When it comes to virtual private network (VPN) apps, the online market is brimming with available options. However, to truly benefit from what the technology has to offer, it’s imperative that you don’t settle for any unnecessary compromise.
Choosing the right free VPN app for your Android or iPhone isn’t really that complicated as long as you’re aware of the factors that must be taken into consideration. In case you’re oblivious to what those factors are, here’s a quick run-through:
If you’re contemplating the use of VPN apps to keep hackers and snoopers at bay, then you really need to pay attention to the tunneling and encryption protocols its security framework is based on. The aforementioned protocols are basically security technologies that hide data from prying eyes and/or convert them into an unreadable form.
The technical details of this feature can become a bit overwhelming, which is why we’re going to keep everything simple and suggest you look for OpenVPN or IPsec/L2TP in a VPN app before giving it any further thought. There are other security protocols as well, but these two are generally believed to be the securest.
While a VPN service may be well-equipped to mitigate the risk of data interception and surveillance, you really shouldn’t consider yourself fully secure until you’ve confirmed its log policy. It’s not uncommon for VPN providers to retain at least some information about its users. This may be something harmless, e.g. non-personally identifiable information and session timestamp, to something far more revealing like browsing history and online activities.
A lot of internet users turn to VPN apps to bypass geo-restrictions and access content that is either only available in a specific country or is banned by their government or local internet service provider (ISP). This is achieved by shifting virtual location, which involves tunneling the traffic to a VPN server in a country of choice and then accessing the desired content from there.
If attaining easy and unhindered access to geo-fenced content perfectly describes your intent, then be sure to pay close attention to the locations where the VPN app you’re considering has its servers located. For example, if you want to access US-specific content, then make sure there’s a server located there.
Connection Speed and Bandwidth Limitation
No matter what VPN service you use, it will almost always throttle your internet’s speed. That’s inevitable so you really shouldn’t hope for a miracle. However, this dip in speed doesn’t have to be too significant, which is where the make of the app and its network of servers come in. To find out how well a VPN app of your choice ranks in this area, you will need to do a bit of research and read reviews written by users and professionals.
Another factor that you need to consider is the amount of bandwidth that you’ll be getting. It doesn’t really make a great deal of sense to be paying money to use a VPN service that imposes a limit on the amount of data you can transfer during a specified time. In case a VPN provider provides some kind of logical justification for this limitation and compensates for it through additional features, or if you don’t plan on using VPN too frequently, then your willingness to settle for a slight compromise may increase.
Device and OS Compatibility
You would probably want to keep your data protected and enjoy an unrestricted internet access on more than just one device. That is why you must always ensure that the VPN service you’re considering supports multiple simultaneous connections. This way if you later change your device or start using an additional device for online browsing and transferring sensitive data over the internet, you won’t need to invest in another app.
OS compatibility is also a crucial consideration. You may be using an Android device at the time of investing in a VPN, but what if you later switch to an iPhone? Irrespective of the unlikeliness of that happening, keep yourself future-proof by refraining from completely ruling out the possibility. Therefore, be sure to confirm a VPN app’s support for multiple OS.
Although there are plenty of free VPNs around and even some of the most renowned VPN providers offer an abbreviated version of their actual product, you may still find yourself leaning towards the paid version due to premium features. This, of course, makes price an integral factor since you will need to be paying a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual subscription fee.
Before you commit to any app, make sure it justifies the price. Go through its list of features, compare them to what it’s offering in its free version, and read user and professional reviews to decide whether investing in the paid version is worth it or not. It has generally been observed that paid VPN apps perform much better than their free counterparts. Therefore, try not to let the price of a VPN service influence your decision too much.