Best Android VPN
Surf the web anonymously and get access to US Netflix in the UK on your Android phone or tablet. ASHLEIGH MACRO reports
If you want to surf the web privately and securely, even when you’re out and about connecting to public Wi-Fi, a virtual private network (VPN) is what you’re looking for. You can also use a VPN to access blocked content such as BBC iPlayer if you’re outside of the UK, or the American version of Netflix. If you’re looking to do so on your Android phone or tablet, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of great VPN apps for Android.
Please note that it is against Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other blocked content’s terms and conditions to access them using a VPN, so we advise you to do so at your own risk.
Price: From $2.75 per month (around £2) URL: fave.co/2CSqdrT Billed as the world’s most advanced VPN, NordVPN claims to use double encryption to ensure that it is the most secure solution on the market.
Based in Panama, it is outside the jurisdiction of the ‘14-eyes’ group of security information sharing countries, and as you’d expect from a reputable VPN company in a crowded marketplace, there’s no logging of customer surfing habits. There’s also the usual kill switch, which will kill a list of specified apps should the VPN tunnel collapse. Unlike some other VPN clients, you select the apps to kill from a scrollable list.
You’ll be pleased to hear that NordVPN is very easy to use. Installation, in line with the other Windows VPNs reviewed here, is as simple as downloading and clicking on the installation package.
Run the installed client and login using your NordVPN username or email address and password. You’ll then be asked whether you’d like to turn on CyberSec, which is a new part of NordVPN available to protect you against intrusive ads, malware,
You’ll then be asked whether you’d like to turn on CyberSec, which is a new part of NordVPN available
to protect you against intrusive ads, malware, phishing attempts and other threats. Essentially this is an ad blocker with some malware protection built in. We already have antivirus and prefer not to block ads as they are part of what keeps online content available to read for free, but for some this will be a hugely appealing additional feature. You can turn CyberSec on or off at any time.
Once you’ve chosen whether or not you want to start using CyberSec, you’ll need to flip the switch at the top of the interface to automatically connect to the most efficient server.
You can also select a country from the zoomable map, with the client itself selecting the exact server to use. On the Android version, you can press and hold a location to open its server list and view load statistics.
Different servers will suit you best for different activities (Security, Streaming, P2P, and Anonymity). The Netherlands is best for P2P file sharing, for instance, but for anonymity the UK is best.
NordVPN used to use a handy search feature to help insure you find the best server for your needs, but now the VPN does that for you. It has a SmartPlay feature to automatically reroute you through a server that will unblock the content you’re looking to view, such as American Netflix from the UK.
It’s important to note, though, that watching US Netflix in the UK is against the terms and conditions of the service, so you should do so at your own risk. NordVPN is one of few VPNs that works in China and the Middle East, with the help of obfuscated servers.
Monthly fees are quite high, but the sheer number of servers should mean you get a rock solid service without connection delays, and prices drop rapidly if you’re willing to commit to a longer contract. You’ll also find that you can get Chrome and Firefox browser extensions for NordVPN at no extra cost.
You can currently get NordVPN for as little as £2/$2.75 per month if you take advantage of its three year deal, which totals just $99 (£70). Alternative options include a two year plan for £2.40/$3.29 per month, a one year plan for £4.15/$5.75 per month, or if you want to commit to just one month it’s £8.60/$11.95. Nord accepts credit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin as well as Paymentwall, which is US-based.
Speaking of privacy, NordVPN can also connect to the Tor onion network directly instead of installing specialized software. Simply click the server list and
select Onion over VPN. Select a server as an entry point to the Tor network and click connect.
A simple-to-use VPN solution with a huge number of servers to choose from. Tor access makes this attractive to serious privacy nuts and Netflix lovers too.
Price: From $6.67 per month (around £5) URL: fave.co/2CSIwNF ExpressVPN is a simple but speedy VPN solution that offers anonymous web browsing and access to blocked content. The idea behind it is to grant anonymous internet access regardless of technical ability. Basically, you click the big button in the middle of the interface and within seconds you’re protected from ISPs, governments and any other interlopers sniffing your computer’s traffic.
