Best VPN for Android: Choosing the Right App and Provider

by Tracy Knauer •

If you use an Android phone or tablet, you have dozens of options for VPN services and apps. With so many choices it can be tough to identify the best VPN for Android. But we’ve done that work for you. Read on for VPN recommendations for Android mobile devices.

The Best VPN Apps for Android

Keep reading below this section for a longer discussion of which factors to consider when choosing the best VPN for Android. But if you just want to see our top recommendations (which are based on objective research, not payment from any company), here they are:

  • OpenVPN for Android: this app is relatively basic, but for some people that’s a virtue. It offers a stable and simple way to connect to any VPN that supports the OpenVPN protocol (which virtually every provider does). Another big selling point is that this app is open source, which makes it easier to trust because anyone can inspect the code. However, the app lacks advanced features like a “kill switch” for automatically disconnecting when your VPN goes down.
  • OpenVPN Connect: this is another generic OpenVPN app for Android. It provides more advanced features than the previous one, such as a power management option that lets you save battery power when not actively using the VPN. However, it requires .ovpn files (which store VPN configurations) to work. You can download .ovpn files from most VPN providers’ websites, but make sure your provider offers them before trying to use this app.
  • OpenVPN Plugin: this is not actually a standalone VPN app, but a plugin designed to work with other Android VPN apps (especially OpenVPN Connect). Once installed, it locates free VPN servers that you can access through the app. This isn’t useful if you already have a paid VPN provider, but if you are trying to get quick, free access to a VPN (and understand that most free VPN providers are not very scrupulous about privacy and also usually limit bandwidth or data usage), this plugin will come in handy.
  • DroidVPN: this is a custom VPN app for DroidVPN, one of the few VPN providers that focuses specifically on Android users. If your Android device is the only one on which you ever want to use a VPN, this is a decent choice (though if you want a VPN provider that supports all types of operating systems, you should look elsewhere).
  • Private Internet Access: this app only works with VPN service from Private Internet Access (PIA). But PIA offers solid service, and the app provides a lot of advanced features not common on generic VPN apps. It’s worth checking out if you like PIA’s plans overall and want a feature-rich VPN app for Android.

Best VPN for Android: Differences between Apps and VPN Providers

So now you know what we think are the best VPNs for Android. But here’s some background information worth considering if you want to understand what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to Android VPN software.

When choosing which VPN software to use on Android, there are two distinct (but somewhat interrelated) considerations at stake:

  • The VPN app you use.
  • The VPN provider you use.

The first factor is the one that matters most. There are dozens of VPN apps available for Android. Some are tied to a particular provider but others are generic apps that can connect to virtually any VPN service.

However, all of the VPN apps vary widely in features, stability, performance and user-friendliness. So choosing the right VPN app will do a lot to ensure that you have a great VPN experience on Android.

Choosing between different VPN services is less important. That’s because almost any VPN provider that delivers good service will work just as well on Android as it does on Windows or any other device. VPN servers don’t really care whether the client connecting to them is running Android or something else, and most VPN companies design their services to work equally well with all types of devices. (Providers like DroidVPN, which as noted above is tailored for Android devices specifically, are an exception, but they are unlikely to offer a VPN that is any better or worse than a provider that supports all types of devices — although their VPN app for Android is above-average.)

This is worth pointing out because some sites claim that certain VPN companies are “best for Android.” If you see a claim like that, you can rest assured it’s just marketing hype. There are lots of differences between VPN providers overall, and you should make sure to choose one that’s right for you. (Check out our recommendations for the best VPNs of 2016 if you’re shopping for a provider.) But there’s no need to worry about whether your VPN company provides good support for Android. If it works well overall, it should work fine on Android.

Improving VPN Performance on Android

Again, the best way to get a great VPN experience on Android — or any other operating system — is to choose a good app and a good VPN provider. That said, if your VPN connection on Android is slow or unstable, here are a few tweaks you can use to improve performance:

  • Close apps you are not using. Apps running in the background could suck up bandwidth and computing power, making your VPN run more slowly. This is true on all types of devices but it’s especially relevant on Android devices, where system resources tend to be limited.
  • If your device seems to be struggling when you are using the VPN, it may not have enough computing power to decrypt VPN packets. This can be a problem on Android phones or tablets with low hardware specifications. In this case, you will likely benefit from using a VPN router, which offloads the decryption responsibility from your device to the router.
  • Try using a different VPN app. While all of the ones listed above should work well for most people, you may find that some of the more sophisticated apps place a heavy burden on your device. In that case, switching to a more basic app, which uses fewer resources, can improve performance.
  • See our general VPN tweaking tips, which may help you out even though they are not Android-specific.

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