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What is an Android VPN?

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An Android VPN is a software tool that can be installed on your Android device (smartphone, tablet, or Chromebook) which can be used to help obfuscate, hide, or encrypt your traffic online. The reasons for wanting this level of protection are myriad (and we’ll be getting into them shortly), but for the purposes of this paragraph all you need to know is that more security = good, and less = bad.

Android VPNs are often just as feature-rich and flexible as their Windows or Mac-based counterparts, and can be configured in hundreds of different ways to ensure that you get the best level of protection that’s suited to your browsing style and your needs that may change on a day-to-day basis.

Android VPNs are able to encrypt the traffic that travels to and from your device both on the cellular and WiFi networks, meaning that you’ll never go a moment without having an extra shield of encryption ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

This encryption is handled through any one of six different protocols: IPSec, PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, IKEv2, or Chameleon. We’ll get into a more detailed explanation of how these protocols work - as well as which are the best to use on the Android platform - a bit more later on in this guide.

Why use an Android VPN?

To start, we should preface this section by getting the obvious bit out of the way first: yes, Android is absolutely packed with security flaws that no amount of VPN software could reasonably asked to protect in the wrong user’s hands.

Not only is the platform itself responsible for over 96% of all mobile malware in circulation today according to the most recent annual roundup report from, it’s also had a very tumultuous relationship with VPN providers themselves. Turns out that when an independent study from UC Berkeley set out to evaluate 238 different VPN operators in the Google Play market, the results they got back showed that an uncomfortable number of these services were doing everything from selling user data off for 3rd-party marketers to actually installing their own viruses under the guise of fake network protection scams.

The statistics of the study are enough to make anyone take a second of pause and reevaluate their choices regarding mobile security. Of the free VPNs tested it was found that a staggering 84% of them leaked user data in one fashion or another, while nearly half, 38%, contained one form of malware or another. 18% didn’t even encrypt data at all, which just goes to show how scary it can be to find a VPN provider on Android that can be fully trusted with the data you’ve decided to hand over.

Below are just a few of the worst offenders deemed by the researchers:


The report even found that 16% of the VPNs surveyed weren’t even hosting the exit nodes they promised on their network. How did they route traffic then, you might ask? Well through other user’s devices of course.

Worst of all is that this study only covered free apps due to cost constraints, as well as apps that offered free versions with the option to upgrade. This means that there could also be just as large of a number of paid apps doing the same thing, however until a more extensive study is funded we’ll be left wondering

The point to all of this is that of all the major operating systems, it’s clear that Android has the biggest “trust” problem (and it’s a first place finish by a very wide margin). Android has the worst malware, the worst firewalls, and the worst VPN apps - but there’s no reason why it has to stay that way.

The key word there however is the “wrong user”, and by reading our guide here we hope you’ll walk away with a greater knowledge and understanding of exactly what kind of protection you should expect from a VPN on your Android device.

We’ve exhaustively tested some of the top VPN providers for every platform, as well as a few that even ranked in the list seen above (*cough* Betternet). We’ve evaluated the reputation of every provider recommended in this list to ensure that you’re only routing your data through the most respectable companies, because if there’s anything that the state of Android security has taught the software world it’s that you have to know who you can trust before anything and everything else.

Who needs an Android VPN?

If the statistics above weren’t enough to convince you that everyone who uses the Android operating system should use a VPN, here’s the message once more to drive the point home (but this time in bold): EVERYONE WHO USES ANDROID NEEDS A VPN.

With such a huge number of malware variants that are specifically designed and deployed to attack nearly all of the 1 billion users who call the Android ecosystem home, it’s more than obvious enough that one of the only ways you can be sure that you’re protected on the mobile OS is to employ the services of a well-respected, highly-accredited provider that has the reputation and the application to back their security claims up.

Whether you’re handling sensitive banking information while shopping online or just mindlessly browsing your social media feed on Facebook, every aspect of your digital life will be better secured and protected when you’re using a VPN on your Android device.

What does Android do to protect connections on its own?

Even though Google has dropped almost every proverbial ball when it comes to keeping their open source mobile operating system secure on their own, there are a few different methods the OS uses to try and keep its connections secure without the help of third-party applications.

