I signed up for a VPN service for my Windows PC and am wondering if it will also work on my Android phone? In particular, when I’m using wi-fi on my phone, isn’t all of my traffic visible to other users of the network? I opted for ExpressVPN.
If you think there are a lot of breakfast cereal options at the supermarket, you should search for “VPN” in the Google Play Store. It’s astonishing just how many different companies offer a Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution of one sort or another. But they’re not just on Android, these programs typically work across all of your online devices. Why? Because you’re exactly right that when you’re using a public wi-fi network (think Starbucks or the public library) all of your traffic can be monitored and analyzed. Yes, “https” Web pages are encrypted, but the URL is still visible, and what about all your other apps, games, and programs that go online?
Shortcuts: Install | Sign In | Configure Permissions | Use your VPN | VPN Shortcuts
VPNs break down into two different categories: Free and paid. I always recommend against free VPN services, however, because of the simple logic that it costs them money to run the VPN network, so if they’re not earning that money from your subscription then they are quite likely selling your aggregate Internet usage data instead. In other words, if you’re not the (paying) customer, then you’re the (not-paying) product. This rather defeats the purpose of using a VPN to attain a higher level of privacy and security online!
With that said, most VPNs are $5-$10 dollars per month and cheaper if you opt for an annual subscription. Since they can work across multiple devices, it’s a single solution that can protect you on a Mac, Windows PC, Android phone, even an Apple Tablet. And which VPN do I use nowadays? Same as you: ExpressVPN!
HOW TO INSTALL EXPRESS VPN ON ANDROID
You’ve already set up an account on your PC but the entire process required to get the VPN up and running on your Android phone is going to take place on the phone. It starts in the Google Play Store. Search for and find ExpressVPN:
Be a bit careful because there are so many sponsored ads that show up in the Play Store for a “VPN” search it’s easy to end up downloading a different program. Check the icon and the developer name to ensure you have the correct app. Ready? Tap on “Install” to proceed. Easy enough!
SIGN IN TO YOUR EXPRESSVPN ACCOUNT
Once the app is installed, the real work begins; configuring it for your Android device. Tap to launch Express VPN and it’ll bring up a splash screen allowing you to try it for free or sign in to your existing account:
No surprise here, tap on “Sign In” then enter your email and password credentials. On some platforms, ExpressVPN utilizes a log in key instead that’s easily copied from the Web site to the app, but Android doesn’t offer this feature.
ALLOW THE APP ACCESS TO THE ANDROID OS
To work properly, Virtual Private Networks need to be injected into the network stack in the operating system, and on Android that means it’s going to need permission to access and monitor all network traffic. Sounds a bit like spyware, but that’s how VPNs work, so as long as you have a good, legit VPN option, it’s safe to permit it. The very next screen begins the setup process:
Tap on “OK” to proceed. You’re not done yet, because it’s going to need a lot of permissions to work properly. It’s as if you were installing a scrambler on a telephone; it needs access to everything so it can do its job.
Android immediately verifies you’re okay with granting this access:
Again, tap on “OK“. The program will send you notifications when you safely establish connections and when you disconnect from the service (both very helpful to know!). This is particularly important if for some reason it might disconnect inadvertently: You’ll want to be aware of that before you visit a confidential site or service:
Tap on “OK” and you’re most of the way done…
“Allow” lets you proceed. And… you’re done!
USING EXPRESSVPN ON AN ANDROID DEVICE
The very next screen you’ll see is the Express VPN home screen, all ready to connect you to the Internet more safely:
Notice the color of the graphic at the top. If it’s orange, you’re not connected through the VPN. If it’s green (as you’ll see in a moment), you are safely connected through your VPN service. Easy. You can pick a specific location for your virtual location (try different countries and then check out how it changes online news services and streaming channels!) or you can let it do its magic and pick the closest to ensure you have the fastest possible connection. In my case, Denver USA is indeed the closest major city with a VPN server, so I’ll choose that.
As the tip indicates, tap on the power icon to connect. After a moment or two, the orange turns green!
Done. You’re now online through your VPN service, safe in the knowledge that you are no longer trackable through a local wifi connection.
Note: You don’t have to worry about cellular connections to the Internet from your Android device because that’s already point-to-point encrypted by your carrier. Of course, a VPN prevents them from tracking your usage too, so there might still be some cases where you want the additional protection.
Once it’s running, you can switch to your favorite apps and use them knowing that you’re safely online.
Oh, there’s one more step…
I recommend that you at least choose the first two (Block trackers and Block malicious sites) to enable, though many people will opt for all four. As a Web site that pays for our hosting through advertising, however, I’m a bit torn on whether to endorse you blocking ads, as you can imagine. 🙂
EASY ANDROID VPN SHORTCUTS
Once you have it all installed and configured, there are a few ways you can work with Express VPN (and any other VPN service) that make it particularly simple. First off, notice on the very top there’s a new icon that indicates a VPN is running and you’re online:
Swipe down from the top and you’ll find that the notification also tells you that you’re connected and offers a disconnect link too:
Not only that but if you edit your shortcut buttons, you’ll find that there’s a new one on the bottom of the list specifically for VPN service. Drag and drop it onto your visible shortcut buttons and enabling/disabling your VPN is a single swipe away on your Android phone. Super convenient!
That’s it. You now have ExpressVPN installed and know how to use it efficiently. If you opt for another VPN service, the process should be quite similar. Just remember, “free” VPN services are generally more risky and less effective than one you’re paying to utilize.
Pro Tip: There are lots of ways to manage your Android devices and ensure the best possible experience. Learn more by checking out my extensive Android help area while you’re here!