There are tons of VPNs available for Android, but which ones are worth the subscription? Here are our top five picks.
Contributor, PCWorld | PT
There are so many VPN services out there that it can often be overwhelming. While that’s a good thing for competition, features, and pricing, it means choosing a VPN can be an absolute nightmare. That goes double for browsing the Google Play Store where it can be difficult to see which services are legitimate and which ones are outright scams.
That’s why we’re here to help. Over the past few years we’ve tested a ton of VPN services, looked at their privacy policies, and checked out their extra features. While our main focus was the PC, we’ve also kept our eye on the mobile apps.
To determine the top five VPN apps for Android we judged these apps on several criteria. First, it had to come from a service that we already gave at least a four-star rating on Windows. This is especially important for speeds, which were tested on Windows over ethernet and not Wi-Fi, which can often have inconsistent results. We also considered the Android app itself and whether it was easy to manage, as well as other criteria such as pricing and the number of simultaneous devices allowed per account.
Best Android VPN for international content
Romania-based CyberGhost recently released upgraded versions of its VPN service. The company decided to take the uniform approach to design, offering the same interface on Android as the PC. What’s great about CyberGhost is that it has a wide range of servers meant for getting around specific geo-restricted services.
The app is really easy to use. All you have to do is slide or tap the button in the center to activate. By default, CyberGhost picks the best VPN server based on your location. To get around geo-restricted content, you have to click the location selector in the bottom right of the screen and choose the server location from there.
Choosing the Streaming friendly tab you can, for example, pick servers that are optimized for U.S. Netflix or Hulu, servers in France for RTL, or BBC’s iPlayer in the UK to name just a few. In total, CyberGhost offers 58 country locations with more than 3,000 servers.
Dipping into the app settings you can activate ad and tracker blocking, malware protection, and data compression for faster performance. The company says data compression is only for images and only over HTTP, and no logs are kept.
CyberGhost charges $63 per year for seven simultaneous device connections, which is about average for a service with this many features.
Best Android VPN for Netflix streaming
NordVPN is easily one of the most popular services around. I still have reservations about it as the founders and upper management choose to remain anonymous. There’s no doubt, however, that it’s a well-built service. The company offers 59 country locations with more than 5,000 servers. It also promises that its service will work with Netflix. It doesn’t offer dedicated servers for this. Instead, Netflix is just supposed to work no matter which server you’re on.
NordVPN also chose to give its apps a uniform design, but interestingly the Android version is more like the desktop than vice versa. At the top is a world map that you can pinch to zoom to choose a server location, but if you scroll down the app you can pick a country location from an alphabetical list. Once you click on a country, you can either stick with the first server NordVPN picks for you, or scroll down another list to choose from all possible servers in that location.
For added features, NordVPN offers malware protection that is activated by default. It also has all the various features that are present in the desktop version including P2P file-sharing servers, double-hop connections, dedicated IPs, and TOR over VPN.
Best Android VPN for rookies
If you are a VPN rookie, I highly recommend TunnelBear. For starters, you don’t even need to pay to try it out since the company offers 500MB of data per month for free. That’s not a lot, but if all you need is a quick hit on email or something similar then it can be handy. TunnelBear has 22 country locations.
TunnelBear’s app has two main buttons. At the top is an on/off button for the connection, and at the bottom is the location selector. The rest of the app shows a map of your current or VPN-based location.
Dipping into TunnelBear’s settings there are options to auto-connect on insecure Wi-Fi, as well as protect against deep packet inspection (dubbed GhostBear), and an internet kill switch called VigilantBear. Finally there’s SplitBear, a split tunneling feature that keeps specific apps outside of the VPN tunnel.
TunnelBear says it doesn’t log your browsing activity, but it will log your OS version, TunnelBear app version, whether or not you were active in a given month, and total data used in a given month.
TunnelBear charges $60 per year with five simultaneous device connections. It’s a good price, and while it doesn’t have the same amount of features as NordVPN, it’s a great choice for newbies.
Best Android VPN for rookies, option 2
Another good choice for beginners, SaferVPN doesn’t offer a free bandwidth cap, but it does have a six-day free trial. The Android app has a simple global map with your
location, and then a Connect/Disconnect button at the bottom of the display. To switch locations, tap the location marker at the top left, or the location indicator on the map and a side panel slides out.
SaferVPN supports 34 countries with more than 700 servers, including specialized servers for U.S. and UK Netflix streaming. For added features, it lets you select the OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol. There’s also an option to automatically connect to the VPN on new Wi-Fi networks, and an internet kill switch.
SaferVPN charges $66 per year for its service for five simultaneous device connections. It doesn’t have a massive feature set, but it’s very easy to use and well priced.
Best Android VPN for added safety and security
If you want a VPN from a known company with a solid background in security then F-Secure’s Freedome is for you. F-Secure runs its own VPN network, which isn’t common as many security companies use white label infrastructure from third-parties such as AnchorFree or Perimeter 81. Freedome has 22 country locations.
True to its security foundations, Freedome includes a feature called App Security that scans apps for harmful activity such as stealing personal information or misusing your device. If it detects such an app, it blocks you from downloading it. In fact, F-Secure says that Freedome’s App Security contains the same scanning engine as its Safe Antivirus, meaning with Freedome installed you don’t need an extra antivirus app.
The app itself has a peculiar organization. In the center is a big on/off button for the VPN, and then around that are a bunch of circles indicating whether the app’s additional security features are active. Those circles also indicate certain actions like the number of harmful sites blocked, and all the various tracking attempts. In addition to tracker blocking, an app monitor, and malicious site blocking, Freedome also has an internet kill switch, and you can set certain apps to bypass the VPN connection.
At the bottom of the screen is the country location selector. Freedome offers connections in 23 countries with only the U.S. and Canada having multiple location options.
Freedome costs $50 to cover three devices for a year, $60 for five, or $80 for 7. The nice thing about Freedome is it doesn’t require you to create an account. Instead, you’re sent a license number that you can use on each device. That setup isn’t quite as private as something like Mullvad since you end up paying using traceable methods such as credit card, PayPal, and wire transfer. Still, it’s a nice change of pace for those who are tired of constantly creating new online accounts.
That’s it for our roundup of the top five Android VPNs. If you want to take a look at more VPN services check out PCWorld’s complete VPN roundup. While the reviews are focused on PC, almost all of the services covered offer an Android app as well.
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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.