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Best VPN for Android 2023: For secure surfing and data privacy

Protect your privacy and stream your favourite shows from abroad with these superb Android VPN apps

A virtual private network might sound like an obscure bit of high-end technology, but a VPN is an incredibly useful tool to have on your Android phone – and setting it up is as easy as installing and logging in to an app.

Why do you need a VPN? First, by encrypting your connection, a VPN ensures that you can’t be spied on when browsing. A good VPN service (such as those listed below) can also provide access to foreign streaming services, allowing you to enjoy the full range of shows and films on US Netflix, regardless of the country from which you’re accessing the service.

In addition, the ability to encrypt your communications, conceal your identity and access blocked content is incredibly valuable to people in countries with restricted internet access – Russia and China, for example. Indeed, a VPN is ideal for anyone who’s concerned about state or corporate surveillance, at home or while travelling.

How to choose the best Android VPN for you

How does a VPN work?

All VPNs provide the same basic service: they set up a secure, encrypted connection (the best way to visualise this is a “tunnel”) between your device and a remote server operated by the VPN provider. Using the tunnel, you can access any sites and services you’d like, with their operators unable to see your real IP address and geographical location. Your identity is protected, and if you use a VPN exit node located in another country, you can also access local services that would normally be blocked to international visitors.

How much does an Android VPN cost?

There are plenty of free VPNs available for use; however, we’d suggest you treat “free services” with caution, because there’s usually a catch. Often, these services feature a barrage of intrusive advertising, pushing you to upgrade to a subscription service.

READ NEXT: The best VPN to use

In addition, you can expect that many free services (especially the kind that inhabit the Google Play Store) not only do a poor job of protecting your data, they may actually be selling it for their own gain – the very reason for which you’ll be using a VPN in the first place.

The good news is that paid-for VPN services don’t have to be expensive. Most providers offer a big discount if you pay annually or sign up for multiple years up front, rather than on a month-by-month basis. This price can drop by as much as 50%.

What should I be looking for when choosing a VPN?

Aside from the price, there are three things to consider: security, speed and features. All the VPNs below have a strict no-logging policy and will have passed independent audits to prove that they don’t log or store any user data whatsoever. All our recommended VPN services use 256-bit encryption, which is currently considered the best since it would take a few billion years to crack the code.

What about streaming and torrents?

It’s no secret that US Netflix has a better lineup of movies and TV shows than the UK offering, and there are plenty of other streaming services that are only accessible within the US. Many Android VPNs will let you access these services from the UK but, in some cases, you may need to reinstall the app or clear its cache for it to play nicely with the VPN service you’ve installed.

Also note that while you might be excited about US-only services such as HBO Now or Hulu, it’s very difficult to sign up to them without a US address and credit card.

If you’re a keen user of BitTorrent then using a VPN can also make it more difficult for copyright holders to track you down and send you threatening messages. Some VPNs actively support peer-to-peer file sharing, while others don’t allow it. Check the policy before you buy, and remember that downloads won’t be as fast as they’d be over your regular connection.

How we test VPNs for Android

Every VPN we review goes through hands-on testing, so you can be confident in our recommendations. We always install the client software on multiple platforms – including Android – and try out its performance for ourselves, along with its ability to unblock restricted sites and any additional security features.

For speed testing, we connect to a selection of servers in different countries and use an online service to measure how much bandwidth the VPN server is able to provide. We then try connecting to a selection of region-restricted streaming services, including Hulu in the US and BBC iPlayer in the UK. We test using both the Chrome browser and the dedicated Android app for each service, and check not only that we can get access, but that the connection is fast and stable enough to stream high-definition content without stuttering.

When it comes to security features, we look for a configurable kill switch, as well as automatic VPN activation when you connect to certain networks, or open certain apps. We check the provider’s privacy policy, for reassurance that your activity data won’t be stored or shared, and we track down its headquarters to check what sort of privacy laws it operates under. All of these considerations are factored into the star ratings on our individual reviews, and into our recommendations below.

The best Android VPN apps to use in 2023

1. ExpressVPN: The fastest Android VPN app

Price: From £5.47/mth (12-month contract) | Buy now from ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN’s globe-trotting credentials are difficult to beat, with more than 3,000 servers spread across 94 countries – so wherever you travel, you should be in reach of a fast, encrypted VPN location. You can select your own server, or trust ExpressVPN’s Smart Location feature to pick the best available. The app even has a built-in speed tester to help you get the fastest connection.

Among all the VPNs we tested, ExpressVPN provided the fastest speeds we’ve seen, even to far-off places such as the US and Australia. It’s expensive for a fairly basic Android VPN, though. However, ExpressVPN’s trump card is its location in the British Virgin Islands, which has no intelligence-sharing commitments and no data retention laws. Factor in ExpressVPN’s strict no-logging policy and it’s a solid choice for those who really value their privacy.

