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

Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

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.

NordVPN

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.

Ver­dict

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.

Ex­pressVPN

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.

Ver­dict

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.

PureVPN

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.

Ver­dict

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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