These are the best VPNs for your Android device

Need a VPN for your Android phone? We’ve chosen six that work great.
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You can’t go wrong with Nord. It’s a well-known and reliable VPN that has 3,000+ servers worldwide and doesn’t track your activity.

I resisted the urge to get a decent VPN for my Android phone for years. Why bother with an extra app just to get online, now that internet connections are ubiquitous? 

Over time, however, the scenarios in which I needed a VPN became more common. I needed to check what this or that site looked like from another geolocation. Or I needed to test an app that wasn’t available in my country. But what finally made me cave in was being unable to watch some of my favorite TV shows while traveling. 

A VPN, or virtual private network, provides an additional layer of privacy when connecting to the internet. It’s like using a private tunnel to browse the web, keeping you safe from prying eyes and enabling you to surf as if you were connecting from a server in a different place. Typically, all you need to do as a user is install the app on your smartphone, start it up, choose a server location, and then you can just continue browsing as usual.

Choosing which VPN provider to go with, however, is both easy and incredibly difficult. There are hundreds to choose from, but it’s very hard to test how reliable they are in different scenarios. So below, you’ll find a list of some VPNs, both free and paid, that are just plain good. 

A word of caution: People use VPNs for various purposes, ranging from accessing a video stream to protecting their privacy from an entity that might be monitoring online communications, including oppressive regimes. Not every VPN offers the same degree of anonymity and the fine print can be important here; if privacy is important to you, carefully read the privacy policy of each service before you use it.

Various VPNs offer versions of their service for Android devices. Here are the best ones that we’ve tried, in no particular order:


Free • Protects your phone from malware • Buit in ad blocker • Determines security level of your Wi-Fi

Not as versatile

The Bottom Line

If you’re a VPN newbie and don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to protect your phone, Opera is for you.

1. Opera

Opera is a free and quality VPN that doesn’t skimp on security.

Even though it’s not as good as some of the paid options out there, I like Opera’s VPN because it’s free and because it has a big, reliable brand behind it (Opera has been making web browsers for two decades). 
And if you just skimmed over that paragraph above, let me repeat the important bit: It’s free. It costs you nothing to try it out, and with Opera‘s reputation, you don’t have to worry about getting your phone infected by malware. The app also offers a built in ad blocker and the ability to determine the security level of the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to. 
Opera won’t give you the amount of versatility you’ll get from paid options, though. There are only five virtual locations to choose from, and torrenting is not supported. 
Get Opera VPN for Android


One of the sturdiest • most reliable VPNs • Fast servers • Can connect six devices • Doesn’t log activities

It’s expensive

The Bottom Line

If you want a VPN that has a fast service and allows you to connect to multiple phones at once, try out NordVPN.

2. NordVPN

You can’t go wrong with Nord. It’s a well-known and reliable VPN that has 3,000+ servers worldwide and doesn’t track your activity.

NordVPN has a reputation for being amongst the sturdiest, most reliable VPNs out there and my experience has confirmed that. Whenever I needed to mimic being in a different geolocation, NordVPN had a server that was fast, and, even more importantly, the server was not on any blacklist. With it, I was able to stream Hulu shows in several European countries without issues. 
NordVPN says it offers over 3,533 servers worldwide. It lets you connect six devices at the same time, and it claims to keep no logs of your activities. 
Unlike Opera, NordVPN isn’t free, but here’s the bad news: It’s very, very hard to find a decent VPN that’s free. NordVPN does have some pretty sweet long-term deals, like a three-year subscription for $99. This might sound like a lot of money out of the gate, but divide it into monthly installments, and it’s just $2.75 per month. 
Check out NordVPN.

Doesn’t log your activity • Offers protection from third-party tracking and malicious sites

The Bottom Line

F-Secure secure can do more than your average VPN. It also acts like an antivirus software that protects users from third-party tracking and malicious sites.

3. F-Secure Freedome VPN

Advanced VPN users will admire F-Secure’s ability to protect them from third-party tracking and malicious sites.