At $12.95 (£10.50) per month or $8.32 (£6.70)/ month when you pay by the year, ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive VPNs reviewed here, but for ease of use it does present value for money. There is an exclusive offer available right now, though, which will bring the price closer to £5 per month by offering you three months extra at no additional cost when you commit to a year.
The company also offers a free 30 days of use if you introduce a friend to the service and there’s a 30day money back guarantee too. Payment is by all the usual credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and a wide range
of other options including GiroPay and YandexMoney.
The connection list currently runs to 145 cities in 94 countries, ranging from Monaco to Mongolia. The servers tested (there are 1,700 total) all seem rock steady and throughput was good.
To help you decide on a country and city, there’s a built-in speed test facility. This takes around four minutes to complete because it contacts servers in all the listed countries. Unsurprisingly, the UK comes out on top for UK users, but there are also some surprisingly good speeds from unexpected places such as Armenia and Montenegro.
Unfortunately, the speed test is not available in the Android version, but with a licence that allows three devices to connect simultaneously, this isn’t much of a problem.
In the help pages is a section about selecting the most appropriate server for online streaming. At the time of writing, a server we tried did indeed allow access to Netflix US-only shows. This mirrors the advice given by Support, which was quick and
efficient. We’re advised not to publish the servers that work best with Netflix, as it may cause them to stop working and they change regularly, but 24 hour support is available should you struggle to connect.
The website states that no logs are kept that can be used by the authorities to identify end users, including DNS queries and browsing histories. ExpressVPN also runs its own DNS servers to prevent leakages to less secure servers.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a bit of a grey area when it comes to the ‘14eyes’ group of countries that share cyber-intelligence, but with zero logging this shouldn’t be a concern. (You can find out more about why some users prefer their VPN service to be based outside of the 14-eyes here).
ExpressVPN provides software for domestic routers, too. This involves downloading specially modified firmware for the device and installing it, which some users may find a bit tricky.
It has a video that will give you an idea of the process required, so you can decide whether you think it’ll work for you. Additionally, you can purchase
a router with ExpressVPN already installed. Like many other solutions, it also has a kill switch facility, called Network Lock, which focuses on traffic rather than applications. If the VPN tunnel collapses, all traffic stops, rather than applications being killed. You can also tune this feature to still allow local traffic while dropping all remote traffic, to prevent other devices such as printers from losing connectivity when the kill switch is activated.
In addition to all of those features, ExpressVPN has also launched a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
A simple and reliable VPN that is ideal for lovers of streaming media who want to explore farther afield, and with a range of locations that should also keep privacy advocates happy.
Price: From $1.95 per month (around £1.40) URL: tinyurl.com/y87pthdk
Billed as the world’s fastest VPN, PureVPN promises to be a good option for anyone who wants to use a VPN to stream region-locked video, or wants online anonymity and security without sacrificing speed.
Being based in Hong Kong, PureVPN is outside the ‘14 eyes’ group of countries that share user browsing data, but its association with China brings its own worries. On the flip side, there are more than 750 servers on the PureVPN network in 141 countries.
The company says the network is self-managed rather than cloudbased. Logging is restricted to the time at which connections are made, and nothing else.
Installation is as easy as any other Windows program. The main interface features several broad modes of use, similar to CyberGhost VPN.
Stream is obviously for streaming geoblocked media, and file sharing enables anonymous torrenting.
Online Privacy mode prevents ISPs using deep packet inspection of traffic for clues about your activities, while Internet Freedom mode lets people make calls in countries where VoIP is frowned upon.
If you select Stream, a long list of unlockable services pops up (including Netflix), or you can enter a search term. The Android version also lists Netflix US as an unlockable service.
Along with the usual kill switch to drop the internet connection should the VPN tunnel collapse unexpectedly, there are one or two cool features. For starters, there’s an option to launch your default browser once a VPN connection is established.
