It wasn’t long ago that mobile phones were only thought of as simple devices used for talking to people. With the unveiling of the first iPhone in 2007, however, the world realized that phones can be much more than that, especially since the hardware was catching up both in terms of performance and size.
After that, it only took about a decade for the phone to become a mini-computer instead, thus enabling people to browse the Internet, watch movies, play games and do a variety of other things with their devices.
Android was released about a year after the iPhone and iOS, and it’s basically a modified Linux kernel designed to run on slower hardware. While it was initially designed for smartphones, Android is now the operating system used for a variety of other devices, including tablets and smart TVs, which makes it by far the most popular OS on the mobile market.
Naturally, we can use this information to conclude that most of the web traffic is done on some sort of portable device nowadays. Unfortunately, people seem to believe that only computers need a VPN, which is not the case at all. In fact, all of your devices should reroute your traffic through a VPN if you want to protect your privacy.
Thankfully, the app market for Android is huge, and it includes native apps for every popular VPN service out there. It is actually a challenge to find a VPN that does not offer an Android solution, especially since the provider in question would basically have to ignore a market consisting of hundreds of millions of potential users.
If you want to choose a VPN for Android, there are multiple factors you should consider, including things like logging policy, latency, download speed, servers, and available locations. This article is meant to do all that research for you instead, so here are the best 5 VPNs for Android, along with their pros and cons.
What makes an Android VPN good?
The first thing we need to establish is what makes an Android VPN good. While there are some Android-specific nitpicks to consider, the fact of the matter is that the answer to this question is pretty much the same as the answer to the general question of “What makes a VPN good?”.
Hence, the first thing it must accomplish is to keep your real IP address hidden and protect your online activities from prying eyes. It really doesn’t matter how many servers the service provides you with, or how easy the app is to operate if your traffic is leaked while using the Internet. In addition, you must also be able to use your connection at acceptable speeds, especially if you want to stream movies or play music.
Only after these conditions are satisfied you can start comparing things like user interface, price, and accessibility. In the case of an Android app, you must be able to use it in comfort regardless of what phone you have and whether it is an expensive flagship model or an entry-level model. If the VPN app slows your phone to a crawl and you lose the ability to watch movies, then it’s not really worth the bother.
Furthermore, Android is a constantly evolving operating system, which means that new versions are released on a regular basis. Because of this, app developers need to keep up with the changes and update their products as well, which is also true for VPNs. Thus, you need to make sure that the VPN you are using is constantly being updated to account for newly discovered security holes. Obviously, constant updates assure you of the fact that your VPN app will still be compatible with future Android versions, which is important if you plan on purchasing a multi-year subscription.
How to choose an Android VPN
Choosing an Android VPN is not difficult, but there are a couple of things you should keep in mind before doing so. As mentioned before, security and privacy should be your main concerns when it comes to a VPN, so that goes without saying. However, you must also keep in mind the fact that the mobile market is ripe for scams, which means that you can easily be tricked by false promises coming from free VPN providers.
While not all free VPNs are bad, there is usually something you have to give in return, since nothing is truly free anyway. As an example, some might push ads on you while using the app, which can be distracting and annoying. In addition, it’s really hard to trust the fact that your data is not being sold to someone. Lastly, the service can close down without any warning, not to mention the fact that there are no guarantees when it comes to customer support.
Unlike your PC, your phone or tablet may not have as much RAM either, so it’s also worth thinking about how running a VPN in the background is going to affect your device’s performance. A small memory footprint is always desirable, and you usually get that from trustworthy developers that know how to optimize code and take full advantage of your device’s capabilities.
The best VPNs for Android in 2020
Since it’s important for us to provide as much detail as possible to justify our picks, the length of the article can make it difficult for you to navigate just by scrolling. In order to make it easier to jump over to the product you are interested in, you can click on the links below to instantly go to the desired item.
