What is a VPN for Android?
A VPN (virtual private network) for Android is a technology that allows users to create a secure and encrypted connection between their Android devices and the internet.
It acts as a tunnel between the Android device and the VPN server, which securely passes your internet traffic. The tunnel scrambles your data traffic, making it unreadable to those interested in your online activity (like your internet service provider or cybercriminals).
What does a VPN do for Android?
Setting up a VPN for your Android device has many advantages. Let’s look at these in more detail below.
Increases your online privacy
A VPN for Android gives users more privacy online. Because a VPN establishes a secure encrypted connection between your device and the internet server, third parties can’t easily monitor your online activity.
Without a VPN, it’s relatively easy for ISPs, advertisers, or snoopers to look up what you do online on your Android smartphone or tablet. So a VPN shields your privacy, letting you keep your online activity to yourself.
Boosts your digital security
Encryption doesn’t only increase your privacy — it also boosts your online security. Encryption transforms your data into secure, unreadable code, making it much more difficult for hackers to intercept it. It protects and keeps your sensitive information confidential as it travels through the internet.
A VPN is especially effective against man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM), packet sniffing, and DNS spoofing and hijacking.
Hides your IP address
A VPN for Android also hides your IP address, which has several privacy and security benefits.
IP addresses reveal a lot of information about us online. Advertisers, ISPs, and even malicious parties can use this information for various purposes — from marketing to cyberattacks.
When you connect to a VPN on your Android device, it replaces your actual IP address with the VPN server’s IP address. Any platforms or websites you visit when connected won’t be able to see your actual IP address or trace your online activity back to it.
Protects you on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is rarely as safe as it should be. Cybercriminals may take advantage of its poor security in many ways — from eavesdropping to infecting your device with malware.
However, when you connect to a VPN, your traffic is encrypted before it leaves your Android device. Even if someone manages to intercept your data while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, they won’t be able to decipher it without the decryption key held by your VPN provider.
Helps you avoid censorship
A VPN is an excellent tool for gaining more online freedom. Many countries have internet restrictions that limit your content choices. When you travel to these countries, accessing the content you’re used to can be difficult.
Connecting to a VPN server allows you to overcome these restrictions and enjoy your favorite content on your Android device wherever you are.
Who needs a VPN on their Android device?
As you can see, getting a VPN for an Android device offers many benefits. Let’s look at the specific cases in which you’d need a VPN for Android.
- Frequent public network users. We all connect to public networks from time to time. But if you use public Wi-Fi often — in cafes, airports, co-working spaces, trains, or hotels — setting up a VPN on your Android device is a good idea. It’ll protect you from the various cyberattacks that target public Wi-Fi users.
- People who travel abroad. Going abroad creates certain content access limitations. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you can’t watch your favorite show while on vacation or a work trip. With a VPN, you can securely watch the shows you want and visit the sites you usually visit as if you’re back home.
- People who care about their online privacy. As mentioned above, a VPN works hard to protect your online privacy and keep sensitive data safe. If you want to do more online without being tracked or watched, then a VPN is the right choice.
- People who enjoy online gaming. A VPN is an excellent tool for gamers. A provider with a global server network will deliver fast speeds and a more enjoyable experience. Some VPNs for gaming also offer specialized features like latency-reducing servers for significantly improved responsiveness. Additionally, NordVPN has a handy Meshnet feature allowing you to securely connect multiple devices (ideal for LAN multiplayer gaming).
Should you use a VPN on your Android phone?
You should use a VPN on your Android phone. While some may think that phones are hacker-proof, as long as they’re connected to the internet, cybercriminals can find ways to hack them. Cyber threats are evolving by the minute, making it more important than ever to take extra precautions to protect our most important devices.
As mentioned above, using a VPN on your Android phone gives you more online security, privacy, and freedom. From encrypting your internet connection on mobile networks and public Wi-Fi to making your favorite content accessible anywhere, getting a VPN app for your Android device has many advantages.
Make sure you choose a reliable, highly-rated VPN provider that takes your digital security and privacy seriously. Here’s more on how to choose the best VPN for your needs.
Should you get a free VPN app for Android?
Though it may be tempting to get a free Android VPN, it’s important to consider the risks. While VPN services are designed to give you more online privacy and security, free VPN providers often don’t deliver this protection. If anything, they may even expose your sensitive data and make you less safe online.
