Having a VPN has become so mainstream these days, that it’s no surprise that you’d want to be able to access it on your Android phone or tablet, too. Fortunately, pretty much all of the best providers out there have dedicated Android VPN apps you can install, too.
As well as helping use the web securely – especially if you’re using public Wi-Fi or cellular – VPNs are celebrated software for their ability to help you access geographically restricted apps, stream content that might normally be blocked (from foreign Netflix catalogues to far-flung sports action) and much more.
The problem you’ll face is that one quick search of the Play Store reveals hundreds upon hundreds of Android VPNs vying for your attention. So how do you choose the right one? We’ll explain what features to look out for below, and then go on to tell you the five very best Android VPN apps that we’ve found from our thorough testing and reviews.
How to choose the best Android VPN app
Obviously, a dedicated Android app helps to make things as hassle-free as possible. And the app should be user-friendly, yet offer enough options to allow for some tweaking (particularly for more experienced users). Ensure it supports your version of Android, with most going back at least to Pie and some letting you set up your network via manual configuration.
You're probably going to want to use your Android VPN on loads of other devices, too - so make sure you get one that also works with your computer's operating system and has enough licences to cover all your gadgets.
1. ExpressVPN has the best Android VPN app around
ExpressVPN has the speed, security and simplicity of use that really makes it stand out from the crowd. That's no different on Android, which makes using a VPN on your smartphone an absolute doddle - plus, it comes with a no-questions-asked 30 day money back guarantee and 3 months extra free.
2. NordVPN - VPN's biggest name is ace on Android
Nord's popularity (counting over 10 million Android users) is not unfounded. It may be a tad clunkier to use than Express's, but it really brings the goods when it comes to security and speed. And you can set it to come on automatically whenever you join an unsecure Wi-Fi network away from home.
3. Surfshark - simple to use and affordable Android app
This could well be your VPN of choice if you're after something a bit more affordable. Go for its multiyear plan and get the price down to less than $2.50 USD per month. That doesn't prevent it from being a really strong and simple-to-operate Android VPN though, with a very friendly interface.
The best 5 Android VPN apps in 2020:
Best Android VPN 2020 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan
There are many things to like about ExpressVPN for Android. The dedicated app is extremely user-friendly and straightforward, but also offers lots of advanced options. It has some neat options like an excellent location picker, insecure network detection and a kill switch to improve privacy and security. Indeed, on the security front, it boasts AES 256-bit encryption, while the speeds we witnessed using the mobile VPN were consistently fast.
ExpressVPN provides quality apps for a wide range of devices, and Android is no exception. The Android app provides access to high speed servers across 94 countries and is compatible across phones, tablets, Kindles and Android TV boxes. What's more, the app is now available in a mix of 12 languages.
After signing up for an ExpressVPN subscription, the website will provide instructions to install the app on your device (usually via Google Play or through an APK file). The website also features a wide array of handy content and video guides on using their apps, as well as 24/7 customer support by live chat in case you run into any issues.
ExpressVPN is definitely not the cheapest VPN out there, but it may be worth the price for those who want the best Android experience. The 30-day money-back guarantee lets you test Express with reassurance.
ExpressVPN offers three price plans, with the 12-month plan offering the biggest saving as you would expect and you get an extra three months free.
Get the best Android VPN 2020: 49% off plus 3 months FREE
You can tell that we really rate the ExpressVPN app - it's the VPN we'd choose if we were getting one. And the good news is that TechRadar readers can get a little perk when they sign up, too. ExpressVPN has agreed to give readers three months extra free when they sign up - and don't forget about the 30 day money back guarantee, too.
The NordVPN app is hugely popular with 10 million+ downloads, and a high Google Play rating. And it has some notable strengths including ‘Double VPN’ technology which passes your connection through two separate VPN servers, as opposed to just the one, for an extra layer of security (there are only a certain number of Double VPN servers, though). NordVPN also has a ‘zero logs’ policy (audited by PricewaterhouseCooper no less), meaning it doesn’t track the user’s online activity.
While the focus is clearly on security and privacy, NordVPN doesn’t lack in other areas. The Android app is easy-to-use, but pretty basic and lacks configuration options, with the desktop app having a much better interface. However, it has some nice features like the ability to automatically connect to NordVPN whenever you join a Wi-Fi network. The performance was good, although nothing spectacular. The app also provides a live chat feature for 24/7 customer support.