If you want to quickly look over all of our picks and examine some of their features, then this table should help you understand what each VPN brings to the table.
|In-app kill switch||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Company part of the 14 Eyes alliance||No||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Number of supported devices||5||6||7||Unlimited||5||5|
|Android version requirement||5.0||Varies with device||4.1||5.0||4.2||Varies with device|
|Google Play installs||10,000,000+||10,000,000+||10,000,000+||1,000,000+||100,000+||1,000,000+|
|Google Play rating||4.2||4.5||4.2||3.9||4.1||3.9|
|Live chat support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to find flaws in a product as big and as popular as ExpressVPN, especially since the company has many years of experience in the field and it has managed to win the public’s trust over and over again. Naturally, the Android version is just as strong and secure as all the other versions of the service, which makes it a great choice for your phone or tablet as well.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN also includes a few Android-specific functions that set it apart from its competitors. To begin with, the app comes with two types of kill switches: One that disconnects your Internet connection in case the server you are connected to experiences problems, and a system-wide kill switch that uses your device’s ability to instantly lock network connectivity in case of trouble.
Keep in mind that the system-wide kill switch requires Android 8 or newer, which means that this feature won’t be available to you if you run an older version of Android.
In addition, you can also take advantage of split-tunneling, a feature that allows you to choose which apps make use of the VPN and which don’t. This is useful when you don’t want to slow down certain apps if you are not worried about privacy while using them.
Other interesting features include traffic encryption using OpenVPN TCP and UDP protocols, auto-connection whenever you join an untrusted Wi-Fi network, as well as support for both LTE/4G and 3G connections.
In terms of usability, ExpressVPN manages to keep things as simple as possible, thus making it easy to operate even if you are not a particularly tech-savvy person. As a bonus, you can also turn the VPN on or off using a widget, which means that you do not have to toggle between apps every time you want to disable or enable it.
Lastly, as you might expect, ExpressVPN is constantly being updated with bug fixes and new features, so you do not have to worry about being stuck with an outdated app.
+ Huge server list, spanning across every continent
+ Two types of kill switches
+ Traffic encryption
+ Split-tunneling that allows you to choose what apps make use of the VPN
+ Constant updates and interface improvements
+ Custom widget for quick access
– A bit too expensive for some people
NordVPN is another major player in the VPN business, which is why it’s no surprise that it fares very well on Android as well. Thus, if you happen to already have a subscription for your PC or Mac and you are wondering whether the service holds up on mobile, the answer is a definite yes.
In fact, NordVPN advertises the fact that you can use up to 6 devices at the same time with your account, which means that you can hook up multiple phones, tablets and TVs and not worry about paying anything extra. On the other hand, the service is known as being a bit on the expensive side anyway, so keep that in mind as well.
In terms of features, there is not much NordVPN cannot do for you. Thus, you get military-grade traffic encryption, auto-connection whenever a Wi-Fi network is detected, fast download speeds and thousands of servers at your disposal. With all that, it should be next to impossible for anyone to know what you are up to, regardless of whether you use your phone at home, at work, or anywhere else in the world.
Another cool thing that comes with the app is the CyberSec feature. This is an anti-malware feature that prevents your phone from being infected while browsing sketchy websites, while also keeping you safe from trojans that might hijack your device and make it part of a botnet. Given how prevalent these types of attacks are nowadays, it’s a very useful thing to have, especially since it’s part of the app and you do not have to install anything extra.
One of the newest features added by the latest update is the ability to pause the VPN for a certain amount of time. This works a lot like the snooze button on your alarm, which means that you can stop NordVPN for 5, 30, or 60 minutes whenever you want, and it will automatically connect again once the timer runs out. This comes in handy in situations when you don’t need the VPN, but you want it to connect automatically later in case you forget to do it manually.
As you can see, the Android app is constantly updated with new useful features and additional functionality, which means that it’s almost impossible for you to run into difficulties that are not handled eventually by patches and updates.