Like all businesses, free VPN providers need to make money somehow. They won’t be able to pay their employees or sustain a business without making a profit. Because they don’t charge you for their services, free VPN providers may make money in other ways, often sacrificing user privacy and security.
One way free VPNs make money is by bombarding you with ads or pushing you to upgrade to a paid version. They don’t deliver a great user experience — but some users may tolerate these interruptions if it means they don’t have to pay for VPN services.
However, advertising is not the worst thing about free VPN providers. The biggest concern is that they often log your browsing activity and sell this information to third parties (e.g., advertisers). Getting a free Android VPN that tracks and sells your data completely defeats the purpose of getting a VPN service in the first place.
While you may find several free VPNs for Android, if you want to become more secure and private online, getting a free VPN service isn’t recommended. Most free Android VPNs will compromise your safety and security — and that is the opposite of what reputable, premium VPN providers do.
Choose a reliable paid VPN service that offers a user-friendly Android app. Getting a subscription to a trustworthy VPN with a good reputation is the best way to secure your Android phone or tablet. Here’s a more detailed comparison of a free VPN vs. paid VPN.
What is the best Android VPN?
The best Android VPN for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. For example, a VPN you get for gaming may offer different features than a VPN for bypassing censorship.
However, the best VPN providers on the market tend to offer most of the following features:
- Strong encryption. A VPN is a cybersecurity tool, so it must do its job in securing the internet connection on your phone. Strong encryption is an essential feature the best VPN providers will always offer.
- No user tracking. Virtual private networks should protect your privacy, not expose your information to third parties. The best VPN providers won’t keep activity logs or sell your data. It’s worth looking for a VPN provider that can back up their no-logs claim, perhaps with an independent review — you’ll know it’s not just an empty promise.
- A user-friendly Android app. When looking for the best VPN for your Android device, choose a provider with an intuitive, dedicated Android app. The app should be easy to use and offer features that work seamlessly on Android. Reputable providers will also release regular app updates to protect users from new threats.
- Global server coverage. VPN speed relies on its server network, so the best VPNs typically have plenty of server locations globally. An extensive server network means faster speeds and a more reliable VPN connection. Usually, the closer you are to the server you’re connecting to, the faster your connection will be — so the best VPN for you will have a range of servers in your region.
- 24/7 customer support. No VPN app is perfect, so you may sometimes need to contact the provider’s customer support. Like with any product or service, knowing you can easily get help is reassuring. The best VPN companies offer reliable, friendly, and easy-to-reach customer support, so you can speak to a representative whenever needed.
- Money-back guarantee. The best Android VPN providers know they’re offering a valuable service to their customers. That’s why they will happily refund you if you’re not satisfied with it. Choose a VPN with a money-back guarantee to try it out on your Android device risk free.
- Advanced cybersecurity features. Some VPN providers offer more than a secure VPN connection, taking their services further. For example, NordVPN offers Threat Protection Lite — an advanced cybersecurity feature that blocks malicious sites and annoying ads. Features like this make a big difference in device security and user experience, especially on a device you use for many hours of your day.
While you’ll find several top-rated VPNs for Android devices on the market, NordVPN has been rated the best VPN for Android by Android Central. Here’s everything you need to know about the security and privacy features NordVPN offers.
What devices can I use an Android VPN on?
You can use Android VPNs on several devices — and the more devices you protect, the better. Here’s a list of the most common Android devices that can benefit from a secure VPN connection.
- Smartphones. The most common Android device you can secure with a VPN is a smartphone (in fact, Android VPNs are mainly designed for smartphones). We use our phones to complete most of our everyday online tasks, so increasing the digital security of these devices is paramount. You’ll find many VPNs for your mobile device, with most VPN providers offering dedicated mobile VPNs that work seamlessly with most major manufacturers (including Samsung, Google Pixel, and Xiaomi).
- Tablets. You can also use an Android VPN to secure the internet connection on your tablet. Installing a VPN on your tablet comes with similar benefits as setting it up on your phone — from protection on public Wi-Fi to secure content access. You’ll find VPN apps for various Android tablet models, from Samsung to Amazon Fire tablets.