If you’re looking to get a VPN with a premium brand, the one from antivirus software maker F-Secure might fit the bill. Besides allowing you to privately browse the internet without activity logs, F-Secure also offers protection from third-party tracking and malicious sites.
The app’s circular UI is a little odd, but after a while you’ll get used to it, and you’ll find that it does give you a solid overview of what’s happening. The app’s settings don’t offer a lot but the basics are there: You can set up trusted Wi-Fi networks or allow some apps to bypass the VPN altogether.
F-Secure’s paid tiers are a little different to most VPN services. A 49.90 euro ($62.44) one-time payment (this boils down to 4.16 euros or $5.21 per month) will get you 12 months of access with the ability to use it on up to three devices at the same time. If you need support for more devices, the price goes up, with the most expensive tier offering support for seven devices for 6.66 euros ($8.34) per month. 
F-Secure Freedome VPN is available here — and don’t worry, you can download and try out the Android app for five days without paying anything first. 

Unlimited bandwith • No restrictions • Great speeds • Doesn’t log your activity

The Bottom Line

ExpressVPN offers you a little bit of everything, but the one area where it shines is its wide availability. You can access it in 148 cities in 94 countries.

Like essentially all VPNs out there, ExpressVPN promises a ton of servers (more than 1,700), unlimited bandwidth, no restrictions, and great speeds. It also openly advertises the fact that it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, which doesn’t have data-retention laws, meaning the company isn’t required to keep activity or connection logs.
One area where it stands out is the number of available locations, a whopping 148 cities in 94 countries. It also supports a ton of security standards, including 256-bit AES encryption. 
The starting monthly price for ExpressVPN is pretty steep: $12.95 per month. But you can also buy a 15-month subscription for $99.95, which means you’re actually paying $6.67. Not the cheapest option out there, but still OK. And if you’re a cryptocurrency fan, you’ll like the fact that you can pay that in bitcoins. 
Using the app is simple enough: Fire it up and choose a location (you get a recommended location depending on your actual geolocation which should give you good speed), and then surf away. 
Get ExpressVPN for Android here.


Versatile VPN • Unlimited bandwidth

Not easy to use

The Bottom Line

Advanced VPN users will not have to worry about getting into trouble for torrenting while using TorGuard.

First things first: TorGuard has no relation to the Tor anonymizing project or the underlying technology. But it’s still a very versatile VPN for all platforms, including Android, aimed primarily at folks who like to do torrenting without worrying about getting an unwanted letter in the mail telling them to stop. 
The service claims it has more than 3,000 servers in more than 55 countries, effectively giving it unlimited bandwidth (i.e. you don’t have to worry about too many users taxing the system at any one time).
TorGuard is not the most beginner-friendly option out there; in fact, the first thing it’ll ask you after you fire it up is to choose between a variety of security protocols that most people don’t know much about. Still, once you’ve clicked on those and connected to a server, you’ll be fine. 
The pricing starts at $9.99 per month but that can be lower if you pay on a quarterly, semi-annual, annual or a biennial basis. Bitcoin as well as Litecoin are accepted as payment. 
Get TorGuard here. Use the code “MASHABLE” to get 50% off your plan of choice. 


Simple • Fun animation • Friendly user-interface

Only get 500MB for free

The Bottom Line

TunnelBear makes using a VPN less intimidating through its animated user-interface.

6. TunnelBear

This VPN offers a simple and fun user-interface that’ll show your connection through cute animations.

TunnelBear’s main selling point is simplicity and ease of use, and it delivers. After downloading the app, all you need to do is create an account (only your email address and password is needed), confirm the registration via email, and you’re good to go. The animation of a bear actually tunneling from one place to another is pretty great, too. 
The app is free, but it only gets you a monthly 500MB, which will be enough for a little bit of work but definitely won’t do for video streaming. If you want more, you can get a paid account with unlimited data. The two tiers — Giant and Grizzly — offer the same deal, but the former will cost you $9.99 monthly while the latter is paid on a yearly basis for $49.88 (which works out to a monthly price of $4.16).
TunnelBear is available for download here.

