A virtual private network, or VPN, is an important tool for protecting your privacy online. IPVanish is one worth considering for your Android device, given its solid set of features and good performance in our tests. This VPN service is also reasonably priced and its Android app gave us no issues during testing, even if some aspects of its interface may be confusing for first-time VPN users. However, IPVanish offers fewer servers than most competitors.
What Is a VPN?
Data you transmit over a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network isn’t necessarily secure. Anyone with decent network skills can peek in on your activities or set up fake networks that your device may connect to automatically. Even at home, your ISP is legally allowed to sell your anonymized data to advertisers. Regardless of what network you connect to or what device you use, you need to use a VPN.
A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a tunnel to a server controlled by the VPN company. In effect, your public IP address appears as that of the server, rather than one that can be traced back to you. Since your data is encrypted in the process, a VPN also protects against incursions by your ISP and other bad actors. Setting up and using a VPN service is usually as easy as installing an app and tapping a button, but it pays to understand the basics. Most VPNs offer additional tools and features to help you configure your connection in a way that suits your usage case.
So how can you verify whether a VPN is actually behaving as it should? One simple way would be to test if your VPN is leaking your real IP address. As mentioned, once you connect to a VPN, your IP address should change. If it didn’t and you are sure you have configured all your settings correctly (or are using the app’s default ones), your VPN likely isn’t doing anything to secure your traffic. Also, consider choosing a VPN company that has been independently audited for vulnerabilities. Of the VPNs we’ve tested, only AnchorFree Hotspot Shield and TunnelBear have been audited, but a company representative from IPVanish says it too “plan[s] to undergo an independent audit.”
Note that a VPN does not protect you on all security and privacy fronts. Yes, a VPN makes it difficult, if not impossible for ISPs and other malicious actors to spy on your activities, but remember that there’s no such thing as perfect security. Use additional tools, such as Tor and Privacy Badger, to further ensure your privacy online. Threats to your privacy and security are always evolving, so even if you don’t currently subscribe to a VPN, there’s never been a better time to join the internet privacy party.
Pricing and Platforms
IPVanish’s monthly plan costs $10 per month, but you save money if you pay for a longer subscription period up front (as you can with most VPNs). For example, you can opt for payments every three months at a price of $26.99 or pay $77.99 on an annual basis. You get the same VPN product with each of these price tiers; the only difference is the billing period.
IPVanish’s monthly cost is slightly below the category average ($10.16) of the top VPNs we’ve tested. NordVPN costs more at $11.95 per month, but Private Internet Access comes in well below that, at $6.95 per month. IPVanish lets you use its service across 10 devices simultaneously, which is the most among services we’ve reviewed. CyberGhost, the next best in this regard, allows you to connect seven devices at a time.
Although IPVanish offers a seven-day money-back guarantee on all of its plans, it does not offer a free tier. Several companies offer free, data-capped versions of their VPN service, including TunnelBear and AnchorFree, but ProtonVPN’s free offering imposes no such limit. Check out our analysis of the best free VPNs you should use, if paying for one is out of the question.
IPVanish accepts all major credit cards and PayPal for payments, as well as in-app purchases through Apple’s App Store, but it does not allow users to pay with Bitcoin. IPVanish is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android (4.0+), Amazon Fire TV, Windows Phone, Linux, ChromeOS, and some routers. We tested IPVanish on a Google Pixel running Android 9.0.
Servers and Server Locations
When reviewing a VPN, the number of servers and server locations that a service offers is an important metric. The more total servers and the broader geographic distribution of those servers, the more likely you are to experience good network performance.
At the time of this review, IPVanish offers a little over 1,100 VPN servers. IPVanish can’t compete with NordVPN maintains over 5,000 servers. Private Internet Access and TorGuard both offer over 3,000 servers. IPVanish’s server count is similar to that of TunnelBear’s. A few smaller VPNs offer far fewer servers, including ProtonVPN and KeepSolid VPN.
Despite the smaller server count, IPVanish’s offering is geographically diverse. It hosts servers in around 60 countries and represents six continents. Notably, IPVanish offers options in Israel, South Africa, and UAE, regions that many VPNs ignore. Still, Central and South America are underrepresented; servers in Brazil are the only offering in the entirety of that region. Since a VPN is most crucial to people who live in countries with restrictive internet laws, we would also like to see IPVanish add support for countries such as Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam. We don’t choose a best VPN for China, or any of these restrictive countries, since the consequences of failure for the end user are severe.
One last part of the server equation is whether a VPN company uses virtual servers. Virtual servers are software-defined servers that can be configured to appear in a different location than where they are physically located. The problem with this practice is that your data may pass through or be stored in locations with different privacy laws than the place you initially selected. IPVanish does not use any virtual servers; in other words, it maintains a physical server in every location it lists. A company representative also stated that “we [IPVanish] own and operate 90 percent of our network nodes. IPVanish says it controls “the complete rack and stack” of servers in some locations and relies on vetted third-party providers in other regions.
The data that IPVanish does collect breaks down into three categories: Site, Services, and Website Cookies. When you visit the IPVanish site, the company does collect analytic data such as browser type, operating system, and time spent on page. To be clear, IPVanish says it does “not track user activities outside of our Site, nor do we track the website browsing or connection activities of users who are using our Services.” The service information it collects (that is, the email and payment information) is used for the sole purpose of processing and troubleshooting, alongside some statistical data related to app crashes.