- Android TV. Setting up a VPN for Android TV means you can securely watch your favorite shows knowing no one’s spying on your choices. While internet providers can track your online activity, they won’t be able to do so with a VPN. A VPN can also prevent throttling and optimize your gaming experiences. You can find many VPN options for your smart TV, with some providers offering dedicated apps and some requiring a manual setup.
- Android wearable devices. Your internet-connected smartwatches, smart glasses, and fitness trackers may also benefit from VPN protection. While a VPN won’t stop these devices from tracking data about you, it may help against several cyber threats (e.g., eavesdropping or data interception). Setting up a VPN on your wearables won’t be as simple as downloading a VPN app and typically involves router VPN configuration. Check the compatibility requirements to make sure your wearable device supports VPN connections.
- Android emulators. Do you use Android emulators to run Android apps or games? A VPN may help secure your internet traffic within the virtual environment. The data you send or receive over the internet — app downloads or online gaming — will be securely encrypted, shielding your online activities from potential threats.
Each provider will have its own instructions on how to set up a VPN on your Android device. As mentioned above, some may require manual setup, while others will have dedicated apps, making the setup easier.
How to use a VPN with an Android device
Getting started with a VPN on Android is easy. Follow these steps to begin using a VPN on your Android phone or tablet right away.
- Choose a VPN provider. Many providers offer Android VPN apps, so you’ll have plenty of options. Make sure you pick a trustworthy VPN company that delivers a range of excellent features for Android devices.
- Download and install the VPN app. Reliable VPN providers will make their Android apps available from official app distribution platforms, such as the Google Play Store. Alternatively, for Android devices that lack Google Play Store support, providers may offer the option of directly downloading their VPN APK from their official websites. Once you download the app, you may be asked to purchase a subscription if you haven’t done so in the first step. VPN pricing may vary, but companies often have discounts and deals for long-term plans (e.g., 2 years or longer).
- Set up your new VPN. Open the VPN app and create an account if you haven’t done so already. The steps may differ depending on the provider, but you should be guided through the setup process on the screen. Once you’re all set up, log in to your account.
- Choose a VPN server. When you’ve logged in to your VPN account, it’s time to start using it. At this stage, you’ll need to choose a VPN server, depending on your preferences. Some VPNs may even recommend the right server for you based on your needs (e.g., streaming or security). NordVPN offers a feature that automatically connects you to the best server for you, called Quick connect.
- Connect to a VPN. When you’ve chosen a server, tap “connect” to establish a VPN connection. You may be prompted to confirm the connection or grant permissions for the VPN app. If so, give the permissions the app needs to secure your connection.
- Verify your connection. Once you’ve connected to a VPN server, check if your VPN is working. While it should be, it’s worth checking after setting it up for the first time to ensure your internet connection is secure. You can do this in several ways — from checking your VPN status (it should say “connected”) to making sure that your IP address is different.
These steps may vary depending on your VPN provider, so it’s best to refer to the provider’s online resources to ensure you’ve set everything up correctly. Once you’re all set up, you can connect and disconnect from your VPN whenever you want. You can typically disable a VPN with a click or a tap — however, we recommend leaving it on at all times for maximum protection.
Considering NordVPN for your Android device? That’s great — NordVPN is an excellent choice for Android and other devices. Here’s how to set up NordVPN on your Android device.
Changing Android VPN settings
Once you’ve set up your Android VPN, chances are you’ll want to change some of the app settings to make it work for you.
For example, on the NordVPN app, you may want to enable Kill Switch — a feature that prevents your data from being exposed should your VPN connection unexpectedly drop. Or you may want to turn on the Dark Web Monitor — a technology that alerts you if your credentials have been exposed on the dark web.
You can adjust most settings on your Android VPN app. Go to the settings page, which is visible from your profile on most Android VPN apps.
Here’s how to find your settings on the NordVPN app for Android:
- Open your app and head to the map screen.
- Tap the user profile icon in the bottom right corner.
- Tap on the gear icon at the top right corner to find your app settings.
How to further increase your security on Android
A VPN is a reliable way to boost the privacy and security of Android smartphones, tablets, or other devices. However, you can make your Android device more secure in several other ways, from enabling two-factor authentication to changing lock screen preferences. Because our smartphones carry so much sensitive information, it’s important to take all possible precautions to keep them secure.