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How to set up an Android VPN

How to set up an Android VPN
(Image credit: Google)

An Android VPN app is part and parcel of pretty much every one of the best VPN services nowadays, so you can connect to the internet using your phone and retain complete privacy. When you’re out and about, you’ll often be using public Wi-Fi, so you want all your internet traffic to be encrypted, and VPNs can also be used to watch geo-blocked streaming services and help you remain anonymous when you post online.

In this article, we’ll show you how to set up a VPN on your Android device using one of our preferred providers, ExpressVPN. Don’t worry if you’ve gone with another provider, though – the setup process will be largely the same for any of the top VPNs available today.

How to set up your Android VPN

1. There are many copycat VPN applications on the Google Play Store that try to fool unsuspecting users into installing the incorrect app, so begin by heading directly to the provider’s website instead. This way, you’ll be sure to get the genuine Android app.

2. You’ll typically need to create an account with the VPN provider before you can use its app on Android. In ExpressVPN’s case, you begin by choosing ‘Get Started’. You’ll be presented with three plans: a one-month plan, a six-month plan, and a 12-month plan. 

Choose your preferred option, and enter your email address in the form field. If you choose to sign up to ExpressVPN, Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months free on an annual plan.

3. You’ll be asked for your preferred method of payment: credit card, PayPal, or Bitcoin – or perhaps another method. ExpressVPN offers a 30-day, no-risk, money-back guarantee on any plan and any payment method.

ExpressVPN also accepts payments through Paymentwall, so you can use Alipay or UnionPay, for instance. Complete the sign-up for your VPN service on your preferred gateway’s website.

4. You’ll receive an email from ExpressVPN once you’re signed up. Open the email on your Android device, and tap on ‘Set Up ExpressVPN’. Sign into ExpressVPN using the email address and password that you used to create the account. 

Scroll to 'Set up Your Devices' and press Android. This will take you to the Downloads page.

5. On the Downloads page, choose ‘Get it on Google Play’. You’ll be sent to the correct app on the Google Play store. Press Install.

If you can’t access the Google Play Store for any reason, you can instead choose ‘Download APK’ and follow the instructions on how to download the VPN app directly from ExpressVPN. We strongly recommend only using these two methods, and do not download the app from third-party sources – these third-party downloads can contain malware, even if they do provide a working app.

6. Once it’s finished installing, open the VPN app on your phone and choose ‘Sign In’. On the next page, enter the email address and password that you used when signing up and tap ‘Sign In’. ExpressVPN will ask whether you would like to share crash reports and speed tests for service improvement purposes. If you don’t feel like doing your civic duty, it’s fine to select ‘No Thanks’.

The first time that you sign in, you’ll be asked to allow ExpressVPN to set up a VPN connection. Simply select OK to continue.

7. That’s it! Now that you’ve set up your VPN, you can select a location to connect to from the list. ExpressVPN defaults to a Smart Location, which is the closest/fastest VPN server available. 

Hit the on/off button and the VPN will connect. While connected, all your internet traffic will be routed through the VPN server, and everything that you send back and forth will be encrypted. You’re now free to surf the web in privacy on your Android device.

What's the best VPN for my Android device?

ExpressVPN is the best Android VPN available. While the above steps are similar for pretty much all VPNs, we've used ExpressVPN as our example because we think it's the best VPN available for Android devices. With 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, it's got a huge network, and it delivers great speeds all over.

It's verified no-logging, has intuitive apps for all devices, plus 24/7 live chat support for the unlikely situation that anything goes awry. You'll get a 30-day money-back guarantee to test it out, and Tom's Guide readers can claim three months free on an annual plan. What's not to like?View Deal