IPVanish further notes that it does “not share your personal information with third parties for their own marketing, advertising or research purposes, under any circumstance.” Note that it does share some non-personally identifiable information to third-party sources for services it uses for payment processing, fraud detection, and email communications.
IPVanish is based in the United States and is thus not subject to any mandatory data-retention laws. Note though that the United States is part of the 14 Eyes security coalition. We aren’t confident enough in our knowledge of data-retention laws to make a judgment on the implications, but you should always know at least where your VPN’s headquarters are located. Court orders are “handled by [IPVanish’s] legal team to verify the legitimacy and jurisdiction of the inquiry,” but the company says since it doesn’t track user activity, so it cannot produce any activity logs to hand over.
IPVanish’s Android App
We installed the latest version of IPVanish on a Google Pixel running Android 9.0 and had no issues signing in to the app. IPVanish’s app is visually pleasing and well organized, if a bit utilitarian. It’s definitely not as friendly as TunnelBear’s apps and some users may find it less than accommodating. That said, we appreciate the app’s stability; it did not crash during testing. Since a VPN is one of the primary lines of defense against network-based threats, app reliability should be an important consideration. The hidden left-hand menu lists four options: Quick Connect, Servers, Account, and Settings.
The app’s main page shows your device’s VPN connection status, your public IP address, and your real geographic location. Directly below that information is a green Connect button that launches IPVanish’s Quick Connect feature. If you hit the button, IPVanish automatically connects you to the best available server in the closest city within your country. You can set basic preferences for how Quick Connect picks a server on this page, including a preferred country, city, and server.
Once you hit Connect, your device will pop up a notification prompting you to give the VPN access to change your network preferences. You need to ensure that this request comes from a legitimate source, since VPN technologies in the wrong hands can be used maliciously.
The app’s main page updates with information on your new connection, including a different IP address, the connection time, and the name of the server. IPVanish even includes a dynamic graph of incoming and outgoing data at the bottom of the screen. However, the graph does not update very smoothly; new data points cause some stuttering. We would appreciate the option to disable this graph entirely, since it is a bit distracting. If you need to disconnect from the VPN for whatever reason, just tap the bright red Disconnect button underneath the chart.
In the connection settings, users can toggle the Auto reconnect feature, select between two OpenVPN protocols (TCP or UDP), and enable LAN Access. We prefer the OpenVPN protocol, since it is open-source and thus can be picked over for and secured against vulnerabilities by the public. IPVanish says it does plan to also support IKEv2 on Android, a feature in active beta.
Like other VPN apps, IPVanish has a few other optional settings: Scramble and Split Tunneling. According to the feature description, the scrambling option “adds obfuscation” and should theoretically allow your connection via IPVanish to bypass any network sensors in place that are meant to block VPN traffic. Another good feature to see is Split Tunneling, which allows you to select which apps should connect to the internet without the VPN Tunnel.
IPVanish and Netflix
Some VPNs do not work with video streaming services such as Netflix, but the majority of the Android VPNs we tested work perfectly fine. We tested Netflix compatibility on a Nexus 5X running Android 8.1, since we experienced streaming issues with Netflix (even while not connected to the VPN) with a Google Pixel running Android 9. In our tests, IPVanish caused problems with Netflix when we connected to a US-based server. You can always just enable the Split Tunneling feature for the Netflix app to get access, but note that your traffic will not be encrypted.
If streaming video content is important to you, check out our roundup of the best VPNs to use with Netflix. At the time we tested, the VPNs in that roundup worked with Netflix. Note, however, that your experience may differ from ours and that support one day does not guarantee support in perpetuity.
Using a VPN will undoubtedly slow down your connection, though some VPNs may not have as much of an effect as others, especially if they offer more servers or servers closer to your geographic location. Note too that your connection speed can vary based on several different variables, including the time of day, which server you choose, and the device you use. Thus, our test results should not be taken as the final word on performance, but rather as a comparative snapshot at one point in time. In any case, if you are looking for the VPN with the best performance, check out our roundup of the fastest VPNs in our testing.
See How We Test VPNs
To test the speed of Android VPNs, we run Ookla’s internet speed test app several times to establish a baseline network performance with the VPN turned off. (Note that Ookla’s Speedtest.net is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s publisher.) Then, we rerun the same test with the VPN connected to an automatically detected server (or the closest US-based one). From the tests we keep data related to latency (ms), download speeds (Mbps), and upload speeds (Mbps). We take the median of each raw data category for both tests and calculate the percent change between them.
In our tests, IPVanish performed consistently well, despite not taking the top spot in any category. For instance, it increased latency by about 50 percent, which is only marginally higher than NordVPN’s TurboVPN’s, and Private Internet Access’s score of 20 percent. IPVanish’s score is significantly better than Norton Wi-Fi and TunnelBear, which, respectively increased latency by around 1,600 and 3,500 percent.
IPVanish decreased download speeds by 57.8 percent, a score bested only by Speedify (3.4 percent) and NordVPN (48.7 percent). For our upload speed tests, IPVanish decreased speeds by 38.5 percent, a score that again placed it close to the top. Only NordVPN (22.6 percent), KeepSolid (29.6 percent), and Hide My Ass (30.2 percent) performed better here. In any case, all of IPVanish’s results were above the median observed in our tests.
A Solid Contender