Smartphones have become the main device for accessing the web, but we too often forget how important it is to secure your connection. One of the best tools to do so is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). But since there’s a bunch of them, it’s hard to choose the right one without testing them all. That’s why we are reviewing Astrill Android VPN today, so you can see if it fits your needs.
Why you need a VPN for Android
Even if you don’t watch Netflix on your phone, preferring your 4K TV, and you don’t download torrents, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using a VPN.
First and foremost, it will protect your privacy and anonymity – a task that’s becoming harder each day. So just like your laptop can end-up leaking your personal information, the same can happen when using your phone. What is more, people with smartphones connect to free/unsafe public Wi-Fi networks more often: coffee shops, airports and bus stations are only some of the places where others can spy on your traffic.
It may come in handy to be able to change your IP location because certain websites are blocked in certain countries.
When travelling, you will sometimes take your laptop or tablet, but you will always have your phone. Therefore, it may come in handy to be able to change your IP location because certain websites are blocked in certain countries, or you may need to access the ‘home version’ of a website.
Finally, just like Windows for PC, Android is the most popular smartphone OS, meaning it has the largest amount of malware, spyware, and other types of badware – it will have more trouble stealing your passwords or any other data if you’re using a good VPN for Android.
Astrill Android VPN
The company’s slogan is “AstrillVPN – shining star on VPN sky”. Having checked the Astrill Android version, this is not a message we can fully support. The light of Astrill star is not so low that the planets spinning around it can only be populated by the race of Dimwits. The speed by which its light travels is also enjoyable. The only question is are you willing to pay the price, which by some standards, can be called astronomic?
What Astrill says about their VPN?
On their website, they say:
The best Android VPN app
- Connect to VPN with one click
- Select applications and sites that go over VPN
- Hundreds of VPN servers in 50+ countries
- The fastest VPN of them all
We found that hard to believe and decided to check it out.
Checking out the Astrill Android version
At the time of our test, Astrill Android had over 100,000 installs and almost 4,000 reviews with the average score of 4 out of 5, but the last 4 comments on the current version gave 1 star, citing screen freezing, inability to log in, no answer from the support, no speed test (so you have to check each server one by one), etc.
Situation got even worse once we spent some time touching and swiping Astrill VPN for Android.
It didn’t look promising before downloading it for a test, and the situation got even worse once we spent some time touching and swiping Astrill VPN for Android.
As soon as you download the Free version, we recommend upgrading it to the paid one because of the server limit. This might not be a problem if you’re based in the US or Europe, but users in other locations, especially China, will probably experience noticeable connectivity issues.
If you insist on staying with the Free version, StealthVPN, a modification of OpenVPN used to combat deep packet inspection (DPI), is the only alternative you will have.
Also, be aware that Astrill offers OpenWeb for Android by default, which sounds similar to OpenVPN yet is something home-brewn (information is lacking on the security of this protocol). If you insist on staying with the Free version, StealthVPN, a modification of OpenVPN used to combat deep packet inspection (DPI), is the only alternative you will have.
We thought the paid version supports all protocols advertised. As it turned out, you get the same two. But in the end, this is more of a communication issue than a security issue. It would even be hard to call it false advertising.
Using Astrill Android VPN
Downloading and installing the Astrill Android VPN version is easy and works just like installing anything else from the Google Store. We were happy that it only required an email and a password.
Then we got to choose either the Android-only, one device free plan, or the paid Full VPN account with support for up to 5 devices. We chose the former to tried to look through the eyes of someone who’s not yet committed to spending a lot for a VPN they haven’t heard much about.
We were welcomed with a message that [email protected] is there for us throughout the year, as long as the stars don’t start falling from the sky.
After the message we were left on our own with a simple Main screen. Its header and footer had links offering an upgrade, while the body offered a selection of servers and a humongous swipe-type button for ON and OFF.
The free version server menu will not satisfy VPN connoisseurs outside the US – most of the options are in the US with one “China Optimized” server, other countries having 1 or 2 options.
