Are free Android VPN apps worth using?

Expressvpn App Hero
Expressvpn App Hero (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Demand for virtual private networks has grown exponentially in recent times, particularly as people spend more time using the internet in their homes during lockdown. According to a recent report, the use of the best VPN services experienced an increase of 41% in March, and more than 30% of internet users are now accessing VPNs.

For 72% of American and British VPN users, they have chosen to download free services and many of them are available on the Android operating system. A VPN app provides users with a private network and hides their IP address, allowing them to use the internet anonymously.

By downloading an Android VPN app, you can encrypt your internet data to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, unblock content that isn't available in your country, stop internet service providers from intentionally slowing down your connection, and download torrent files without revealing your identity.

If you search for VPNs on the Google Play Store, you'll see that hundreds are available for Android devices. A large number of these are free to download, but while that may sound tempting, are they actually worth it? Or are you better off paying for a premium VPN service instead?

Use one of the trusted best free VPN apps

Firstly, it's worth noting that there are some really good free VPN services out there. Our choice for the best overall free VPN is ProtonVPN, especailly for the security-minded. It offers unlimited bandwidth on a single device when using the free plan, offers strong encryption, and has a strict no-logging policy

You need nothing more than just an email address to get started with it and there are no ads on the website or any of the clients. It even includes some advanced features like DNS leak protection, alternative routing, and, split tunneling.

Hotspot Shield VPN is another great choice if you're going the free VPN route. It offers a basic version that doesn't cost a penny and provides users with a daily data allowance of 500MB. You can use up to five devices, too.

The caveat with Hotspot Shield VPN is that you can only use one server in the free version, and when using the app, you'll experience advertisements. Other good free VPN services that are available to download on Android include TunnelBear, WindScribe VPN,, Speedify which you can learn more about in our best free VPN post.

There are some advantages to paying for a VPN service each month instead of using a free one. You can opt for one of the best cheap VPN if you are on a budget, and we also have rounded up all the best VPN deals to help save you some money on your new subscription.

When free VPNs are not so good

The reality is that you pay for what you get. While there are some impressive free VPNs out there, they're often limited when it comes to data allowance, available servers, features and the number of devices you can connect. These apps also tend to lag in terms of performance, won't allow you to access major streaming platforms and are full of adverts.

What's also worth taking into account is that many free VPNs may have malicious intents and represent a very real security risk. Some claim to have no-logs policies, but will actually spy on everything you do. Meanwhile, others contain malware that will harvest your personal data and sell it to the highest bidder. Either way, you'll definitely want to read up on the best free VPN apps for Android and ensure you're downloading a legitimate provider.

If you've never used a VPN app before and want to see what they're all about, downloading a free version makes sense. Or perhaps you only need one for specific tasks and won't use it all the time, so paying for a premium app would probably be a waste of money in that context. However, if you intend to use a VPN service more regularly, premium VPNs can be as affordable as $2 monthly.

Avoid giving any personal data

One of the big things about a VPN is that it's designed to help keep your online identity private. If you are signing up for a new VPN service and it's asking questions or wants personal data, you should not be signing up for it (unless it's basic payment stuff). Be sure to question everything, because unfortunately people are using VPN apps to gather data on people until they get caught. Stick with the more well-known options and you should be safe.

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Nicholas Fearn