Another feature is split tunnelling. You can set which apps use the VPN and leave all others to use your normal, uncloaked connection.
That way, if you live somewhere in which ISPs are monitored for VPN use, your VPN-tunnelled traffic can
hide among the unencrypted stuff using the special ‘Stealth Protocol’. As with a similar facility in IPVanish, the idea is to disguise VPN packets as HTTPS traffic.
The interface isn’t resizable on the Windows or Mac version, so the global server map is a pain to navigate. Individual servers are hidden, so there’s only one clickable blob per country, meaning you also don’t get a choice of, say, east coast or west coast USA.
We also had trouble running PureVPN on an older operating system, and the solution (albeit very speedily replied) was to use a very old and clunky version of the client. Other VPNs we’ve tried work well on older systems so this was quite disappointing.
At $9.95 (£7.15) per month for FIVE simultaneous users, Netflix US access makes PureVPN great value for the home user. The three-year deal works out at just $1.95 (£1.40) per month. The refund policy is strictly seven days, but you must use less than 3GB of bandwidth or have made fewer than 100 connections.
A fast, reliable VPN for home streamers, file sharers and those wishing to use VoIP, but being based in Hong Kong will set alarm bells ringing for those looking for untraceable online anonymity. IPVanish Price: From £4.40 per month URL: fave.co/2pG2C9V IPVanish is a great VPN for beginners, but remains powerful and full of useful features for those that
want to browse the web anonymously or access blocked content.
After a simple installation, IPVanish reveals itself as the only solution we’ve reviewed that includes its own visual tutorial. This is clear, and explains the basics.
By default, IPVanish will try to select the best country and server based on the geographical location of your true IP address. Simply click the Connect button to begin using the selected server.
There’s also a ‘simple’ mode you can select, which reduces the user interface to a much smaller window containing just a country selector, a city selector, and a button to start the connection. Connections are stable, and a handy traffic graph gives you an indication of bandwidth use.
Like many other solutions we’ve looked at, by default all DNS requests sent through the VPN will be resolved using the VPN provider’s own DNS servers. This is important as it ensures that such traffic doesn’t give clues about your surfing habits.
Also in line with other VPN solutions, IPVanish doesn’t keep any connection or data logs, and doesn’t store metadata about your VPN use.
For better privacy, IPVanish allows you to automatically change your fake IP address at regular, user-defined intervals, with a minimum interval of 45 minutes. This will interrupt the tunnel for a few seconds, but if you need a high degree of privacy the inconvenience shouldn’t bother you too much.
There’s also a kill switch to ensure that no data leaks occur when the connection is dropped and re-established.
Like Buffered VPN, IPVanish is based on OpenVPN, but has a more mature, professional feel. In testing, it also didn’t suffer from Buffered VPN’s slow user interface problems on Windows. Android installation and use is as easy as downloading from the Play Store and logging in.
IPVanish lists over 750 servers in 60 countries. A handy, zoomable map allows you to select a server cluster. At the time of writing, some servers allow access to Netflix US. There’s also an option to disguise VPN traffic as HTTPS, which should help in cases where access is blocked.
It also has an option to install its software on certain models of home router. This involves installing new system software and is not for the technically naïve, though the online tutorials are very thorough.
As well as the basic $10 (£7.20) per month fee, there’s a year-long plan that costs $6.40 (£4.67) per month or a three month option for $8.99 (£6.47) per month. Payment methods include credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin, and a wide range of more obscure options, such as Bancontact and Mister Cash.
There’s also a seven-day money back guarantee and the agreement allows for up to five devices to be connected simultaneously. You can sign up here.
The downside is that IPVanish is US-based, and therefore in the top tier of the ‘14-eyes’ countries that share cyber-intelligence. This will be a major turn off for privacy advocates, but with easy access to Netflix US, it’s a winner for home users.
A good looking VPN solution with ease-of-use built in. Netflix access will appeal to home users, but being based in the US will be a distinct turn-off for those worried about online privacy.