TunnelBear isn't just a cute interface.

TunnelBear isn’t just a cute interface.

Image: TunnelBear

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Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi tap Google to power in-car systems


Nissan

This week, the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, the world’s largest maker of cars, signed a deal with Alphabet’s Google to be able to use Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Android OS in its vehicles. The new systems will debut starting in 2021.

“Our ambition is to offer the same customer experience inside the car as on a mobile phone,” Hadi Zablit, the head of business development at the Alliance, told The Financial Times. “It is becoming an important feature when people choose their cars. It’s a competitive advantage.”

Anyone who has struggled with a sluggish or difficult head unit display in a car will likely agree. Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal points out, Consumer Reports downgrades its picks if in-dash electronics are frustrating or don’t measure up. It’s a crucial part of the driving experience, especially as more and more systems are controlled through the head unit. The ability to use Google Maps and operate climate control and more with your voice using Google Assistant definitely will provide an edge over other car makers.

With a few exceptions, such as Tesla, manufacturer’s navigation and other software often leaves much to be desired. However, it also provides valuable customer data, so many auto companies are hesitant to take advantage of Google’s Android Auto and rival Apple’s CarPlay. This new agreement could help these third-party software options become more standard in cars.

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Google's 'Family Link' parental controls expands to teens

“Family Link,” Google’s parental controls for Android and Chromebooks, is growing up. Well, in a sense. For one, it’s no longer limited to kids — soon adults will also be able to manage their teen’s devices with existing Google accounts. Wisely, that can only occur with the teenager’s permission, and they can also “unlock” their devices after parental controls are enabled (though that’ll send an alert to parents).

The idea isn’t to control teens, instead it’s a way for adults to still be involved as their kids grow more attached to devices. Parents won’t be able to change teen’s devices or change their passwords, like they can for younger children.

Additionally, Google says Family Link is coming to “almost every” country in the world. Given just how early kids get their hands on phones and tablets these days, that’s a smart move. Family Link is also getting more useful for families with Google Home devices — parents will be able to lock and locate devices with just a voice command. And that smart speaker is also getting more useful for kids, with the ability to answer questions in a child-friendly way, as well as tell stories. While Family Link can’t do much with Chromebooks yet, Google says it’ll offer app controls for parents eventually.

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Google partners with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to put Android into millions of vehicles

Google will partner with Renault -Nissan-Mitsubishi, the largest auto alliance in the world by vehicle sales, to put Android-based infotainment systems into millions of cars, the companies told Wall Street Journal. The alliance’s next-generation infotainment system and dashboard displays will use Android and launch in 2021.

Drivers will be able to access Google’s maps, app store and voice assistant from their vehicle’s dashboards. The new partnership is a giant step forward for Google’s ambitions to get its operating system into more cars (the alliance sold a combined 5.5 million vehicles in the first half of this year, putting it ahead of Volkswagen and Toyota Motor).

The alliance’s executives told WSJ that they decided on the partnership because many of their customers are accustomed to using Google Maps and other apps and prefer sticking with them instead of using software developed by automakers when they drive.

Auto executives have also become more comfortable with Google, which made its software open source in 2007. Kal Mos, the alliance’s vice president of connected vehicles, told the Wall Street Journal that “the trust was built in the last few years.”

By partnering with Google, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi ups the ante on rival automakers to partner with tech companies instead of developing their own software ecosystems. While this may win customers over, it also means potentially ceding control over valuable user data to companies like Google and Apple. Mos told WSJ that Google will have access to data collected from its in-car apps, but must ask for user permission first.

Other automakers that are already integrating Google apps into their vehicles include Volkswagen, which put Google Earth into the Audi’s in-car navigation system, and Volvo Cars, which said its next in-car infotaintment system will run on Android.

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Instagram shopping invades the Explore tab


Reuters/Charles Platiau

Like it or not, Instagram is continuing its quest to make shopping ubiquitous inside its app. The social service is launching a dedicated Shopping channel in the Explore tab that offers a personalized selection of goods. If money is burning a hole in your pocket, you won’t have to stumble across a shoppable post to lighten your bank account. The channel is gradually rolling out now, although it’ll only be available worldwide sometime in the “coming weeks.”

