VPNs have naturally evolved to suit today’s methods of data consumption, such as streaming region-locked media content from around the world.
As a result of streaming’s growing popularity, several hundred VPN services are available on Android – the operating system powering almost half of UK mobile devices.
Choosing the best Android VPN can be tricky, particularly since quality and reliability varies widely.
Even worse, a formerly dependable VPN can begin attracting large numbers of negative reviews – this is currently happening in the Google Play store to the recently-rebranded HMA! (formerly HideMyAss!).
Below we consider what the best Android VPN should offer, before listing five of the best options presently available to UK consumers.
Why use a VPN for Android?
There are many reasons why it might be advantageous to establish a virtual private network on a mobile device:
- A VPN provides a secure connection across a public WiFi network. This is great for sensitive activities like online banking when hacking could compromise user security.
- It grants access to geographically-restricted content that might otherwise be barred from broadcast in certain locations, such as regional sports coverage.
- It ensures anything you do is confidential, and can’t be monitored or reported on.
Most of us rely heavily on our smartphones and tablets, so it makes sense to extend the highest level of security to them – not just to our antivirus-protected desktop computers.
Key attributes to look for in an Android VPN
While many virtual private networks are compatible with numerous devices, some are specific to the Android platform.
However, being exclusive or multi-platform doesn’t affect a VPN’s quality nearly as much as its design and reliability.
Regardless of its origins, any good Android VPN will contain a number of features:
- It will offer round the clock customer support and assistance
- It will be accessible from multiple devices – some VPNs allow a single user to connect via eight devices providing they have the appropriate login credentials
- It won’t store session logs, which may be used to enable third parties to track your history
- It will be able to connect with servers around the world, enabling you to cloak your position and bypass domestic copyright or broadcasting restrictions.
Our recommendations for virtual private networks
These are our top five VPNs for Android. We’ve chosen them according to the factors above, as well as ease of use and integrated security features:
Downloaded over five million times, ExpressVPN ticks many of the boxes associated with a good Android VPN, including 256-bit encryption and unlimited bandwidth.
ExpressVPN has over 1,500 servers scattered across almost a hundred countries, helping to circumvent local broadcasting restrictions.
There is round the clock support, and a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days of any new accounts.
It maintains a connection even when the device’s screen goes off (commonly triggered by a screen saver), or when switching between WiFi and mobile connections.
The user interface is simplicity itself, and is familiar from iOS, Mac and Windows applications, making this a good option for beginners.
PureVPN packs a great deal into a straightforward user interface, including content filtering and the ability to block potentially harmful apps.
This proactive protection encompasses antivirus provision, parental control over access to particular websites or content, and a firewall that prevents network or device infiltration.
PureVPN has servers in 180 global cities for rapid internet access.
Premium features include multiple protocols and five account logins.
There is the usual 24/7 live support, and it’s even possible to pay for the service with Bitcoin.
IPVanish is a highly sophisticated VPN, featuring a more detailed (and arguably more complex) interface is than others on this list.
Users can disguise their identities with 40,000 shared IP addresses.
A variety of connection options are offered, including Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol and Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol. The former is great for speed, whereas the latter serves up more advanced security.
IPVanish bills itself as “the world’s fastest VPN network”, with 850 global servers in 60 countries.
Unusually, the company owns all these VPN servers, keeping customer data entirely in-house with no logs of any kind.
Hong Kong-based Ivacy also offers PPTP and L2TP connection settings.
Customers benefit from unlimited data and bandwidth.
Multi-platform compatibility means account holders can switch between up to five Windows, Mac, iOS or Android devices.
There’s 256-bit encryption across 3G, 4G and WiFi, with servers in 50 countries; a single tap is enough to unblock any geo-restricted content.
Files are scanned with integrated antivirus and malware software as they’re downloading, ensuring devices aren’t compromised by Trojans or viruses.
Ivacy also offers an unusual split tunnelling feature, enabling VPN traffic to be kept separate from normal internet content.
With three quarters of its Google Play Store reviews classed as Excellent, NordVPN is a popular choice.
A single licence covers up to six devices, providing military-grade 2048-bit encryption.
Geo-restricted content is accessed via 3,000 servers in 60 countries, while an ad-free premium version ensures uninterrupted playback.
It’s possible to get online with a single tap, while the Account Settings page hosts more technical issues like whether or not to use obfuscated servers (which bypass geographic restrictions).
User security is enhanced by an anti-malware shield that detects and blocks harmful websites.