Very few free Android VPNs deliver excellent security and performance. Sadly, FlashVPN isn’t among the Android elite. The VPN offers hardly any information about features and suffers from numerous performance issues. It’s definitely one to pass by.
FlashVPN is an Android-only Virtual Private Network/Proxy available on Google Play, so you may well have come across it in your search for smartphone privacy. And when you did, it may have proven enticing. From its price tag (zero) to the simple interface, promises of secure encryption, and reliable unblocking of sites around the web, it just sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s see what it has in store.
Security and privacy
Without encryption, DNS leak protection, solid protocols, and a kill switch, VPNs aren’t really VPNs. And with free VPNs, customers can often get none of these things. It’s very hard to say what the deal with FlashVPN is – there’s no website with fact sheets about the kind of encryption it uses, or its leak protection methods, so all we get is the description on Google Play. This promises:
- ”Secure VPN encryption”
And that’s it.
What we do know is that the VPN’s app requests numerous permissions that a VPN wouldn’t necessarily need, such as knowledge about incoming calls (potentially a route to capture valuable IMEI codes). And Flash also asks for access to users’ media libraries, including music files, photos, videos, etc. Why? We have no idea, but it could easily be for malicious purposes.
Features like stealth mode or a kill switch aren’t listed, so it’s safe to assume they aren’t included. And there’s nothing about OpenVPN/IKEv2 or other secure protocols so that users could be relying on outdated formats.
Does FlashVPN VPN keep logs?
Logging is one of the cardinal sins of VPNs, but we can tolerate a small amount of data collection if it’s purely to improve the service and nothing more. However, what’s worse is when VPNs provide zero information about their information handling practices. Sadly, that’s the case with FlashVPN, which doesn’t even pretend to operate a “zero logging” policy.
So again, if you download this app, you’ll be flying blind. Given that it’s free and users may be “the product,” this isn’t a risk worth taking.
Moreover, the developers FlashSoftware provide no details about where they are based, which can be a huge problem.
Speed and performance
Even with the lack of information about security and location, this FlashVPN review could award extra credit for providing a fast, accessible service – if that was the case. When we carried out an Android speed test, the results weren’t that promising. Our normal connection speed of 20 Mbps dropped to under 10 Mbps despite connecting to a nearby server, which wasn’t catastrophic but was by no means great. So this isn’t a VPN which balances poor security with lightning-fast speeds. It doesn’t really do well on either count.
Unfortunately, FlashVPN hasn’t invested in a huge network of servers. The Google Play listing documents servers in three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Just three countries is a tiny sliver of the options available to modern VPNs, and the geographical restriction will leave many users out in the cold. If you need a lightweight mobile VPN for use near these locations, you may do fine, but anyone else isn’t well served by FlashVPN.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
Users seeking to try FlashVPN can download the Android-only app.
That’s it. On the plus side, when you download the app, the process is quick and simple, and won’t take more than a few seconds. But there’s no service for Windows or macOS, and nothing for iOS or Windows Phone users, either.
The client itself is extremely simple and easy to use. Just load it up, close down any pop-up ads that appear (yes, there are plenty of ads), then press the Connect button. In theory, FlashVPN should then connect you to the closest and fastest server, although as feedback at Google Play shows, many users give up due to connection issues.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
FlashVPN promises to “Unblock geographically restricted websites,” which sounds great. How does it measure up? Not well. For starters, working around geo-restriction systems is irrelevant if the speeds aren’t up to scratch, and much of the time we struggled to achieve functional connections. However, when we did manage a stable, reasonably fast connection, we worked around BBC iPlayer geo-blocking reliably, as well as European YouTube content that would normally be off-limits.
Netflix wasn’t such a happy experience. When we tried to route our connection through the US and Japan (which has one of the biggest Netflix libraries), we had no luck. Connecting via the UK wasn’t an option, either. That’s not surprising. Hardly any free mobile VPNs work around Netflix blocks, and FlashVPN is no exception. So if you want to watch your favorite TV show abroad, forget about it.
P2P and torrenting
Torrenting on Android phones is very much a niche activity, but some video download platforms rely on torrent downloads to deliver content. And those platforms (like Kodi) require excellent security to keep users fully anonymized.
If that sounds like you, avoid FlashVPN. The speeds are too slow for secure torrenting in any case, there’s no kill switch, and the encryption being used is a mystery. Don’t even think about risking your privacy. There are far better options around.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
Most free VPNs can’t even chip away at Beijing’s Great Firewall, which keeps sensitive web content locked away. FlashVPN is not unusual in that sense. If you are looking for a tool to open up the web and defeat online surveillance, this isn’t it. To feel truly safe against surveillance tools like Deep Packet Inspection, you’ll need heavyweight (usually paid) VPNs like NordVPN, not lightweight free versions like FlashVPN.
Somewhat more alarmingly, there’s a good chance that this VPN is Chinese-owned, which spells trouble for anyone using it in China.
If you run into problems when using FlashVPN, you’re on your own. You can submit an angry review to Google Play, but that’s not likely to help much. The company behind this mobile VPN doesn’t provide any contact details, there’s no forum, no live chat, and definitely no chance of direct phone support. There’s not even an FAQ to provide basic customer information. That’s totally insufficient for a reputable provider, but not rare in the world of free VPNs.
As we noted earlier, FlashVPN is completely free of charge. There’s no need to mess around with Bitcoin or PayPal wallets to make anonymous payments, and you won’t have to read up on the company’s refund policy. Instead, users can just download the app and get started straight away. In fact, that’s probably the most appealing aspect of this VPN.
Advertised as a “Free VPN Proxy,” FlashVPN is a very basic smartphone privacy app, which makes the usual boilerplate promises about anonymity, unblocking, bypassing censorship, and encrypting user data. On paper, it talks a good game, which may be why so many Android users have been tempted to give it a try. But when you look deeper, there’s not much there.
FlashVPN offers so little information about how it works, and how it compares to other VPNs, that it may not even function as a “VPN” at all. The “Proxy” in the title is a giveaway here, and a sign that if you are truly worried about privacy, you should be checking out the top Android VPNs instead.