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DroidVPN review

An unusual Android VPN from the Philippines

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Image credit: DroidVPN
(Image: © Image credit: DroidVPN)

Our Verdict

The Android app isn't bad, but the rest of the service is an unprofessional mess, and it feels like DroidVPN no longer cares. Use it as a basic free VPN, if you like, but don't give them your money.

For

  • Limited free plan
  • Bitcoin accepted
  • Fair speeds (when you can connect)
  • Configurable Android app

Against

  • Tiny, unreliable network
  • Frequent connection issues
  • Poor Windows client
  • Feeble website

Founded back in 2011, DroidVPN is a small and simple VPN for Android and – theoretically – Windows.

The service website says virtually nothing about DroidVPN's features, and apparently hasn't been updated in months. The latest highlighted blog post was almost two years old, for instance. An app 'Release Log' link was broken, and one largely empty website column contained only the words 'Sponsored links.' If a company can't maintain its own website, would you trust it with your privacy?

Read more: Privatise Business VPN

We had to find our way to the Server Status page to discover DroidVPN's locations. There were only 28 in total, including 8 free, then 7 in the US, 5 in the Netherlands, 4 in the UK, and more in France, Singapore, Japan and Australia. P2P is supported on the Netherlands servers, but blocked everywhere else.

This was already a very small network, but it gets worse: 7 servers were marked as offline. 

Curious about protocol support? We were, too. Digging down to an old blog post revealed that DroidVPN uses its own proprietary VPN protocol. Worryingly, there's no information on how this works or what level of protection it gives you.

We found a few (mostly disappointing) details. You can connect only one device to the service at a time, for instance. Other VPNs typically allow up to five.

The service has a free plan available, but it limits you to locations in the US and Netherlands, and by default allows you only 200MB of data transfer a day. Fortunately, there are ways to extend this. You can activate an extra 100MB from your control panel, and earn more bandwidth by watching videos or completing offers (install and play a game, make an in-app purchase, and so on).

Upgrading to the paid Premium service gives you unlimited bandwidth and access to all servers. The monthly plan costs $4.99, while paying for a year up front cuts the price to $2.99. That's a lot for a service with barely any features, and if you're willing to pay for a two- or three-year subscription, you can sign up for excellent providers like CyberGhost and NordVPN for under $3 a month.

Handing over your cash could be a challenge, as there's no card option available. But support for Bitcoin will appeal to many, and PayPal and Perfect Money are available for everybody else.

Privacy

DroidVPN's privacy policy is relatively short and tries to avoid complicated legal language, which works for us.

The content isn't so great, with the company stating that it logs "IP addresses, times when connected to our service, the total amount of data transferred, and transfer speed information."

DroidVPN goes on to say that if you're in violation of its terms and service, "we will use these trace logs to determine which account is in violation. After lengthy analysis of this data, we will terminate the service and/or take further action."

While the most privacy-conscious VPN providers say an internet action can't be connect to a specific account, DroidVPN says it has enough logging to make this possible, at least in some situations. That won't matter for simple tasks, but it's bad news if you're looking for real anonymity.

Apps

DroidVPN's Windows client is quite basic and entirely text-based (Image credit: DroidVPN) (Image credit: Image credit: DroidVPN)

Apps

DroidVPN's Windows client arrives as a tiny 1.2MB ZIP file with no installation required, a very unusual touch, which could allow you to run it from a USB stick on any convenient PC.

This looked interesting until we launched the client, and saw how basic it was. A messy interface uses up most of its screen real estate with a highly technical connection log. Locations appear in a simple text menu. There's no kill switch to protect you if the connection drops, and you don't get any control over DNS options and settings.

The client did at least look easy enough to use: choose a server, enter the username and password you created earlier, and click Start. Sometimes this worked, too, but the client would regularly fail to get through the connection process, and we found the free version often warned that its servers were full.

Looking for more information, we tapped Support on the menu, only to get the less than helpful message that the ‘feature is currently unavailable’. To make it worse, the client has been displaying that error for at least 16 months, yet more evidence that DroidVPN isn't making much effort to improve or even maintain its service, at least on the Windows side.

The Android app looks much more usable, with none of the previous low-level geeky detail. Tapping a Start button gave us a prompt for our username and location, and by default, one more tap should have got us connected. But that's where we ran into the connection problems again: sometimes DroidVPN worked, sometimes it didn't, and the app was frustrating to use.

The app's highlight is the stack of geek-level tweaking available in the Settings page. You can set local and remote ports, define the HTTP headers sent (if any) with TCP connections, set MTU size, configure a proxy, even load and apply settings from an existing file (ECF/DCF).

There are other thoughtful touches that everyone might appreciate. In particular, the app can prevent your CPU or wireless sleeping to reduce the chance of disconnecting the VPN. These options will cut your battery life, but you can turn them off, and it's good to know they're available if you need them.

Performance

We test the performance of every VPN we review using OpenSpeedTest (Image credit: OpenSpeedTest)

Performance

Our performance tests showed fair results. The free service managed 10-14Mbps on average, enough for simple tasks. The commercial service maxed out at 30Mbps for UK to UK connections, reached a usable 20-24Mbps with US servers, and even the Singapore server managed a peak of around 18Mbps.

DroidVPN showed limited site unblocking powers, with the service allowing us to access US-only YouTube and BBC iPlayer, but failing to get us in to US Netflix.

The review ended on a more positive note, with our final privacy tests finding that DroidVPN allocated IP addresses in our requested locations, correctly blocked DNS leaks, and shielded our online activities from potential snoopers.

Final verdict

DroidVPN's useless website, poorly designed Windows app and frequent connection issues leave the company looking like amateurs, totally outclassed by the big competition. Don't waste your time, you'll be better off almost anywhere else.