+ Great selection of servers and locations
+ Automatic VPN connection whenever a new Wi-Fi network is detected
+ The CyberSec feature keeps you safe from malware
+ The pause feature comes in handy
+ Regular app updates
– The service had minor security issues in the past
– The price tag can be intimidating
While CyberGhost may not be as popular as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, the service still managed to make a name for itself in terms of quality, especially since it has been around for over seven years at this point. As such, it had plenty of time to gain the public’s trust and evolve, which is why it’s also a fairly attractive choice on Android as well.
One of the things CyberGhost is most proud of is the zero-logs policy, which means that the service does not keep any records of your IP address or of any of the websites you visit while the VPN is active. Naturally, this feature is front and center in the Android version as well, so you don’t have to worry about the things you do on your phone or on your tablet either.
In terms of Android-specific functions, CyberGhost does not impress when compared to some of the more popular VPNs, but it doesn’t lag too far behind either. Hence, you get an automatic connection whenever you switch Wi-Fi networks, so it’s not necessary to restart the app whenever you connect to a different network.
Another great thing about the app is the fact that you can start the VPN with just one tap, which means that there is no configuration needed every time you want to obfuscate your traffic. This is also due to the fact that CyberGhost can automatically match you with the best available server by detecting your location, thus eliminating the need for you to manually search for the fastest server.
In case you still want to pick your servers by hand, the app also includes a “Favorites” section. This allows you to save certain servers and keep them in a separate list for easy access. Naturally, such a feature comes in handy for streaming services, because you often have to switch countries in order to be able to unlock certain content on platforms like Hulu or Netflix.
In terms of regular updates, CyberGhost is being maintained by a prolific development team, which means that new features and bug fixes are pushed every few weeks. Furthermore, the app is available even for older versions of Android, so you don’t need the latest phone or tablet in order to be able to enjoy the service. On the other hand, the latest Android version is supported as well, which means that the developers keep up the pace with the OS and you can safely update your devices without fearing that CyberGhost will stop working as intended.
+ You can create a list with your favorite servers
+ Supported even on older Android versions
+ One-tap VPN connection
+ Automatically selects the best server for you
– Not that many unique features
– Connectivity issues reported by users
Surfshark managed to carve a substantial chunk of the marketplace for itself in the last couple of years, and it’s really no surprise if you take a look at what the service has to offer. Besides the great speeds and the over 1000 servers spread all over the world, Surfshark also packs a respectable number of features, even in its Android incarnation.
To begin with, the app comes with a feature called “Whitelist”, which allows you to allow or block other applications on your device from using the VPN. As you may have already guessed, this is practically a split-tunneling feature with a different name, and it can be used in exactly the same manner. Thus, you can easily add or remove apps to the list in order to make sure you are not unnecessarily slowing down something that does not require a VPN anyway.
In addition, Surfshark also comes with an in-app kill switch, so you do not have to rely on your system-wide kill switch, which may not even be available to you on older Android versions. Since not all VPNs on our list come with this feature, Surfshark definitely wins some points in this regard.
In terms of security, it’s worth pointing out that the company behind Surfshark is very serious when it comes to the no logs policy, which means that no information about your device or the websites you visit is ever logged by the app. Not only that, but these claims are backed by the fact that Surfshark has been publicly audited by Cure53, a respectable cyber-security company known for its thoroughness.
Lastly, the Android app is always kept up-to-date with the latest features and bug fixes, given the fact that they provide the users with a changelog every week or so. As such, you don’t have to worry about being stuck with an outdated app, and it’s also safe to say that the service is going to be around for a long time, thus making a yearly subscription even more attractive.
+ Lots of servers all over the world
+ The “Whitelist” feature allows you to select the apps that make use of the VPN
+ Constant app updates and new features
+ Light on resources, which also helps with download speeds
– Users sometimes report connectivity issues
Although it doesn’t seem to have picked up quite as much momentum as other VPN services, Ivacy has been around for many years, and the company behind it seems to strive for innovation at every step. As such, they always push the limits in terms of advanced features and settings, as was the case with split-tunneling, which they claim to have invented before everyone else.
