, Best Android VPN 2021: Our top four, The Cyber Post

Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash

One of the things most interesting about the Android OS is the wide variety of devices it’s available in. Sure, there are Android phones and tablets. But Android also functions inside most recent Chromebooks and now — improbably, but in a fully supported way — Windows 11 devices, even Intel-based Windows 11 computers.

That diversity of deployment makes the Android implementations of VPN clients particularly interesting. If, for example, you want to run a VPN on your Chromebook, your best bet is to install an Android VPN client and let that client do all the heavy lifting. We discussed that in-depth in our Best VPN for Chrome and Chromebooks 2021 guide.

Unfortunately, the more open environment of Android means that there are many different implementations, versions aren’t regularly updated, and as this interesting piece by the NordVPN folks shows, malware is more prevalent. That makes inherent malware scanning within the VPN client particularly helpful.

In this overview, we look at four of the most popular Android VPNs. Here’s what we think:


4.3 Google Play Store average, 446K ratings


, Best Android VPN 2021: Our top four, The Cyber Post

  • Family Sharing: Yes
  • Malware Scanner: Yes
  • Simultaneous Connections: 6
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 59
  • Servers: 5517
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

Also: How does NordVPN work? Plus how to set it up and use it

NordVPN is one of the most popular consumer VPNs out there. Last year, Nord announced that it had been breached. Unfortunately, the breach had been active for more than 18 months. While there were failures at every level, NordVPN has taken substantial efforts to remedy the breach.

Also: My in-depth review of NordVPN

In our review, we liked that it offered capabilities beyond basic VPN, including support of P2P sharing, a service it calls Double VPN that does a second layer of encryption, Onion over VPN which allows for TOR capabilities over its VPN, and even a dedicated IP if you’re trying to run a VPN that also doubles as a server. It supports all the usual platforms and a bunch of home network platforms as well. The company also offers NordVPN Teams, which provides centralized management and billing for a mobile workforce.

Also: My interview with NordVPN management on how they run their service

Performance testing was adequate, although ping speeds were slow enough that I wouldn’t want to play a twitch video game over the VPN. To be fair, most VPNs have pretty terrible ping speeds, so this isn’t a weakness unique to Nord. Overall, a solid choice, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, worth a try.


4.3 Google Play Store average, 220K ratings


, Best Android VPN 2021: Our top four, The Cyber Post

  • Family Sharing: Yes
  • Malware Scanner: No
  • Simultaneous Connections: 5 or unlimited with the router app
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: A whole lot (see the full list here)
  • Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs
  • Countries: 94
  • Locations: 160
  • Trial/MBG: 30 days

ExpressVPN has been burning up the headlines with some pretty rough news. We’ve chosen to leave ExpressVPN in this recommendation, and I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss ExpressVPN out of hand because of these reports, but it’s up to you to gauge your risk level. The best way to do that is read our in-depth analysis:

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers out there, offering a wide range of platforms and protocols. Platforms include Windows, Mac, Linux, routers, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, and even the Nook device. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Plus, ExpressVPN works with PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV, and the Nintendo Switch. There’s even a manual setup option for Chromecast, Roku, and Nvidia Switch.

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With 160 server locations in 94 countries, ExpressVPN has a considerable VPN network across the internet. In CNET’s review of the service, staff writer Rae Hodge reported that ExpressVPN lost less than 2% of performance with the VPN enabled and using the OpenVPN protocol vs. a direct connection.

While the company does not log browsing history or traffic destinations, it does log dates connected to the VPN service, amount transferred, and VPN server location. We do want to give ExpressVPN kudos for making this information very clear and easily accessible.

Exclusive offer: Get 3 extra months free.


4.2 Google Play Store average, 15K ratings


, Best Android VPN 2021: Our top four, The Cyber Post

  • Family Sharing: Yes
  • Malware Scanner: No
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, plus routers, Fire Stick, and Kodi
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Servers: 1,500 
  • Locations: 75
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

IPVanish is a deep and highly configurable product that presents itself as a click-and-go solution. I think the company is selling itself short doing this. A quick visit to its website shows a relatively generic VPN service, but that’s not the whole truth.

Also: My in-depth review of IPVanish

Its UI provides a wide range of server selection options, including some great performance graphics. It also has a wide variety of protocols, so no matter what you’re connecting to, you can know what to expect. The company also provides an excellent server list with good current status information. There’s also a raft of configuration options for the app itself.

In terms of performance, connection speed was crazy fast. Overall transfer performance was good. However, from a security perspective, it wasn’t able to hide that I was connecting via a VPN — although the data transferred was secure. Overall, a solid product with a good user experience that’s fine for home connections as long as you’re not trying to hide the fact that you’re on a VPN.

The company also has a partnership with SugarSync and provides 250GB of encrypted cloud storage with each plan.


4.0 Google Play Store average, 36K ratings


, Best Android VPN 2021: Our top four, The Cyber Post

  • Family Sharing: Yes
  • Malware Scanner: Yes
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

At two bucks a month for a two-year plan (billed in one chunk), Surfshark offers a good price for a solid offering. In CNET’s testing, no leaks were found (and given that much bigger names leaked connection information, that’s a big win). The company seems to have a very strong security focus, offering AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, and Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption. To prevent WebRTC leaks, Surfshark offers a special purpose browser plugin designed specifically to combat those leaks.

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Surfshark’s performance was higher than NordVPN and Norton Secure VPN, but lower than ExpressVPN and IPVanish. That said, Surfshark also offers a multihop option that allows you to route connections through two VPN servers across the Surfshark private network. We also like that the company offers some inexpensive add-on features, including ad-blocking, anti-tracking, access to a non-logging search engine, and a tool that tracks your email address against data breach lists.

Will these apps work on all Android devices?

Probably not. Unfortunately, many Android-based devices are not updated to the latest Android releases and have no update path. Sadly, some vendors even ship brand-new devices running older (and far more vulnerable) versions of Android. Generally, VPN vendors make sure their clients run on the most recent and a few previous versions of Android, but since there are still a tremendous number of devices in service running very out-of-date Android, it’s unlikely those will be able to run these apps. That’s why it’s good to take advantage of the money-back offerings and test your download shortly after purchase.

What’s the difference between anti-malware software and VPN software?

While both technologies are intended to protect you and your device, they protect different aspects of your usage. VPNs fundamentally protect data-in-motion, that is the data being sent to and from the internet. The protection they generally offer is encryption, so hackers can spy on the data while it moves. Anti-malware software protects against execution of bad software on your device. Those apps often scan inside the data as it comes into your machine, look at the apps on your machine, and intercept the actions of apps while they’re running on your machine.

As an analogy, think of VPN software as an armored car moving a payload from one location to another in safety. Think of anti-malware as building inspectors constantly looking at your building’s infrastructure to see if there’s any, say, mold and as gatekeepers, checking everything that passes through to make sure it’s not harmful.

Why do I even need a VPN on my phone?

This question is often asked by people who know their phone’s data runs through their local carrier, which is moderately hard for hackers to intercept. And, generally, if you’re using your carrier’s LTE or 5G connection, you’re reasonably safe. But carriers have data caps and data carriage fees that can get expensive. Even if you have an unlimited data plan, carriers charge for hotspot use (ask me how I know, or how much that pisses me off). The way around that is to use whatever local Wi-Fi is available. Many coffee shops, airport lounges, hotels, and schools offer free Wi-Fi access. Unfortunately, that Wi-Fi is often open and easy to intercept. A big (and very important) use of VPNs on phones is to protect your data when you’re accessing the internet through one of these hotspots. In fact, I’d go so far as to say never, ever access the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot without an active VPN on your device.


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