Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best VPNs for Android (and why your phone needs one)

Protect yourself on public Wi-Fi with the best Android VPN services. Avoid free VPNs and opt for reliable and trustworthy options.

We use our smartphones to access sensitive information and conduct online transactions more often than ever before, so ensuring our digital security is essential.

While you might focus your security on laptops and home PCs, you shouldn't forget that your smartphone is often the key to your digital kingdom. It may be used to access personal email accounts and hubs, work resources, social media, and financial services -- and if you fail to protect it, you may be more at risk of having your accounts compromised.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have emerged as powerful tools for safeguarding your online activity and protecting sensitive data from cyber threats. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server, masking your IP address and protecting your online identity. With the right VPN, you can browse the internet anonymously, access geo-restricted content, and avoid being tracked by advertisers, hackers, and government surveillance.

Google's Android operating system is in billions of devices worldwide, including smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Android functions on a broad range of products, most of which are internet-connected, so VPN providers ensure they support this OS.

Also: The best VPN trials

In this guide, I explore reliable, fast, and secure VPNs for Android that offer robust security features and easy-to-use interfaces. Whether you're looking for a free or paid VPN, I've got you covered. I'll also explain how to set up a VPN on your Android device and what factors to consider when choosing a VPN.

nordvpn mobile
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Solid speed and performance
  • Extensive server network
  • Easy-to-use app
  • 24/7 support
  • Only six simultaneous connections
More Details

NordVPN Android features: Google Play Store rating: 4.5 average, 717K reviews | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Native app support: Android 6 or higher | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 60 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

With over 700,000 reviews, NordVPN is one of the most popular consumer VPNs in the Google Play Store. However, that is not why I think it's the best VPN for Android. Its helpful features and rock-solid performance carried it across the finish line.

Review: NordVPN

NordVPN supports peer-to-peer file sharing, streaming, and a number of other platforms outside of Android. Its Onion over VPN feature removes the need for a separate Tor browser. Plus, the brand's Double VPN sends your data through two servers instead of one, encrypting your information twice. There are also add-ons available for an extra fee, including a dedicated IP address, password manager, and encrypted cloud storage.

In my speed tests, NordVPN connected quickly and reliably to all the servers we tested, although you'll want to use the smart connect feature for the best performance. But if you're still not 100% sold on choosing NordVPN, you can try it out with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Also: NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which it better for you?

Prices start from $3.99 per month if you purchase two years of service upfront, with a standard month-to-month subscription coming in at $12.99 for basic protection. New users who subscribe to a two-year plan will save up to 59% and also receive three months free.

Pros & Cons
  • Speedy connections
  • Works on Android 5 Lollipop and up
  • Transparent privacy policy
  • APK available
  • Expensive
  • Only five simultaneous connections
More Details

ExpressVPN Android features: Google Play Store rating: 4.3 average, 323K reviews | Simultaneous connections: 5 | Kill switch: Yes | Native app support: Android 5 or higher | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 94 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days, Seven day Android trial

ExpressVPN is a popular VPN service that made my list due to its generally high speeds, expansive server network, and user-friendly app for Android devices.

ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries that are spread across 160 locations, so you can easily find a server to connect to wherever you are. In my testing, I found that ExpressVPN offers stable and consistent speeds.

Review: ExpressVPN

In addition to supporting Android 5 Lollipop and above, ExpressVPN works with a variety of platforms and browser extensions, and an APK is available. Therefore, you should be able to use its app regardless of what devices you own.

ExpressVPN has a clear and easily accessible privacy policy. It doesn't log browsing history or traffic, but it does log the dates you connect to the service, how much data is transferred, and the location of the VPN.

At the time of writing, subscription costs begin at $6.67 per month if you buy a year of service upfront. As a bonus, ExpressVPN will also give you three months for free, added to the end of the contract term. Alternatively, you could pay $9.99 per month for six months of access or $12.95 on a month-to-month basis. A seven-day trial for Android devices is available.

Exclusive offer: Get 3 extra months free

Pros & Cons
  • Unlimited connections
  • Fast connection speed
  • Flexible with a wide range of protocols
  • Stylish UI
  • Steep price increases after subscription ends
More Details

IPVanish VPN Android features: Google Play Store rating: 4.4 average, 46K reviews | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Native app support: Android 5.1 and up | Logging: None, except billing data | Locations: 75 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

IPVanish seems to market itself as a click-and-go VPN service, but it's much more than that. In terms of performance, IPVanish excels with fast connection speeds and solid transfers.