Naturally, Ivacy did not get left behind once the mobile market started to grow exponentially, which means that they offer an Android version of their service as well. To top things off, Ivacy for Android comes with the same strengths as the PC version, plus a few additional optimizations to account for the lower speeds offered by 4G and 3G connections.
As you might expect, split-tunneling is part of the deal as well, which means that you can easily and safely keep your VPN traffic separate from your normal Internet traffic, at least if you wish to do so. Furthermore, you can also make use of a kill switch to protect yourself from server failures, as well as rest assured that your data is not being peaked at thanks to the strong encryption algorithms working behind the scenes.
It’s also worth pointing out that Ivacy allows you to use up to five devices at the same time without limiting your bandwidth in any way, which is great if you want to stream movies on multiple phones, tablets or TVs at the same time. Speaking of which, the Android app also includes specialized servers for platforms like Netflix, which are designed to run as smoothly as possible in order to keep your viewing experience buffer-free.
In terms of regular updates and patches, Ivacy is constantly being worked on, although it must be mentioned that we checked while writing this article and the last Android update was over a month ago. That is not a big issue per se, but it’s worth pointing out that all the rest of the VPNs on this list had more recent updates.
+ Offers a split-tunneling option
+ A sturdy killswitch feature to protect you from server failures
+ No bandwidth limits
+ Specialized servers for various streaming platforms
– Somewhat irregular app updates
– Only works with UDP and TCP, lacking IKEv2
VyprVPN may not be a household name for the majority of Internet users, but the truth of the matter is that the company behind it employs a lot of important people who have many years of experience in the field. Not only that, but VyprVPN is one of the few VPNs that have been publicly audited, which means that they trust their services enough to let other people put them to the test.
Naturally, the VPN managed to ace the evaluation, so that’s great news if you value privacy above all else. However, that’s not the whole story, because the Android app must carry its own weight as well. Thankfully, there are little-to-no drawbacks in terms of features and usability, so you don’t lose anything in the transition from the desktop app to the mobile version.
For example, the proprietary Chameleon protocol is available on Android as well. In case you are not familiar with it, its purpose is to camouflage your traffic in order to bypass any kind of restriction your connection might be subjected to. Hence, if your phone is connected to your school’s Wi-Fi and certain websites are blocked by the school, VyprVPN will easily unlock those websites for you.
In addition, you also get unlimited bandwidth no matter how much traffic you use, and the service can also help you get around ISP throttling if that’s the case. In terms of security, VyprVPN comes with something called NAT Firewall, which is useful when shopping online, because it makes it next to impossible for anyone to steal your private data.
A kill switch option is included in the package as well, and as mentioned before, such a feature can save you from a variety of nasty situations. Granted, a kill switch can also interrupt your streaming every now and again, but at least you know that your privacy is protected at all costs. In addition, this is an optional feature that can be turned off, although you must get familiar with the risks involved before doing so.
Lastly, VyprVPN strives to keep the Android app updated as often as possible, thus providing you with the latest features and bug fixes as soon as all the other versions are updated as well. On the other hand, there is not much information on what Android version is required in order for the app to be installed, since according to the official page this “varies with the device”.
+ Includes a firewall to protect you from attackers
+ The Chameleon protocol helps you access blocked websites
+ Audited by professionals, which guarantees your traffic is not logged
+ Regular updates for the Android version
– Not a lot of information on the supported Android versions
Just because you use a phone, a tablet or a smart TV with Android does not mean you are safe from prying eyes, so don’t let yourself be fooled by the thought that only your PC traffic can be tracked. In fact, since most of us are constantly on our phones nowadays, it’s almost mandatory to install a VPN on them as well, at least if privacy is paramount.
Our list analyzes some of the most popular VPN providers on the market at the moment, so you can’t go wrong with any of them in terms of security. On the other hand, there are some things you have to decide for yourself, depending on your needs and budget. Hence, it’s all about what you plan on using the VPN for and how much you want to spend on it, which means that not everyone needs a plethora of advanced features for their Android VPN.