The most-used operating system on the planet, Android is estimated to have more than two billion users worldwide and is the primary OS to feature on the vast majority of smartphones and tablets currently available to the general public.
It’s a slick, well-designed operating system with a lot of advantages, and many people enjoy using it on a daily basis on their phones and other devices, but like any other OS out there, it has some flaws and holes that can put users’ privacy and safety at risk.
This is why we’re starting to see more and more Android users turning to VPN providers and installing VPN apps on their Android devices. A VPN can help you enjoy additional security and privacy on your Android phone or tablet, as well as offering a range of other uses too.
This guide will take a look at how VPNs work, what sorts of advantages they can off to Android users, and how to find the best VPN for Android.
What Is a VPN and How Does it Work?
Before we get into the important role a VPN can play in terms of protecting the privacy and personal data of Android users, we have to look at what exactly a VPN is and how it functions.
In simple terms, a VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, is made up of a network of servers all around the world. When you connect to a VPN, your connection becomes encrypted and rerouted via one of those many servers, masking your IP and protecting your identity online.
VPNs come in many forms, with both free and paid variants available and various different features and encryption systems in place to protect their users.
What Are the Advantages and Uses of a VPN on Android?
There are many possible uses and advantages of getting a VPN Android app. Here are just a few examples:
- Security – One of the top reasons anyone, including Android users, wants to download and make use of a VPN is for their online security. When you connect to the internet with a VPN, even on unsecured, public Wi-Fi hotspots, your connection will be encrypted, meaning that it becomes much, much harder for hackers or malicious agents to steal your data or spy on your online activities.
- Privacy – Another big reason why so many people turn to VPNs on Android and other operating systems is that they don’t like the idea of internet service providers, site administrators, and advertising companies being able to track their IP addresses, spy on their online activity, and use their browsing history against them through targeted ads and other undesirable methods.
- Travel – If you’re someone who travels a lot, you’ll have to rely on public Wi-Fi connections in places like hotels and airports. These Wi-Fi hotspots are prime targets for hackers and simply don’t have the same levels of security as your home network. Not only that, but depending on where you go, you might find that some sites are censored or blocked. A VPN can keep you safe and help you get around the blocks.
- Streaming – Let’s say you’re in Canada and want to watch a show on the US version of Netflix. If you try to load it up without a VPN, you’ll be redirected to the Canadian site every time. However, with a VPN connection to a US server, you can make it seem like you’re in the US and therefore access the US version of Netflix. This applies to other streaming services all over the globe, opening the door to a world of entertainment.
The State of Play for VPNs on Android
For a long time, most commercial VPNs were only available on computers and laptops, designed mostly for Windows and macOS users, but as time as gone by and Android has exponentially grown to become the dominant operating system across mobile devices, the need and demand for VPN protection for Android users has risen, and VPN providers have responded accordingly.
Nowadays, it’s easily possible to find most of the major VPN providers offering mobile apps for use on Android-powered tablets and phones, allowing users to enjoy the same great protection, privacy advantages, and useful benefits as their PC and Mac counterparts. However, due to the nature of the mobile market, Android users need to be extra careful when choosing a VPN.
A Word of Warning for Android VPNs
If you load up the Google Play Store on Android and type VPN into the search bar, you’ll be bombarded with a huge number of results. This is just how the Play Store tends to work in general, allowing app developers from all over the world to upload their creations for users to download.
Naturally, some of these apps are a lot better than others, and this is especially clear to see in regard to VPN Android apps. Some of them are highly trustworthy and very effective at keeping you safe and secure online, but others are far less useful and should be avoided altogether.
Some of the VPN apps you’ll find on the Play Store are simply badly-designed and ineffective at what they set out to do, but others are even worse, actually able to monitor and log your activity or access files on your device.
This is why, when using the Play Store to download an Android VPN app, you need to be very careful and avoid falling into the traps laid by some of the unscrupulous developers out there. A lot of apps, even those with high download numbers and good ratings, may have some hidden strings attached, so we always recommend reading reviews and getting expert recommendations for Android VPNs.
Will Android VPNs Work on My Current Version of Android?
Depending on the device you have, you might not have the very latest version of Android. Often, older phones and tablets are limited to older versions of the Android operating system, while the latest updates and releases are only made available on newer devices. Does this affect VPN usage?
In general, no. Most phones and tablets will be perfectly capable of installing and running the top-rated VPN apps out there, and the best VPNs for Android tend to have really good compatibility ratings, working just as well on older devices like the brand new phones from makers like Samsung and LG.
Should I Trust a Free Android VPN?
This is one of the big questions a lot of Android users ask. After all, the Google Play Store is filled with free VPN apps you can download and set up in a matter of minutes, and it’s always more tempting for people to get something for free rather than having to pay for the privilege, so are free VPNs worth it for Android users?
The truth is, it depends. As mentioned above, there are a lot of free VPN Android apps you should absolutely avoid as they’re badly designed and may even log your data or demand access to your personal files. However, there are some reliable free VPN apps out there that can give you a good taster for how VPNs work on Android and what advantages they can offer.
Generally, free VPNs can only be recommended for casual users. They’re a good option if you only want protection in public places, for example, or while on vacation, but don’t plan on using the VPN when accessing the internet from home. They’re also ideal for those who want to test out a VPN without committing to a paid plan straight away.
What Other Devices Can VPNs Be Used on?
As well as Android phones and tablets, you’ll find that most of the best VPNs also work equally well on iOS devices like iPhones, macOS devices like Macs, and Windows devices like PCs and laptops. You can even use certain VPNs to protect your wireless routers, smart TVs, and video game consoles too.
How Do I Get a VPN for Android?
Getting a VPN for Android is very easy. It’s simply a matter of downloading a VPN app onto your device, loading it up, making your account and paying for the plan you want, and then activating the VPN to connect to a secure server somewhere in the world. They often also come with advanced features that you can adjust, like setting the VPN to start whenever your device switches on or even activating a kill switch which will cut off your internet and protect your identity if the VPN connection fails at any point.
How Do I Find the Best Android VPN?
When it comes to finding the best Android VPN, we recommend looking at all of the major factors that make up a VPN service, including security features, speeds, encryption level, privacy options, advanced settings, customer service, provider reputation, and pricing. The best VPN should be able to excel in every category, with strong privacy and security settings, impressive speeds, lots of servers, dedicated customer support, and more.