Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

The best Android VPN apps of 2022

Advertisement

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 thing 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? For a start, it ensures that you can’t be spied on when you’re connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network because it protects your privacy and anonymity whenever you go online. A good VPN service (including most below) can also give you access to foreign streaming services, so you can enjoy the full range of shows and films on US Netflix, regardless of which country you're using the Netflix app from.

There's a political side to VPNs too. The ability to encrypt your communications, conceal your identity and access blocked content is incredibly valuable to people in countries with restricted internet access, including the Middle East and China. Indeed, a VPN is ideal for anyone who’s concerned about state or corporate surveillance, at home or while travelling.

READ NEXT: Best VPN services | Best Mac VPN | Best iPhone VPNs


How to choose the best Android VPN for you?

All VPNs provide the same basic service: they set up a secure, encrypted link (the best way to visualise this is a “tunnel”) between your device and a remote server operated by the VPN provider. Through this, you can connect to whatever sites and services you want to use, and the operators of those services won’t be able to see your real IP address and geographical location – only those associated with the VPN server. 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?

Several commercial VPNs offer a free tier for smartphone users, and some are completely free. We suggest you treat 'free services' with caution, though, because there’s usually a catch. Often, these services come loaded with intrusive advertising, which pushes you to upgrade to a subscription service. Alternatively, some free services offer a peer-to-peer model, using your bandwidth and processing power to route traffic from and to other Android users, while you make use of theirs.

This might seem a fair exchange, but it eats up bandwidth and raises many privacy and security red flags without you realising. The good news is, paid VPN services don’t have to be expensive. Most providers offer a big discount if you pay annually or sign up for multiple years upfront, 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 two things to consider, namely security, speed and features. All the VPNs below have a strict no-logs policy. Our top two VPNs take this a step further having passed independent audits to prove that they don't log or store any user data whatsoever when you're using the service. All our recommended VPN services use 256-bit encryption, which is the same level of encryption that secret service agencies use to protect classified data.

Using a VPN can have an impact on your browsing speed, but that doesn't always need to be the case. If you connect to a UK or European server from the UK, for example, you won't notice a big difference in browsing speed. However, if you choose a server that's further afield this can be noticeable. Most of the services we mention below will let you browse US Netflix from the UK without buffering or lags, provided you're connected to a decent Wi-Fi network.

On the features front, one thing to look out for is a "killswitch", which instantly suspends all internet activity should your VPN suddenly fail. This ensures that apps won’t simply switch over to your regular, unsecured internet connection. This is important so that your ISP never sees what sites you’re connected to or what information you’re exchanging. Split tunnelling is another worthwhile feature: this allows you to choose which specific apps will use the VPN, while others continue to use your normal internet connection at full speed. Some Android VPNs also incorporate security features to protect you from online ads, malicious websites and malware.

Finally, the most privacy-oriented services offer a few belt-and-braces options for enhancing your anonymity, including double-VPN configurations (where traffic goes through two different VPNs in series), and obfuscation methods that prevent snoopers from detecting that you’re using a VPN. These is probably overkill for most purposes, and may impact on your connection speed – but they’ll appeal to those seeking the tightest possible privacy protection.

READ NEXT: Best Chrome VPN extensions


What about streaming and torrents?

It's no secret that the US Netflix service offers a better lineup of movies and TV shows than the UK offering, and there are plenty of other streaming services that are only supposed to be 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 nice with a VPN service you've installed.

Also note that while you might be excited about US-only services like HBO Now or Hulu, it’s very difficult to sign-up without a US address and credit card. If you're a keen user of BitTorrent then using a VPN can also make it harder for copyright holders to track you down and send you threatening messages. Some VPNs actively support peer-to-peer file-sharing, while others forbid it. Check the policy before you buy, and remember that downloads won’t be as fast as they would be over your regular connection.

READ NEXT: How to watch American Netflix


Can I trust my VPN provider to keep my activities private?

All VPN operators log some information about your usage, but what gets recorded could be no more than the fact that a particular IP address connected to the service at a certain time. The majority of services publish clear policies regarding what they log, as well as who they might pass that information on to and in what circumstances. If privacy is paramount, or if you're concerned about state or corporate surveillance, check these policies carefully.


