The Best Android VPNs For 2019
Keeping your devices protected shouldn’t stop when you leave your home. Most of us use firewalls and malware tools on our home computers but often neglect to secure our precious smartphones. We’re all too trustworthy when handing over our email addresses and banking information over public Wi-Fi hotspots, as this is where you’re further exposed to hackers. It’s on these networks where there could be more than just ISP and government surveillance to contend with, and where we’re often the least protected.
Using a VPN on your Android phone is what keeps you safe on the move. There are plenty of providers out there to sift through but not all of them will deliver on the features they promise and can often leave you worse off. It’s important to know what you’re looking for in a VPN before picking the service for you.
What Makes A Good Android VPN?
There are a number of components involved to make a decent VPN. A lot of the off-the-shelf apps and browser extensions you have to comb through aren’t worth their salt and could leave you out of pocket and unprotected. If you’re in the market for a VPN you should always do your research on the brands available, and what performance and security tools they include. The importance of these features can be found below.
- Performance: How well a VPN can perform depends on its range of servers, like how many there are, where they’re based. The more a provider has, the more likely you are to experience reliable speeds for browsing, streaming and torrenting. There are other features that a provider can choose to employ that will enhance the experience, like if a subscription comes with unlimited bandwidth and server switching, optimized servers and more.
- Security: Having solid security in a VPN is as important to using one as performance. It’s what will keep you protected in the public Wi-Fi zones, prevent ISP and government surveillance, and keep you protected from hackers. Make sure it has the industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption, as well as options like DNS protection, Onion over VPN, adware and malware protection, and an automatic kill switch.
- Support: Though it’s admittedly not as important as the other two essentials, Choosing a VPN provider with an airtight support team can make a lot of difference and save you some trouble down the line. Any decent service will come supported by 24/7 customer care, available by telephone, email, and live chat. They’re there to answer any questions you might have about pricing or how to use the VPN. You should be able to get up to a 31-day risk-free money-back guarantee on most decent providers too.
Free Android VPNs: Are They Worth It?
If you’re considering a free VPN then let me put it bluntly: they’re not worth it. There are so many to choose from, often with inviting web design and a cheery mascot to lure you in. They can be seamlessly embedded into your browser and get going quickly, but they won’t provide the protection or reliability you need, despite what the goofy-looking animal in a suit might tell you.
They exist purely to farm your activity to sell to their third-party proprietors and leave you wide open with poor encryption in the process. I mean think about it: how do they invest in infrastructure, like servers and engineers and the latest technology, when they don’t charge for their service? They get paid by advertisers by handing over your data, but how much of it really goes on maintaining the facade of a well-oiled machine? Just enough to stay in business, clearly.
If you insist on a free VPN, there is a limited number available that can be useful. TunnelBear, for example, offers the full extent of its services but with a 500 MB cap for the month. Anyone looking to upgrade to unlimited can do so effortlessly.
How to Install an Android VPN
The great thing about VPNs is that they’re so easy to navigate that anyone can use one, especially for mobile. The tool is even simpler in app form and users can get going in just a few bashes. Users can decide whether to opt for the ready-made system with a VPN client through the Google Store or to set up their VPN manually. Anyone who wants to set their own VPN up will still need to sign up for a subscription with a provider.
Setting it up yourself is quite challenging and is certainly more favorable to the competent user, but the VPNs offered in the Google Play Store are well equipped for the protection and privacy you need on the move. All reliable providers will offer a guide on how to set up their own service, but the gist of it can be found below.
- After selecting a provider simply install the client to your computer
- Open the settings menu on your device and choose the ‘Wireless & Networks’ option
- Click the ‘More/More Connections Settings’ option and find where it says ‘VPN’
- Find the ‘+’ option to manage your VPN network
- Enter your VPN’s login credentials and your chosen protocol
- Select the server address and hit save
Though this is the standard method of setting up a VPN you can see how simple it is. You should know that devices with Android installed run differently, so the steps may vary in some parts. The differences will be minor and you likely won’t experience any issues, but your provider should have a 24/7 support team on hand to help.
Our in-house experts and community of keen readers regularly review VPNs and how they compare to the market. Our stats show that the current three favorites are ExpressVPN, SurfShark, and NordVPN. Keep reading to see how they compare.
1 Month - $12.95
6 Months - $55.95
12 Months - $99.95 ($155.40 w/o offer)
ExpressVPN has always been considered one of the top-tier providers. It keeps up with the latest in performance and security technology and has more than 3000 servers spread out across the world. It’s an ideal app for streaming, as well as maintaining your privacy. It doesn’t store traffic logs on its users and is under no pressure to due to its location in the British Virgin Islands.
It comes with 256-bit encryption, zero-knowledge DNS, an automatic kill switch and other features for keeping you protected. Though it’s often referred to as a pricey provider, ExpressVPN ticks boxes on performance, security, and support. They offer 24/7 customer care with live chat and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
1 Month - $11.95
12 Months - $71.88 ($143.40 w/o offer)
24 Months - $47.76 ($286.80 w/o offer)
SurfShark is a dependable provider when it comes to Android because of all the extra security features it employs. It’s like both other providers in that it has 256-bit encryption and it doesn’t store logs on users, but SurfShark users get access to features like Camouflage mode, MultiHop for connecting through several servers at once and private DNS and leak protection.
It doesn’t have as many servers as the others, with a bit over 1000, but it does allow unlimited devices on one subscription, something that’s highly rare to see, and it offers 24/7 support and a free 30-day trial.
1 Month - $11.95
12 Months - $83.88 ($143.40 w/o offer)
24 Months - $99.75 ($286.80 w/o offer)
36 Months - $107.55 ($430.20 w/o offer)
NordVPN, much like the others mentioned, is one of the most popular choices for protecting yourself online. It has a vast number of servers, pushing almost 6000 in 60 countries, and is well equipped to enhance streaming with features like SmartPlay. Just like SurfShark, it allows torrenting and has a built-in ad blocker to improve your experience online.
For keeping its users secure, it’ll protect up to six devices with features like 256-bit encryption, Double VPN, CyberSec, zero logs and Onion over VPN. It also comes with 24/7 support with live chat and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You should always be careful when selecting a VPN for your Android device. Public Wi-Fi zones are a no-holds-barred unsafe zone and they tend to be what we connect to the most when we’re out of the house. Hotels, trains, restaurants, and bars all offer Wi-Fi these days but they don’t come encrypted. So anyone with a bit of skill that decides to have a simple skulk around the network can claim login information, banking details, access to shared drives and much more.
Public Wi-Fi is tracked by third parties who use your activity to enhance their behavioral advertising techniques. A lot of them even require you to make an account and subscribe to their newsletter, even if it’s just for a free 30 minutes of internet. Making your activity anonymous to these advertisers means they can’t track or target you.
The level of protection you need in these spaces isn’t offered by free VPNs and if it is, it’s with a limited amount of data. To stay protected on the move you’ll need a decent VPN that invests in its infrastructure, expands its server network and maintains cutting-edge encryption technology.