You can also expect to see more shoppable Stories. The impulse-oriented feature is deploying around the globe, and should be available to businesses in 46 countries. You’ll usually have to follow brands on Instagram to see this in action, but many people do — about a third of the most popular stories come from companies. It might just be a matter of when you see a hard sales pitch.

Shopping in Instagram's Explore tab

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Twitter now puts live broadcasts at the top of your timeline

Twitter will now put live streams and broadcasts started by accounts you follow at the top of your timeline, making it easier to see what they’re doing in realtime.

In a tweet, Twitter said that that the new feature will include breaking news, personalities and sports.

The social networking giant included the new feature in its iOS and Android apps, updated this week. Among the updates, Twitter said it’s now also supporting audio-only live broadcasts, as well as through its sister broadcast service Periscope.

Last month, Twitter discontinued its app for iOS 9 and lower versions, which according to Apple’s own data still harbors some 5 percent of all iPhone and iPad users.

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Everyday home gear made smart

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

If you only have one smart home device, it’s likely something simple and fun like a voice-controlled speaker or color-changing LED light bulb. As you expand your smart home setup, you can begin to swap out gear that isn’t as flashy but you still use everyday.

Switching to connected locks, power outlets and smoke alarms are all simple installs that can improve your safety and comfort in your own home. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite essentials made smart for anyone looking to upgrade.

Smart lock: Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock 2nd Gen

The Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock 2nd Gen is the most versatile smart lock that we’ve tested. Whether you prefer to use a wireless fob, smartphone app or key, you’ll be able to control the lock with all of them. When we compared it to similar models, the Kevo’s Bluetooth-activated tap-to-unlock mechanism was the easiest to use.

The second generation of the Kevo improved on security and has all-metal internal components for better protection against forced break-in attempts. With the optional Kevo Plus upgrade, you’ll add the ability to control the lock remotely and receive status-monitoring updates.

Photo: Liam McCabe

Robot Vacuum: iRobot Roomba 960

If cleaning is neither your forte or preferred pastime, a robot vacuum will come in handy. Our upgrade pick, the iRobot Roomba 960, is one of the most powerful models that we tested. It can be controlled through the iRobot Home app and uses a bump-and-track navigation system that helps vacuum an entire floor without missing spots.

If its battery is running low during a session, it’ll return to its dock to power up before finishing the job. It’s easy to disassemble for maintenance and is equipped with repairable parts that make it worth its price over some of our less serviceable picks.

Photo: Rachel Cericola

Plug-in Smart Outlet: Belkin Wemo Mini

We tested 26 smart outlet models over more than 45 hours and chose the Belkin Wemo Mini Wi-Fi plug as our top pick. If you’ve ever thought it’d be nice to remotely turn on or off home essentials such as lamps, air conditioners and fans from your smartphone, plugging them into a smart outlet makes it possible.

The Wemo Mini has proven to be reliable throughout long-term testing, it doesn’t block other outlets on the same wall plate and it’s compatible with iOS and Android devices and assistants, including HomeKit/Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. The interface of the Wemo app is intuitive and easy to use. You can view all of your connected devices on one screen, set powering timers and from anywhere power on or off a device plugged into the Wemo outlet.

Photo: Jennifer Pattison Tuohy

Smart Thermostat: Nest Thermostat E

For a smart thermostat that’s affordable and doesn’t require extensive programming, we recommend the Nest Thermostat E. After about a week, it creates a schedule after learning cooling and heating preferences that you’ve set. It isn’t compatible with as many HVAC systems as similar Nest models, but it’s easy to install and doesn’t lack any features we expect.

It does come with Eco Mode — an energy-saving geofencing feature that detects when your home is empty (or when your smartphone is nowhere near your house). The Nest app uses the same technology to set the thermostat to a preferred temperature when it senses you’re on your way home. If you don’t have your smartphone on hand, you can still operate the Thermostat E by turning its outer ring and pressing selections on its touchscreen.