A bonus of this VPN is its stylish user interface in the app, which not only looks good but is also extremely easy to navigate. A recent improvement has been made to the app's VPN status indicator to display the connection status from different screens.

Review: IPVanish

IPVanish also features a variety of protocols and server options, and there are extensive options for configuring the app itself. Overall, IPVanish delivers a solid user experience and VPN service compared to many other options on the market.

If you commit to two years, IPVanish offers a discounted plan for $3.33 per month. This increases to $4.50 per month for a yearly plan and $11.99 for a month-to-month subscription. Once your deal ends, you should keep an eye on the price hike unless you've chosen to turn off automatic renewal.

Pros & Cons
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Variety of useful features
  • Fast connection times
  • Average download speeds
More Details

Surfshark VPN Android features: Google Play Store rating: 4.3 average, 72.7K reviews | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Native app support: Android 5 or higher | Logging: None, except billing data | Money-back guarantee: 30 days, seven-day Android trial

Surfshark is the best option if you want a cheap Android VPN that will keep your mobile data secure and mask your activities.

In our speed testing, we found Surfshark's performance to be average. It cut download speeds, but the connection times were fast.

The VPN also has what it calls MultiHop, a double VPN feature that creates a more secure connection by routing you through two VPNs. Additional complimentary tools include ad-blocking, anti-tracking, and split tunneling. At present, Surfshark provides 3,200 servers in 100 countries.

ReviewSurfshark VPN

There is also a whitelist function that allows apps and devices to bypass the VPN on your Android device.

Currently, Surfshark is running a sale on the two-year subscription plan. Reduced from $12.95 per month (the typical one-month subscription fee), the VPN will only cost you $2.30 per month, plus two free months. Alternatively, you can sign up for a year and pay $3.99 each month. A seven-day trial is available for Android devices.

Exclusive offer: Get 2 free months

What is the best Android VPN?

NordVPN is my top pick. It offers capabilities beyond basic VPN services with a high level of security and popularity. Overall, it's a solid choice, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, it's worth a try.

Android VPNPriceSimultaneous connectionsKill switchNative app supportLoggingCountriesMoney-back guaranteeGoogle Play Store rating
NordVPNStarts at $3.99/month6YesAndroid 6 or higherNone, except billing data6030 days4.5/5
ExpressVPNStarts at $6.67/month5YesAndroid 5 or higherNo browsing logs, some connection logs9430 days, 7-day free trial4.3/5
IPVanishStarts at $3.33/monthUnlimitedYesAndroid 5.1 and upNone, except billing data7530 days4.4/5
Surfshark VPNStarts at $2.30/monthUnlimitedYesAndroid 5 or higherNone, except billing data10030 days, 7-day free trial4.3/5

Note: The information presented in this table is accurate as of our last publish date, and prices, ratings, and other details may have changed since then. 

Which is the right Android VPN for you?

When you're deciding which VPN service is the right one for you, personal preference can be just as important as objective performance. Since these VPNs each have a 30-day money-back guarantee, your best bet is to try one out and see if you like it.

Choose this Android VPN...If you want...
NordVPNA do-it-all secure VPN. NordVPN is a versatile and reliable VPN service that offers high-speed connections and advanced security features for protecting your online privacy.
ExpressVPNA user-friendly, simple app. ExpressVPN is known for its easy-to-use interface and simple, user-friendly app that allows you to connect quickly and easily to servers around the world.
SurfsharkTo pay less. Surfshark is an affordable VPN option that provides a range of useful features, including unlimited simultaneous connections, ad-blocking, anti-tracking, and split tunneling.
IPVanishA plug-and-play (PnP) service. IPVanish is a plug-and-play VPN service that is designed to be easy to set up and use, with unlimited connections and fast connection speeds for streaming and downloading.

How did we choose these Android VPNs?

I analyzed the best VPNs for Android using the most important criteria to help you make an informed decision, including:

  • Kill switch: This feature automatically cuts your internet connection if your VPN connection drops. 
  • Price and refund policy: How much does the service cost, and how long is the money-back guarantee period?
  • Countries: Having more servers is better, but server locations also matter. Does the VPN have servers in countries you want to connect through?
  • Simultaneous connections: You'll want to use a single VPN subscription for all of your devices. 
  • Platforms: Most VPNs have native apps for the most popular operating systems, but make sure your VPN is compatible with your devices.
  • Logging: VPN providers maintain data logs, which could put your privacy at risk. Does the VPN provider log your traffic or just log critical billing info?

I also kept in mind the reputation, customer reviews, and security history of VPN organizations. I have considered different use cases, affordability, user-friendliness, the servers and countries on offer, and more in my review.