Read our full ExpressVPN review here

Key specs – Location: British Virgin Islands; Servers: 3,000+ servers in 94 countries; Speed: Fast; Maximum simultaneous connections: 5; Logging policy: Zero logs; Kill switch: Yes; Split tunnelling: Yes; Ad blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy Express VPN now

2. CyberGhost VPN: The best Android VPN app for streaming

Price: From £1.92/mth (26-month contract) | Buy now from CyberGhost VPN

One feature of CyberGhost VPN that makes it stand out from rivals is that its Android app has a dedicated streaming tab to provide access to more than 30 different streaming services, including US Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer in the UK. Also useful is that this app includes sliders to block ads and malicious websites, and there’s even an option to prevent online tracking.

In addition, the ability to enable data compression is a useful option for those on a limited mobile data plan. If you use CyberGhost on your PC, then the Android app’s similar interface will be welcome. Just click on the server tab to find an overview of all the different types of server.

Read our full CyberGhost VPN review here

Key specs – Location: Romania; Servers: 8,100 servers in over 92 countries; Speed: Fast; Maximum simultaneous connections: 7; Logging policy: Zero logs; Kill switch: Yes; Split tunnelling: Yes; Ad blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy CyberGhost VPN now

3. NordVPN: The best Android VPN app for privacy

Price: From £2.69/mth (27-month contract) | Buy now from NordVPN

Some services choose to focus on either speed, features or price; NordVPN, however, hits a great sweet spot across all three. You can pick your exit node from a map, or go for a specialist server, with options including ultra-secure Onion-over-VPN and double VPN links, plus BitTorrent-friendly hosts. Netflix US works perfectly, and there’s good global coverage across 50 countries, with every region represented to some extent. Short-range VPN speeds are excellent, and even long-distance connections are respectably speedy.

Security, meanwhile, is close to watertight: since NordVPN is based in Panama, your data should be safe from state snooping, plus NordVPN states that it doesn’t log any identifiable information. You can use NordVPN on up to six simultaneous connections and it has apps for PCs, Macs, Android phones and iOS devices, making it an ideal VPN to buy and share with family or a group of friends.

Read our full NordVPN review here

Key specs – Location: Panama; Servers: 5,000 servers in over 50 countries; Speed: Good; Maximum simultaneous connections: 6; Logging policy: Zero logs; Kill switch: Yes; Split tunnelling: Yes; Ad blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy NordVPN now

4. Surfshark VPN: The cheapest Android VPN app

Price: From £1.84/mth (26-month contract) | Buy now from Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN is a relative newcomer, but it’s off to an impressive start. Located in the British Virgin Islands, it isn’t bound by data retention or sharing laws and – unlike some of the other VPNs featured on this list – you can use it on as many devices as you want. It also offers the cheapest long-term plan among the VPNs we’ve tested. When you first sign up, a 24-month plan will set you back £48 and includes two free months, which amounts to just £1.84 per month. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and if you use its Android or iOS apps then you’re entitled to a free seven-day trial.

Speaking of Surfshark’s Android app, it’s well stocked with a variety of useful features. The Whitelist tool lets you tunnel specific apps through a VPN and use the others as normal, and the CleanWeb tool acts as an ad blocker for the websites you use. Within Settings, you’ll also find options to auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks, activate the automatic kill switch and select between IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols. We recommend the latter because it’s safer.

Read our full Surfshark VPN review here

Key specs – Location: British Virgin Islands; Servers: 3,200 servers in 95 countries; Speed: Moderate; Maximum simultaneous connections: Unlimited; Logging policy: No usage data stored; Kill switch: Yes; Split tunnelling: Yes; Ad blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy Surfshark VPN now

5. IPVanish VPN: The fastest VPN for local speeds

Price: From £2.29/mth (24-month contract) | Buy now from IPVanish VPN

IPVanish is an excellent VPN if your sole aim is to secure your local internet connection. It has apps for almost every platform, and you can use it on an unlimited number of devices simultaneously. The service is located in the USA and, while we’d usually refrain from recommending a VPN based in the US, IPVanish doesn’t keep any logs whatsoever. IPVanish also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

In terms of security, IPVanish is one of the most secure VPNs on offer, both in terms of encryption and security protocols, which are both industry standard. The Android app also comes with split tunnelling, which means you restrict the apps that connect to the VPN and use your other apps as normal. The downside of IPVanish is that it doesn’t unblock all geo-restricted content, which means you can’t stream BBC iPlayer or Hulu from the UK or US. In addition, only some US Netflix servers work; but HBO and Hulu work fine.

Read our full IPVanish VPN review here

Key specs – Location: United States; Servers: 2,000+ servers in 50+ countries; Speed: Great locally, average abroad; Maximum simultaneous connections: Unlimited; Logging policy: No logs; Kill switch: Yes; Split tunnelling: Yes; Ad blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy IPVanish VPN now