How to set up and install a VPN on Android

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How to set up and install a VPN on Android: Android smartphones and tablets come with built-in support for a VPN, but the process of configuring and getting connected is a tiresome pain. On top of that, the protocols available do not include OpenVPN, which is universally regarded as more secure and open than PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.

So rather than opting for manually setting up a VPN with your Android phone, we recommend subscribing to a VPN provider with dedicated VPN apps for Android. Instead of inputting server domains and pre-shared keys, all you need to do is install the app, log in, choose a server, and hit connect.

Connecting to a VPN server, whether that’s with your Sony smartphone, Samsung Galaxy tablet, or any other Android device, in the appropriate location can mask your IP address and help you unblock geo-locked content like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It can also prevent your ISP and mobile carrier from monitoring your online activities. It’s always a good idea to connect your Android device to a VPN server when on a public wi-fi network to stop hackers from snooping on your online activity.

The best VPNs for Android devices

Of course, not all VPN providers offer the same service. To make our list as a best Android VPN, services need to meet the following criteria:

  • Stable, lightweight, easy-to-use Android VPN apps
  • OpenVPN protocol support
  • No ad injection, tracking, or other privacy incursions
  • Allows multiple devices to be connected simultaneously
  • Bonus points if P2P allowed and kill switch is built-in
  • Fast speeds, suitable for streaming

Best VPN for Android

There are many choices when it comes to VPNs with Android apps. We’ve narrowed the field down five that make our list of the best VPNs for Android.

1. NordVPN

VPN
NordVPN
Location
Panama
Servers
5,800+ in 59 Countries
Price
3.71$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Double encryption for added security
  • Automatic kill switch
  • A variety of platform support
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3-Day free trial
Get 68% off NordVPN (drops the price down to $3.71 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

2. ExpressVPN

VPN
ExpressVPN
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
3,000+ in 94 Countries
Price
8.32$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Unlimited Bandwidth with Ultra Speed
  • Provides all VPN protocols OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP
  • Dedicated VPN Apps for Android & iOS
  • High-End Security with OpenVPN 256-bits
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3 simultaneous connections
Get 35% off ExpressVPN (drops the price down to $8.32 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the ExpressVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

3. Surfshark

VPN
Surfshark
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
1,700+ in 63+ Countries
Price
2.49$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • AES 256-Bit Network Encryption
  • Chrome Extension Available
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • A variety of platform support
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
Get 81% off Surfshark (drops the price down to $2.49 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.)

4. CyberGhost

VPN
CybberGhostVPN
Location
Bucharest, Romania
Servers
6,200+ in 87+ Countries
Price
2.75$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
45 days
  • Uses AES 256 Encryption
  • Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP
  • DNS & IP Leak Protection
  • Uses 2048 Key & MD5 Authentication
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Up to 7 Simultaneous Connections
Get 79% off CybberGhostVPN (drops the price down to $2.75 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the CybberGhostVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

5. Private Internet Access

VPN
Private Internet Access
Location
United States
Servers
3,320+ in 30+ Countries
Price
2.85$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
7 days
  • Offers all Protocols PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec including SOCKS5 Proxy
  • IPv6 Leak Protection & DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • Encrypted Wi-Fi Protection
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 10 simultaneous connections
Get 71% off PIA (drops the price down to $2.85 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the PIA review for more test results and analysis.)

How to set up And Install a VPN on Android

Setting up a VPN is a simple process once you have settled on an appropriate VPN provider. Follow our step-by-step instructions below.

Here’s how to set up and install a VPN on Android:

  1. Settle on a VPN provider from the list above. We recommend NordVPN.
  2. Download the VPN app on the Google Play Store (we’ll explain how to get around using the Play Store below).
  3. Choose an appropriate server (for accessing blocked content abroad, select a server in a country where the content isn’t blocked)
  4. You are now connected through a VPN! If you’re still having trouble loading content from abroad, try clearing your cookies and refreshing the webpage.

No Google Play? Try the APK

If you’re using an Android device without Google Play, finding the app for your VPN can be a pain. Uncertified devices, such as some Kindle Fire HD tablets and smartphones bought in China, for example, can’t install Google services, including the Play Store.

The alternative is to download the APK file for the app and install it manually. To do that, you’ll first need to change your phone settings to allow apps from third-party developers. The exact steps will vary slightly depending on your version and fork of Android, but below are the necessary steps for Android 4.0 and later.

Here’s how to install a VPN on Android without Google Play:

  1. Go to Settings > Security (‘Device’ in Kindle Fire)
  2. Scroll down to “Unknown sources” and toggle it on
  3. Confirm if necessary

Next, find the APK file for the VPN app. Hopefully, you can get this directly from your VPN provider’s website with a bit of searching. Ask customer support if you can’t find it.

Alternatively, you can download the APK from a third-party site. There are a ton of APK hosting sites out there with pretty much every app you can imagine. Just Google ” APK” and it should pop up. Be warned, however, that these are not official downloads from the company and thus could contain malware or be outdated. If they are available, always read reviews, run a virus scan on the file once it’s downloaded, and double-check the version. If it looks shady, do not install it.

Once you have downloaded the file, just click on it, and Android will ask you if you trust the app. Confirm and let Android do the rest. It should install just like a regular app!

Set up a VPN on Android without an app

As a last resort, you can configure an L2TP/IPSec connection manually in your Android phone settings. We recommend avoiding PPTP, the other built-in protocol available, as it has known security vulnerabilities.

Here’s how to manually set up a VPN on Android 9:

  1. Go to Settings > Network and Internet > Advanced > VPN
  2. Click on the + sign in the top right corner.
  3. Enter your VPN profile details according to your VPN provider
  4. Click Save
  5. Click on the profile you just created to connect. A key icon in the notification bar indicates you are connected to the VPN.

On older Android versions, VPN settings might be under Settings > More > VPN.

While this works, dedicated VPN apps like those we recommend above offer far greater security and a much less tedious setup.

OpenVPN for Android

Not all VPN providers have their own apps, or maybe you can’t find/don’t trust a third-party APK file. Another option is to use an open-source VPN app. We highly recommend OpenVPN for Android over OpenVPN Connect and the other clients out there. It’s easier to use and works with a broader range of configurations. Conversely, if you made your own OpenVPN server, this is a great app to use to connect to it.

Here’s how to setup OpenVPN on Android:

  1. Download the OpenVPN config file (extension .conf or .ovpn) from your VPN provider’s website.
  2. Download and install OpenVPN for Android
  3. Run the app and click the plus sign at the top right to add a VPN profile.
  4. You will probably want to import an existing config file rather than set up your own, so choose the “import” option.
  5. Find it, select it, and you should be set to go.

Conclusion

Most VPN services work very well on Android. Simply install the right app from the App Store or Play Store, log into your VPN account, and you are ready to go. Does your VPN service provider not have its own Android app? Then you could always install the VPN through your Android settings or to set it up on your (virtual) router. If you are looking for an excellent VPN to use on Android, we recommend NordVPN.

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