What is an Android VPN service?

An Android VPN service is a virtual private network service that encrypts your internet traffic, hides your IP address, and provides you with an anonymous and secure connection while using your Android device. These may include smartphones and tablets manufactured by companies including Google, Samsung, and Motorola.

Will these VPNs work on all Android devices?

Probably not. Many Android-based devices are not updated to the latest Android releases and have no update path. Some vendors even ship brand-new devices running older (and far more vulnerable) versions of Android. 

However, these VPNs support Android OS as far back as versions 5 and 6. Chances are that most people are running a version that's fully supported by a native VPN app, especially if they keep their smartphones and tablets up-to-date (which is recommended as a best practice for security and privacy). 

Some providers may even support older versions of Android with a manual installation. You may need to connect with customer service to find out which older versions are supported and get step-by-step instructions on installation. 

What's the difference between antivirus or anti-malware software and VPN software?

While these technologies are intended to protect you and your device, they protect different aspects of your usage. VPNs fundamentally protect data in motion, which is sent to and from the internet. VPN protection is generally provided by encryption, so hackers can't spy on the data while it moves. However, some organizations will also bolt on malware scanners, data breach monitors, and more. 

Anti-malware software protects against the execution of malicious software on your device. Those apps scan data, monitor running software processes and downloads, and may intercept suspicious activities while they're running. Regarding mobile devices, this may also include checking permissions and ensuring apps don't have more control over your device than they need.

Is there a free VPN for Android?

Although we do not typically recommend free VPN services due to their lack of reliability and low-quality performance, several free VPNs for Android are supported by premium paid subscriptions. 

These free services are sometimes offered by reputable VPNs like Atlas and Hotspot Shield and are generally safe to use. However, they usually have severe data or performance limits, making them useful only as a way to test out the full service. One exception to this is Proton VPN's free service, which has no data caps or speed restrictions. 

Outside of a free Proton VPN account, there are very few practical applications for free VPNs. And in the worse case scenarios, you could be putting your data at risk because less reputable free VPN services could be selling your information for a profit.

How to set up an Android VPN

Getting a VPN up and running on your Android device is fairly straightforward. Once you've chosen the VPN you want to install, go to the Google Play Store and search for it. In most cases, you'll be able to download the VPN app directly from the Google Play Store, but you may have to download it from the VPN provider's site. (If this is the case, please make sure you trust the vendor and domain.)

After the app is downloaded, you can open it and log in to the service with your username/email and password you created when you subscribed.

In rare cases, you may have to manually set up a VPN service on your device. Most VPN providers have extensive FAQ sections on their sites with details on how to complete a manual setup. It's best to reference those instructions for the specific VPN you're using and to contact support if you have any issues.

Why do I even need a VPN on my Android phone?

Most people's phone data runs through a local carrier, which is moderately difficult for hackers to intercept. Generally, you're reasonably safe if you're using your carrier's LTE or 5G connection. But carriers have data caps and data carriage fees that can get expensive. Even if you have an unlimited data plan, carriers might charge you for hotspot use.

To avoid extra costs, you can use local Wi-Fi that coffee shops, airport lounges, hotels, and schools often offer to the public for free. Unfortunately, that Wi-Fi is often open and easy to intercept. Having a VPN on your Android phone can protect your data when accessing the internet through one of these hotspots. In fact, I recommend never accessing the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot without an active VPN.

Furthermore, you may want to consider using a VPN to remain secure and to be able to pick your preferred location if you are using your Android device to stream content. 

What is the best way to run a VPN on my Chromebook?

If you want to run a top VPN on your Chromebook, your best bet is to install an Android VPN client to do the heavy lifting. ZDNET experts discuss that in-depth in our guide to the best VPN for Chrome and Chromebooks in 2023.

Are Android VPN services legal?

Yes, Android VPN services are legal, but the legality of using VPNs varies from country to country, and it is important to check the laws of your location before using a VPN.

Are there alternate VPNs for Android to consider?

There are several other Android VPNs you can consider outside of this list. While it isn't possible to highlight every worthy offering on the market, here are a few more of my favorites:



Atlas VPN - Cheap and reliable, 83% off

A free VPN that offers unlimited data usage and fast connection speeds.

View at Atlas VPN


Hotspot Shield VPN - Free 7-day trial

A fast and reliable VPN service that offers military-grade encryption, protection against malware, and access to geo-restricted content.

View at Hotspot Shield


Proton VPN - Free or paid subscriptions

End-to-end encryption, strong privacy policies, and a range of advanced security features.

View at ProtonVPN
Editorial standards