The best Android VPN apps of 2022

1. ExpressVPN: The fastest Android VPN app

Read our ExpressVPN review


ExpressVPN’s globe-trotting credentials are hard to beat, with over 3,000 servers spread across 94 countries – so wherever you travel, you should be in reach of a fast, encrypted VPN link. 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 ping tester to help you get the fastest connection.

Among all the VPNs we tested, ExpressVPN provided the fastest speeds we've seen, even across far-off distances like the US and Australia. It’s expensive for a fairly basic Android VPN too. 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.

ExpressVPN: Key Specs

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

Buy Express VPN now


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

Read our CyberGhost VPN review


If there's one feature of CyberGhost VPN that stands out from the competition is that it that its Android app has a dedicated streaming tab to let you access over 30 different streaming services, including US Netflix and YouTube and BBC iPlayer in the UK. None of the other Android apps in this list have this feature. Another useful feature is the CyberGhost Android app includes sliders to block ads and malicious websites and even an option to prevent online tracking.

There's also a useful option to enable data compression, which is useful if you're on a limited mobile data plan. If you use CyberGhost on your PC, you'll notice the Android app has a similar interface to the PC client, which means there's no learning curve to familiarise yourself with when you switch devices. There are basically three clear tabs at the top, indicating all servers, servers for streaming and ones you've marked as favourite.

CyberGhost VPN: Key Specs

Location: Romania
Servers: 5,000 servers in over 60 countries
Speed: Fast
Maximum simultaneous connections: 7
Logging policy: Zero logs
Killswitch: Yes
Split tunnelling: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy CyberGhost VPN now


3. NordVPN: The best Android VPN app for privacy

Read our NordVPN review


Some services focus on speed, features or price; NordVPN hits a great sweet spot. 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 62 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: as NordVPN is based in Panama, your data should be safe from state snooping, and NordVPN states that it doesn’t log any identifiable information. You can use NordVPN on up to six simultaneous connections from PCs, Macs, Android phones and iOS devices, making it an ideal VPN to buy and share with family or a group of friends.

NordVPN: Key Specs

Location: Panama
Servers: 5,000 servers in over 60 countries
Speed: Good
Maximum simultaneous connections: 6
Logging policy: Zero-logs
Killswitch: Yes
Split tunnelling: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy NordVPN now


4. Surfshark VPN: The cheapest Android VPN app

Read our Surfshark VPN review


SurfShark VPN is a relative newcomer to the VPN waters, but they’re already off to an impressive start. They're located in the British Virgin Islands, which has no 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 has the cheapest long-term plan among the VPNs we’ve tested. A 36-month plan will set you back £57.24, which amounts to just £1.59 per month. All its plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee and if you use its Android or iOS apps, 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 it also has a CleanWeb tool that acts as an ad-blocker for websites you use. Within Settings, you'll also find options to auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks, activate the automatic killswitch and select between IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols. We recommend the latter because it's safer.

Surfshark VPN: Key Specs

Location: British Virgin Islands
Servers: 800 servers in 50 countries
Speed: Moderate
Maximum simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Logging policy: No usage data stored
Killswitch: Yes
Split tunnelling: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: Yes

Buy Surfshark VPN now


5. IPVanish VPN: The fastest VPN for local speeds

Read our IPVanish VPN review


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 up to 10 devices simultaneously, which is much more than what ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer. The service is located in the USA and owned by a major corporation called StackPath. Usually, we would refrain from recommending a VPN based in the US, but IPVanish doesn't keep any logs whatsoever and unlike other VPNs, we know the faces who own the VPN. IPVanish only has a seven-day money-back guarantee, which isn't as high as the 30-days we're used to, but the service has promised us that they will look into increasing this limit in the near future.

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 has 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. Only some US Netflix servers work, but HBO and Hulu work fine, too. The service resurrects itself with Kodi add-ons and unlimited torrenting.

IPVanish VPN: Key Specs

Location: United States
Servers: 1300+ servers in 60+ countries
Speed: Great locally, average abroad
Maximum simultaneous connections: 10
Logging policy: No logs
Killswitch: Yes
Split tunnelling: Yes
Ad-blocking and tracker blocking: No

Buy IPVanish VPN now