Maybe you want to hide your location to get U.S. Netflix in another country, or maybe you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi network and you don’t want to expose any sensitive data, or perhaps you’re just concerned about being snooped on in general. The online world is rife with threats to your security and privacy, especially since Congress voted to quash regulations that would prevent broadband internet providers from selling your browsing history without your consent.
By using a VPN (virtual private network) service, you can ensure that all of your internet communication is encrypted and potentially protected from prying eyes. You can also use it to connect to servers in different countries and sometimes fool websites such as Netflix to get access to the best shows and movies. However, not all Android VPN apps are created equal. There are countless services on offer, so it can be tough to find the best VPNs for Android.
You should also consider what you’re signing up for. You’re placing a lot of trust in the VPN service you choose, and some of them have questionable policies when it comes to privacy. If the service is being offered for free, it’s important to stop and think about the business model. Are they selling your data, or exposing you to other threats? To give just a couple of examples, Hola was found to be selling users’ bandwidth and VPN Defender is owned by analytics company App Annie.
We’ve tried out a number of different VPN services, but our current favorite is NordVPN. It combines decent speeds and reasonable pricing with an easy-to-use interface that includes an automatic connection option. There are busy periods, especially on the U.S. servers, but it never fails to connect. We’ve found speeds to be reliable and consistently fast enough for full HD video streaming. In addition to Android, it works on Windows, MacOS, and iOS, and you can use the service simultaneously on up to six different devices. There are more than 4,000 servers spread across 62 countries.
NordVPN is one of the most well-respected VPNs for a number of reasons. The company’s no logging policy, military-grade encryption, and the fact that the service is based in Panama — away from U.S. or European monitoring — makes it a very popular VPN service. In its own words: “NordVPN never logs where you go on the internet. If anyone asks, the best we can do is shrug our shoulders, and we like it that way.” There’s also a kill switch, so your connection is automatically cut to prevent exposure if the VPN should fail.
The service costs $12 per month, but there are frequent discounted offers if you subscribe for a longer period. Right now, for example, you can get one year for $70 (around $5.75 per month), two years for $80 (about $3.30 per month), or three years for $100 ($2.75 per month).
Another fast and reliable service, VyprVPN is provided by Golden Frog, a company that has a solid track record when it comes to online privacy and security. It owns and runs its own networks independent of third parties, doesn’t share your data with anyone, and only keeps logs of IP addresses, connection times, and bytes used for 30 days. It offers 70 server locations spread across more than 700 servers across the globe, support for 256-bit encryption, and a proprietary technology called Chameleon, which masks the fact you are using a VPN service. Chameleon is ideal if you’re looking to stream content from another country. VyprVPN also has a kill switch feature.
The Android app is incredibly easy to use. You can just tap connect to find a local server, choose the fastest server, or browse the list if you want to specify a particular country. You can see basic info on your connection, check a speed graph, and see a connection log. The nice thing about the VyprVPN app is that you can also configure it to automatically connect based on your preferences — such as any time you join an untrustworthy network — which is perfect for public Wi-Fi protection. The service is based in Switzerland.
The standard account costs $10 per month or $60 for a year, and allows three simultaneous connections. We recommend going for the Premium account, which is $13 per month, or $80 annually. Doing so will grant you a few extra features and support for five simultaneous connections. You can test the service for yourself with the free three-day trial.
With ExpressVPN, you have a choice of more than 145 different locations in 94 countries around the world. The service is also generally reliable and touts excellent 24/7 customer support, along with support for 256-bit encryption. The company doesn’t log traffic data or browsing activity, and the app is straightforward to use. It provides a list of viable locations to connect with, and it usually works pretty well, allowing you to connect within seconds. There’s also a home screen widget for quick connections, and you can have up to three connection simultaneously.
ExpressVPN allows split tunneling, so you can route some of your device traffic through the VPN, but let the rest access the internet directly, if you so desire. However, it lacks a kill switch feature. The service is based in the British Virgin Islands.
You can try ExpressVPN free for 7 days. After that, you’re looking at spending $13 per month, $60 for six months, or $100 for a year. The feature set is the same across the board, though, and each option comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
If you want something cute and stylish, then TunnelBear is for you. The USP here is simplicity in a friendly, bear-themed package. There is minimal logging, and TunnelBear promises to never track what you do online, to not log your IP, and to not share your data with any third party. It also supports 256-bit encryption, has servers in 22 countries, and offers fairly quick speeds.
The Android app is super-cute and easy to use, if a little light on data. You can see server locations on a map and tap to have your bear tunnel to them. There’s also a handy widget for the home screen. There is a kill switch feature, and TunnelBear also accepts Bitcoin. The service is based in Canada.
You can get 500MB of free data every month for a single device. The normal subscription costs $10 per month or $60 for the year, which gets you unlimited use on up to five devices simultaneously.
You’ll find a decent range of servers in Europe, North America, and Asia with Freedome, which currently covers more than 20 countries. Finnish provider F-Secure promises not to log your data, and allows you to create an account without registering. It doesn’t allow BitTorrent use in many countries, including the United States and United Kingdom.
The Android app is pretty stylish and couldn’t be simpler to use. Fire it up, and you’ll see a big button that you can tap to turn the service on and off. There are some stats beneath. You can change location, and there’s a kill switch function. F-Secure is also an antivirus provider, so it offers other apps and services to guard against viruses, malware, and dodgy websites.
You can try the app for free for five days. After that, you’re looking at spending $50 per year for three devices, $60 for five devices, or $80 for seven devices.