The first is the internal VPN client, which allows users to create manual VPN connections through the provider of their choosing without having to download any extra apps along the way. This can be done by going to the Settings app, and tapping the link for More under the Wireless & Networks setting option.

Here you’ll be able to configure a PPTP, LT2P, or an IPSec connection, but that’s about it as far as the encryption protocols go so if you want something a bit more modern unfortunately you’re plum out of luck (if you don’t go with the third-party app option, that is).

The second way that Android protects itself from malware, infections, or invasive adware installations is through 3rd-party antivirus applications, which have varying levels of success depending on the service you go with and the type of security you’re trying to get. If you’re not sure which Android antivirus suite can be considered the most trustworthy, we recommend heading over to the most recent results of the top programs hosted at

Overall the options for Android’s own network protection methods are limited and not all that functional for connections in 2019, which is why it’s vital that you find an Android VPN that fits your budget today.

How does an Android VPN work?

An Android VPN works by creating what’s known as an “encrypted tunnel” of information between your device and the VPN provider. This tunnel obfuscates the content of your data stream and prevents anyone from being able to listen in on your activities through the use of malware, viruses, or man-in-the-middle hack attacks.

But how exactly does the whole system work? Well, it all starts with the VPN provider. Once the app of your chosen service is installed and activated on your device, the VPN app will add a layer of encryption to the connection that exists between you and the rest of the internet.

In the case of Android this means taking your cellular or Wi-Fi network and re-routing the traffic that normally travels from your device to the rest of the internet and adding a secondary stop in one of the server locations set up by your VPN provider. This will make it so anyone who might be trying to look at your IP address or to view the content of your traffic stream will only see the VPN server instead.

This obfuscation of your true identity can be helpful for a number of different scenarios. The first is that when you connect through a server that originates in a country other than the one you live in, you might be able to access video or site content that would otherwise be blocked because of geographic restrictions.

The second is that if you’re someone who often finds themselves pushing over their mobile data limit and connects to any public WiFi in range of their device to try and save on bandwidth where you can, you’re more at risk than most from what’s known as a “man-in-the-middle” attack.

Man-in-the-middle attacks happen all the time in public places like popular cafes and major tourist destinations, and can be hugely damaging when it happens to you. Given that 99% of Android users have the operating system installed on some kind of mobile device, this makes them the #1 target for hackers who use this method of attack.

Android VPNs are 100% legal to use in dozens of countries around the world, and around 98% of all nations agree that they’re a basic right which should be afforded to all citizens of the mobile internet.

However there are a few exceptions to this rule. If you want to see an updated list of all the countries and states which currently outlawed, be sure to head on over to our article “Are VPNs Legal in My Country?".

Android VPN Not Working?

Does my carrier allow VPNs?

Currently in the US, Sprint is the only carrier which has a policy regarding the way it treats VPN traffic, and even then it’s not that much of a restriction. On a Sprint-enabled device that’s running a VPN and using it as a mobile hotspot at the same time, the carrier will transfer your traffic over to their slowest 2G network which can often be so slow to the point that it becomes unusable for most modern websites and applications.

The company hasn’t explained why this restriction is in place, but in order to hop back on the full-speed LTE network a user will only need to temporarily disable their mobile hotspot service to get it running at a full clip once more

Android VPN not working?

Android VPNs are generally a reliable way to get yourself connected and encrypted on the web, but sometimes they can have issues getting hooked up properly. These can range from problems with the networking setup to issues with your login, and each have their own solutions which may differ depending on your device and the version of Android you have installed.

With so many different variables per device it wouldn’t be possible for us to go over every technical issue a VPN user might encounter on the platform, but here are a few of the more common troubleshooting tips that can help Android owners when their VPN isn’t functioning as intended.

Complicated setup process

When first setting up your VPN you’ll want to be sure that you’re using all the most updated credentials provided to you by your chosen VPN company, as incorrect logins can be one of the most common problems that Android users run into.

VPN won’t connect

Another common issue Android users have is a VPN that won’t connect to their host server. The actual reasons why a VPN isn’t connecting are about as varied as the number of providers that run on the Android platform (read: over 300), so our best recommendation in this case is to find the customer support page of the provider you’ve chosen and see what their recommendations are to help on this specific OS.

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