Photo: Michael Hession

Smart Smoke Alarm: Nest Protect

A smoke alarm is one of the most relied-upon safety devices in every home. Nonetheless, it’s easy to forget to do routine checks to ensure it’s in tip-top shape and functioning properly. With a smart smoke alarm like the Nest Protect, we found that its simple app, self-tests, monthly sound checks and consistent alerts are enough to keep fire safety worries at bay.

It isn’t difficult to install, has a sleek design and integrates with other smart home devices like the Nest Cam (which can record video of a fire) and the Nest Learning Thermostat (which shuts down HVAC systems that may be the cause of a fire). It’s sensitive to fast- and slow-burning fires, plus it monitors homes for both smoke and carbon monoxide.

These picks may have been updated by Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

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Google's Pixel 3 might come in a mint flavor


Google

Google’s Pixel 3 phones have been some of the leakiest devices in recent memory, but there’s at least one big question left…. what color options will you have? However, even that might not be much of a mystery. Google Japan has posted a “coming soon” teaser page that cycles through three colors when you click the company’s “G” logo: black, white and (most importantly) mint green. Yes, you might get a phone with a color as fresh as chewing gum or mouthwash. The white graphic has mint accents, too, suggesting that (as leaks have indicated) even the white version will have a little splash of color.

If this reflects the color options, it’s not certain that you’ll have access to mint on both models when the Pixel 3 series debuts on October 9th. The Pixel 2’s Kinda Blue was only available on the smaller phone. With that said, mint could still be a welcome break from the shades of black, white and blue that have dictated Google’s palette so far. Besides, this may spark fond memories for anyone who misses the Nextbit Robin’s cheerful hues.

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Gboard bug breaks glide typing for some Android users


Jon Fingas/Engadget

The glide typing feature of Google’s Gboard isn’t working for some Android users, with many reporting the issue on Reddit and Twitter over the last 24 hours. As 9to5Google reports, though users can still swipe the keyboard, the word results don’t match up with the letters they glide typed. Google acknowledge the issue, telling 9to5Google, “We’re aware of a bug that affects glide typing accuracy in Gboard. We’re working on a fix.” The company recommended that any user affected by the bug try force-quitting Gboard or rebooting their phone, which could fix the problem temporarily.

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The crowdfunded Moto Mod keyboard is dead


Chris Velazco / Engadget

More than a few companies tried burying bad news during yesterday’s Apple keynote. The latest to come to light is a tough blow for fans of physical keyboards: Livermorium announced that it’s ending work on its Moto Mod keyboard. In an update on its IndieGogo page, the company writes that it can’t scrounge up any interest in selling the accessory, largely due to the Moto Z being “extremely unpopular in most places.”

Livermorium also can’t muster the funds to source the parts needed to enter full production. The gulf between the amount of components it can afford and the minimum order amount is wide, and without securing outside funding, Livermorium won’t be able to bring the project to market as planned.

The Indiegogo update goes into great detail explaining the decision, but the tl;dr is it didn’t make sense to keep going down this path. “We cannot keep supporting a product which has no financial interest elsewhere and still increasing cost everyday to get it produced.”

For context, the campaign had a paltry 1,653 backers and $164,706 in pledges.

However, just because it’s on Indiegogo doesn’t mean you’ll lose the funds you pledged. The company will honor full refunds for those who haven’t received theirs yet, or, you can stick around for its replacement project: a “High-end and Premium Landscape Slider Smartphone.” The firm started developing this, codenamed “Q-device,” in parallel to the keyboard mod, and doesn’t have many details to share at the moment.

There’s room for niche phones, sure, but it doesn’t seem like people are exactly running down the streets screaming for one with a physical keyboard. Well, unless they’re BlackBerry devotees, and even then, it’s not like the KEY2 doesn’t exist.

While it isn’t the scale of Google shuttering Inbox or the announcement that the CEO of Engadget’s parent company, Oath, will leave before 2019, this is unfortunate news for at least a few people nonetheless.

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