Mobile devices allow us to work, communicate and enjoy a wide range of entertainment options on the go. While connecting to public Wi-Fi using your tablet or smartphone is very convenient, it can also be dangerous since it makes you more vulnerable to online fraud and eavesdropping. The popularity of Android is not only explained by the fact that it is a more affordable platform, but also because its open source nature makes it a preferred choice for many security conscious users.
In order to enhance the privacy of the internet connection on your Android device, it is worth considering to subscribe to a VPN. This technology will help to keep your data protected from online surveillance or fraud and will also allow you to access content that is restricted in your country. We’ll list the best services for Android, but we’ll start by taking a look at some general considerations about VPNs for this platform.
Android and VPNs
The threats to online privacy are on the rise and everyone can become a target of malicious attacks and even monitoring from government agencies and other groups. Keeping that it mind, it is important to protect your data and a VPN is a useful tool for this purpose. If you want to use P2P applications or if you often need to connect to internet using public Wi-Fi, a VPN is crucial. Additionally, a VPN is a practical solution to bypass censorship and geo-location restrictions since you can connect to a VPN server in a different location and disguise your actual IP address.
It is worth noting that always-on VPN mode is a feature that was introduced in Android Jelly Bean and it is also available in Nougat, the latest version of the platform. When this option is enabled, there are no data transfers taking place when a VPN connection is not active. This is a practical security measure, particularly when you are using public Wi-Fi on a regular basis. The feature is available under the menu button, after you have signed up to a VPN. When it comes to VPNs, it is advisable to invest in premium options from recognized providers.This will ensure that you get access to all the features required to protect your data and a reliable and secure service.
Built-in VPN client in Android
There is a variety of VPN protocols available and they offer different levels of protection and performance.
PPTP: While it is easy to configure and widely available, PPTP is the weakest protocol in terms of security. It is advisable to only use it if there are no other options at hand.
L2TP/IPsec: It offers better protection than PPTP, but its setup is more challenging given that an IPsec pre-shared key is required. However, the majority of providers offer tutorials or files for auto-configuration. You can also contact the support team for further assistance.
OpenVPN: The most secure and reliable protocol of all, it also uses a wide range of technology options for comprehensive protection. The only downside is that it is not as easy to configure and requires third-party software, which means that it drains the device’s battery considerably faster.
How to set up VPN using the native VPN client
- Go to the VPN settings menu via Settings – More Networks and then VPN. This may vary according to the device, but in general, this is the process. Keep in mind that a screen-lock enabled to get access to this menu during the setup process is needed.
- Choose Add VPN Network or the “+” sign. This will depend on the device.
- Select an appropriate name for the connection and then enter the relevant details about the VPN.
- In order to run the VPN, go to VPN settings (as per step 1), select your VPN connection and plug in your username and password.
- Once this is done, you will see a key icon in the upper left hand indicating if you are indeed connected.
How to set up a VPN using OpenVPN Connect for Android
- Locate the relevant configuration file on your VPN provider’s website. Download it directly to your phone, or to a computer. If it comes up as a .zip file, you can extract it using Winzip. This should only take a few additional minutes.
- You will need to download, install and run OpenVPN Connect for Android. Then select Functions, followed by Import and Import from SD file. Enter a username and password.
- You will be asked to accept the trust certificate after the initial launch on your phone. This would only be required once.
- When you get connected, you will see the key and OpenVPN logo in the upper left of your device’s screen.
VPN providers custom apps
OpenVPN became available for VPNs for Android in 2012 and since then, many VPN providers are able to offers their own apps. These apps offer convenient features like port forwarding and auto-reconnect, not to mention that they make the setup process much easier.
How to test the performance of your VPN app
If you want to check if your app is offering the speed and protection that you expect from it, you can carry out an IP check and a speed test. To confirm if your provider is fulfilling its promises of security and fast service, you can go to testmy.net and press “Combined” to check the download and upload speeds of your VPN provider. You can also check if your actual IP address is being leaked by visiting ipleak.net and test-ipv6.com.
This provider has become the preffered choice for many privacy conscious users due to its solid no logs policy and the fact that they are based in Panama, meaning that they are not under strict data retention laws. There are also impressive level of security and options like multi-hop double connection and Tor over VPN for top grade protection for your privacy. NordVPN offers great global coverage and a good quality app for Android.
ExpressVPN is one of the strongest providers in the VPN industry and it offers fantastic performance and speeds on Android devices. They don’t keep logs so the privacy of your online activity and your conversations is safe. There are servers in nearly 90 countries, which gives you many options to access the content that you want. Although ExpressVPN is more expensive than other options, its high quality software, excellent customer service and reliability justify the cost.
Private Internet Access
PIA offers a service that is effective, secure and reasonably priced. Features like Kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, SOCK5 proxy and ad blocking are available and they don’t keep logs of your online activity. There are servers in over 20 countries and they support up to five simultaneous connections. The interface of their interface may take a while to get used to but in the end, it can be used without hassle.
Speed and customer support are some of the categories in which IPVanish gets top marks. Since they manage their own extensive network of servers, you can enjoy a service that is consistent and effective. Although they are a US based provider, they promise not to keep any logs of your activity and offer high encryption to protect your data when you are connected to internet. Their software is easy to use and they have servers in more than 60 countries at this time.
The user-friendly interface of PureVPN’s software along with the high level of encryption and the convenient features available, make it another great choice for Android. They support split tunnelling, which allows you to have an IP address for certain websites, while keeping a different connection for others. Thanks to this, you can access online banking with your actual IP and change it for other applications. They have servers located in 141 countries so you can enjoy content from across the world.