Sadly, the free version server menu will not satisfy VPN connoisseurs outside the US – most of the options are in the US with one “China Optimized” server, other countries having 1 or 2 options. This means that if you need to geo-locate yourself to Canada and that server is down, you are might be down too. But if you commit yourself financially, you get to access the whole bunch of them, just as advertised.
From the user experience point of view, the most annoying thing was the need to disconnect in order to see the list of servers that are available. It goes beyond saying that switching the protocol will also require you to go offline.
Options in the Astrill Android VPN
Here you can choose some non-default settings, like switching from port 443 (for HTTPS) to 80 (HTTP). You would want to use the latter only if your VPN is detected while using port 443 and blocked. Therefore, it’s probably for the best to leave this option on “Auto”.
The Application filter will allow you to select apps that will use the VPN connection and apps that will not use the VPN connection. We recommend selecting all apps.
Show logs was a function that caught our attention – basically here you can see what information has already been logged by Astrill Android VPN. There’s nothing creepy about this function – many VPNs have it. Actually, it can be crucial in case you have an issue and need to copy-paste something to the Support staff.
Battery optimization is another option in the Free version that says you should not optimize this VPN for “steady results” in speed. Paid users get a pop-up warning that not giving Astrill Android VPN enough power might make your connection speed suffer.
We decided to run a speed test with both the Free and Paid versions to see if there will be any differences.
Astrill Android VPN speed test
Here’s what we got after doing 3 tests with Free version on Android 7.1.2, using a server that’s ~1000 km away. First one was done without a VPN, the second with the battery-optimized mode, and the last one with the battery non-optimized mode, as recommended by Astrill.
Astrill Android VPN Free version test results
Clean channel – 4G LTE
Download speed is 39 Mbps, upload speed is 27 Mbps. Not too shabby.
VPN, battery optimized – 4G LTE
Astrill Android showed 37 Mbs while downloading and 25 Mbps when uploading. Nice.
VPN, battery non-optimized – 4G LTE
Fully-powered Astrill Android managed to surprise with 41 Mbps download speed but saddened with its 19 Mbs upload.
Astrill Android VPN Paid version test results
VPN, battery optimized – 4G LTE
29 Mbps download speed and record-breaking 37 Mbps upload speed – a strange combination indeed.
VPN, battery non-optimized – 4G LTE
29 Mbps download speed and silver medal winning 33 Mbps upload speed – a strange sentence to read.
As you can see, there is no clear advantage in setting non-optimized mode for Astrill’s Android app. And when it comes to the paid and free version, one gives a better download speed while the other offers a better upload speed. Therefore, we can only conclude that Astrill for Android is a fast VPN. It can be very fast, even the fastest with an extra punch from their VIP servers.
Should you try Astrill Android VPN?
First we must warn you that there’s no DNS leak protection in the Astrill Android version. We’ve found some claims of DNS leaks earlier in 2018, but our tests have found nothing.
One sad thing we noticed is that at least for our Free and Paid version tests on Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) device, the app launches anew every time you try to open it after awhile, even though it’s still running in the background.
So if you’re connected, you will actually need to go to Settings > VPN, disconnect by “forgetting” Astrill and then connect again to change some settings. We hope this is not a common issue and if it is, it should be fixed soon – the more you charge your clients, the more angry they become when things don’t work as they should.
And while the speed of Astrill Android VPN is good, the lack of servers means it will not be the case across the globe. And we’re talking about the paid version here. Sure, you can pay extra to get access to VIP servers, which will improve your connection speed and stability, but paying even more when the standard price is already high makes you think of alternatives.
To sum this up, you should use Astrill Android VPN only if you liked the Windows/Mac version and have already bought it.
Alternative VPNs for Android
Since Astrill VPN for Android is clearly not among the best options, we suggest to take a look at these alternatives from our Best VPN for Android list, updated regularly.