Always looking to improve, we note that Nord's Android app has added a custom DNS server and also let's you utilise OpenVPN TCP rather than UDP. Not groundbreaking improvements granted, but may be a nice added bonus for more experienced VPN users. And although there's no integrated kill switch as such, it's really easy to implement a similar tool in the settings.
NordVPN is reasonably priced, too, and has a 30-day money-back guarantee if you just want to give the app a try before you commit. The multi-year offer is clearly the best choice in terms of overall value.
Surfshark has attracted a LOT of attention of late - largely thanks to its market-shattering pricing (it's the clear winner in our best cheap VPN guide). But don't be deceived, as it really doesn't lack in the quality department. And that applies to its Android app, too.
Unlike a lot of other providers, Surfshark barely alters the user interface from desktop to mobile. We suppose that the sheer simplicity of its desktop offering means that its developers didn't have too hard a time in translating to the smaller screen size. It means you can easily get to security features like the dedicated kill switch, split tunnelling and integrated malware blocker.
If you do need support, then it's easy to raise support tickets right from the app itself. But in our experience, you won't be using that function too much. Surfshark keeps things really straightforward on mobile.
And assuming you'll want to use this VPN on your laptop, TV streaming device, router and other gadgets as well, then the fact one subscription covers unlimited devices will be music to your ears.
The IPVanish app is good overall with some unusual (but great) options, like obfuscation or split tunnelling. And it's finally added that previously missing kill switch, a standard feature which instantly shuts down the internet connection in the event the VPN drops (to prevent your true IP from being revealed).
There were some seriously impressive download speeds achieved during our testing. Furthermore, there’s no logging of the user’s activity here, plus you get 256-bit AES encryption with the OpenVPN protocol, along with 24/7 customer support.
However, the price might be the one negative element which drives folks away, although three available plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access's Android app is easy to use with an abundance of options and settings you can tweak. It's missing the neat favorites system that some other VPN providers have, but there is a whole bunch of other features. You have port forwarding support, proxy support, UDP and TCP protocol settings, you can define local and remote ports, choose custom encryption and handshaking methods, even vibrate the handset to indicate when you're connected. You also have auto-connection whenever you join a VPN and a kill switch.
While there is no free trial, the subscription is fairly affordable no matter what plan you choose. Obviously, the multi-year plan gives you the best savings.
What can you do with with an Android VPN
They may have started life as a way primarily for businesses to connect to remote sites and other offices, but VPNs have proved themselves as a fantastically versatile piece of kit over the last few years.
First thing's first, they act as an excellent first line of defence alongside Android antivirus in protecting yourself when online. As referenced above, the nature of their encrypted tunnelling and ability to keep your IP address secret makes them a wonderful way to keep cyber criminals at bay - no more worrying about online banking and shopping while using unfamiliar networks.
But it's their shapeshifting, geo-spoofing abilities that have made the popularity of Android VPNs explode. The fact you can log into a server in another country elsewhere in the world means that you don't have to miss out on the stuff you'd usually stream to your mobile/tablet when abroad on holiday or business.
And they've proved a great way of getting around blocked websites. Where mobiles are concerned, a fantastic example is using WhatsApp in China, as well as other sites and service. The state may have blocked some of the bih hitters, but they can't do anything about it when you use your Android VPN app to make it look like you're in another country entirely!
How do I setup a VPN on my Android phone?
First thing's first...it's reeeeeally easy. And you even have two options to choose from.
The first involves you scrolling back up this page, choosing the app that you like the look of best (and don't forget, all these VPNs have free trials, so you really don't have to worry too much about committing) and click the link to go through to the website. From there, you'll be able to select your plan, sign up, download and install. Away you go!
Alternatively, get yourself over to the Play Store and search for your chosen VPN app. But it's worth noting that if you go down this road, you might end up missing out on some of the awesome exclusive pricing that only TechRadar readers can get by clicking through to the provider from our pages.
Should I get a free VPN app for Android?
Even a quick dip into the Play Store menu will show that there are ridiculous amounts of available free apps that you can download. Some will be fin, some will be far from fine, but none will really be excellent.
We'd suggest only going for a freebie if you really don't tend to use your VPN app very much at all. Otherwise, you'll soon bump in to annoying usage restrictions and realise pretty sharpish that free versions only tend to have a handful of servers each (unlike the 5,000+ odd like providers such as NordVPN offer). And when you consider that downloading Surfshark costs less than $2.50 per month, you may as well put your hand in your pocket for one of the very best Android VPNs around.