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Are free Android VPN apps worth downloading?

VPNs on Google Play Store
(Image credit: senengmotret / Shutterstock.com)

The use of VPNs has skyrocketed in 2020, as both businesses and individuals have found the need to perform more duties from home - and naturally this has included Android devices en masse, too.

A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your phone or tablet and the websites you visit. With a good Android VPN, your online transactions are safe from prying eyes, you can torrent files anonymously, and you can access geo-blocked streaming content from anywhere in the world. 

But take a quick look at the Play Store and you'll soon discover that there's a proliferation of free Android apps all promising protection and extra functiinality. But are these free Android VPN apps worth downloading, or do you need a paid VPN solution?

Free Android VPNs have limitations

Most major VPN providers offer free services hoping you’ll later upgrade to a paid version. Corners are usually cut on a free VPN, so expect some combination of slow speeds, stingy data transfer limits, and missing features.

Some other free Android VPNs track your online activity so advertisers can better target you with marketing. Using such a VPN seems counter-intuitive, as a VPN’s main role is to keep you anonymous online. Other free providers bombard you with ads.

Another problem with free Android VPNs is they rarely allow you to watch geo-blocked content on sites like Netflix. Even if they work temporarily, the speeds are frustratingly slow or the data limits are too miserly for you to watch much content.

Still, if you’re conscious of these limitations, a free Android VPN can come in handy from time to time.

What are the best free Android VPNs?

Overall, we rate Hotspot Shield Free VPN as the best operator in this category. It offers a healthy 500MB of data per day, military-grade encryption and great ease-of-use. 

However, with Hotspot Shield you need to sign up for a seven-day trial of the premium version before you can even access the free version. If you’re squeamish about handing over your credit card details, you might prefer TunnelBear. Its Android app is cute and speeds are great, but the free plan has a measly 500 MB traffic limit each month.

For a free Android VPN with no data limits, you could choose ProtonVPN Free. The downsides are that you can only use the free service on one device and you have a choice of only three servers to connect to. You also get a slower speed than with the premium service.

 Are free Android VPN apps worth downloading?

Free Android VPNs can be useful if you occasionally need a VPN on your phone. Unfortunately, they’re too limited for much more than that. The best paid VPNs for Android can cost less than $2 per month and give you unlimited bandwidth, industry-leading security, and much faster speeds than free Android VPNs.

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Richard Sutherland

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.