plan. Apps are also available for Windows, MacOS, and iOS..
- Apps work well with Android devices and are easy to use
- Android app displays ping and server time information
- OpenVPN supported, both UDP and TCP
- Impressive speeds and reliable connections
- Not all servers unblock Netflix
PRIVACY-FOCUSED:IPVanish has a large network of servers and handles multiple connections well. Easy to use and preferred by users who need high standards of privacy. Can’t unblock as many streaming services as some of its rivals. 7-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost will list all of the available servers and locations for you to choose from like the rest in this list, but the latest version of its Android app encourages you to choose from one of several profiles based on how you plan to use it. Surfing on public wifi, for example? Connect with the “surf anonymously” profile. The “Secured streaming” profile includes several servers to choose from according to the streaming channel you want to unblock: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc.
The company has ramped up expansion as of late and its server network now numbers over 5,900 spread across 89+ countries. CyberGhost VPN performed well in our speed tests. Military-grade encryption, a no-logs policy, and DNS leak protection ensure maximum privacy.
The Android app is only officially available from Google Play. CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections, so you can connect all your devices at the same time.
- Android App is easy to use and is available on the Google Play store
- Keeps no user activity logs and provides strong encryption to bypass activity detection
- Easy to use apps include ‘anonymous torrenting mode’ – ideal P2P users
- Happily unblocks a host of geo-restricted content
- Doesn’t reliably work in China or UAE
GREAT FOR STREAMING:CyberGhost provides access to lots of geo-restricted content and its easy-to-use apps are ideal for beginners. Plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
VyprVPN is a longstanding provider that owns and operates its own network of servers in more than 60 countries. This ensures fast speed and strong security, although it does log its users real IP addresses. VyprVPN can unblock sites like Netflix and Hulu, as well as their respective Android apps.
VyprVPN’s Android app is the only one on this list to use a kill switch. While many of the others include this feature in their desktop software, kill switches are notably absent from the mobile apps. A kill switch will block all traffic in the event of a dropped VPN connection, which prevents traffic from leaking onto your unencrypted network. Somewhat ironically, kill switches are in the highest demand among torrenters, but VyprVPN has been shown to be adverse to P2P traffic in the past, reportedly penalizing users for downloading copyrighted material. You can also set the app to always connect when on “untrustworthy” public wifi connections.
VyprVPN’s Android app is available on Google Play and an APK via direct download. A basic plan enables you to connect five devices at a time.
- Android app is available on Google Play store or direct APK download from the site
- Now allows P2P and torrenting
- Fast speeds are perfect for streaming
- Slightly more expensive than some VPNs
- Power users would prefer more configuration options
EASY TO USE:VyprVPN is user friendly. Works well on Android devices and is good for streaming content. Good performer but a bit pricey. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 3 DAYS
If you’re looking for an unpaid option, Windscribe is the best free Android VPN by all accounts. The free tier gets you 10GB of data per month—tons more than any other decent free Android VPN app—with just an email address.
This free VPN for Android unblocks US Netflix, is suitable for torrenting, boasts good speeds, and even works in China. Windscribe employs strong security and keeps no logs of your activity.
Aside from Android, apps are also available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. You can connect as many devices as you want at the same time on one account, but keep in mind the 10GB cap for free users.
- Works in China and allows torrenting
- Unblocks Netflix and similar sites
- 10GB data cap
- Expect some server switching to unblock US Netflix
- Mobile app is slick but limits user choices
BEST FREE ANDROID VPN:Windscribe is one of the few free Android VPNs we recommend. If the 10GB cap isn’t enough, Windscribe offers a low-cost premium tier. Unlike the paid options above, however, there’s no money-back guarantee.
VPNs Android users should avoid
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.
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.
Beware of “free” VPNs
A quick search on Google Play will turn up no shortage of so-called “free” VPN apps. We strongly advise against using these for several reasons.
First, performance is usually poor. Free VPN services will usually have a limited selection of servers, impose data caps, and restrict bandwidth. Some force users to wait in a queue before connecting.
Second, security is often substandard, and in some cases, free VPN services can actually make your privacy worse off. With hackers using increasingly sophisticated attacks to target Android devices, security is more important than ever. Encryption standards employed by free VPN providers might be deprecated, obsolete, or even non-existent.
What’s more, many free VPN services use tracking cookies or log your activity to gather personal information and sell it to third-party advertisers. Others inject advertisements directly into your web browser.
In the worst cases, VPNs can even carry malware payloads to infect your device. The developers do little to offer support and often hide their identities, so there’s no way to know if most free VPNs are even remotely credible.
If you only need a VPN for a short period, a free trial of a paid plan is a better option than a free VPN.
Related: If you’re looking to connect an Android TV box, you can check out our guide: 5 Best VPNs for Your Android TV Box
How to set up a VPN on Android
Setting up a VPN is a simple process once you have settled on an appropriate VPN provider. Follow our step-by-step instructions below.
Here’s how to setup a VPN on Android:
- Settle on a VPN provider from the list above. We recommend NordVPN.
- Download the VPN app on the Google Play Store (we’ll explain how to get around using the Play Store below).
- Choose an appropriate server (for accessing blocked content abroad select a server in a country where the content isn’t blocked)
- You are now connected through a VPN! If you’re still having trouble loading content from abroad try clearing your cookies and refreshing the webpage.
See also: How to set up a VPN on Nvidia Shield
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. Uncertified devices, such as some 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 below are the basic steps for Android 4.0 and later.
Here’s how to setup a VPN on Android without Google Play:
- Go to Settings > Security (‘Device’ in Kindle Fire)
- Scroll down to “Unknown sources” and toggle it on
- 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!
Set up a VPN on Android without an app
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.
Here’s how to manually set up a VPN on Android 9:
- Go to Settings > Network and Internet > Advanced > VPN
- Click the + sign in the top right corner
- Enter your VPN profile details according to your VPN provider
- Click Save
- Click on the profile you just created to connect. A key icon in the notification bar indicates you are connected to the VPN.
On older versions of Android, VPN settings might be found under Settings > More > VPN.
While this works, proper VPN apps like those we recommend above offer far better security and much less tedious setup.
OpenVPN for Android
Not all VPN providers have their own 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. Conversely, if you made your own OpenVPN server, this is a great app to use to connect to it.
Here’s how to setup OpenVPN on Android:
- Download the OpenVPN config file (extension .conf or .ovpn) from your VPN provider’s website.
- Download and install OpenVPN for Android
- Run the app and 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.
- Find it, select it, and you should be set to go.