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Express VPN for Android review: Great but costly

Stuart Andrews
18 Apr 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
9
per month (£70 per year)

A premium VPN that’s strong on privacy – but pricey

Pros 
Global reach
Easy to use
Great privacy credentials
Cons 
Expensive
Slower long-distance connection
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Based in the remote British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN promises the nearest thing you can get to perfect online anonymity. It also has a huge list of servers and locations, making this a truly global VPN.

READ NEXT: Best Android VPNs 2018

The catch is that it’s expensive, with no free options and no discount plans for Android-only use. At $12.95 (£9) per month – or $99.95 (£70) per year – it really needs to be exceptional, to compete with cheaper alternatives.

Buy now from Express VPN

Setup and basic use

ExpressVPN doesn’t have a free option (just a seven-day free trial), so your first experience of it will likely be signing up at the website. This isn’t too painful though, and once you get the app installed you’ll find it looks a lot like the service’s Windows client, with the same simple interface.

Using it could hardly be easier. There’s a big button in the middle of the screen to open an instant VPN connection; you can also tap the Choose Location button to pick a specific country or city, or tap Smart Location to have ExpressVPN pick the fastest connection available. The app displays an Android notification alongside the usual key icon so you can see at a glance that the VPN is active.

Server locations

Need to connect via a specific location? ExpressVPN almost certainly has you covered, offering exit nodes in an impressive 94 different countries. And with over 2,000 servers in total, there’s plenty of capacity to go around, especially in popular locations like the US.

Performance

With so many servers, you shouldn’t find yourself stuck waiting to connect: I found it rarely took more than a few seconds to get a VPN link up and running. Sadly, this doesn’t translate to great performance overall. Use a local server and you can get an impressively fast connection – I got 77% of my regular download speeds over a UK-based VPN connection, and precisely the same from a Netherlands-based server. Upstream speeds were even faster.

Go long-distance, however, and ExpressVPN tumbles down the rankings. Connecting through a US-based server gave me only 39% of my non-VPN connection speed; PureVPN, TunnelBear and NordVPN were all faster.

Still, ExpressVPN sailed through DoILeak.com’s tests. The WebRTC check warned me that apps could be leaking my IP address, but in fact my real details remained hidden. Sadly, ExpressVPN didn’t manage to get past Netflix: the site spotted that I was connecting through a proxy and refused to let me stream US content.

Extra features

In light of its premium pricing, ExpressVPN is surprisingly basic. You get a built-in ping test tool, and a bit of advice on choosing the right VPN connection, but there are no secondary security features as such – not even a kill switch to halt your connections should the VPN fail, as found in the Mac and Windows desktop apps. It’s a little miserly on simultaneous connections too: while you can run it on an unlimited number of devices, only three can be connected at any one time.

Buy now from Google Play

Privacy and security

ExpressVPN’s trump card is its location. The British Virgin Islands have no data-retention laws, and don’t participate in any intelligence-sharing alliance – so ExpressVPN doesn’t have to log anything at all, and even if it did it wouldn’t be obliged to pass it on to anyone. If you’re really concerned about government snooping, this makes it an excellent choice, and there are clear and detailed privacy policies available for you to review as well.

Verdict

ExpressVPN has a lot going for it, including an excellent range of servers and locations, and privacy credentials that are very hard to beat. All the same, it’s not the fastest VPN on the block, and the Android app is short on functionality. It’s a solid mobile VPN so far as it goes, but other services offer more features for less money.

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