How to Connect to a VPN on Android

Use an Android VPN to protect your privacy

If you've connected an Android device to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot at a local coffee shop, airport, or another public place, you need is a VPN. Free Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous in most U.S. cities and municipalities, but because these hotspots are vulnerable to hackers who can tunnel into the connection and view nearby online activity. VPN apps protect your Wi-Fi connection and keep hackers out.

Your app will alert you whenever your connection isn't private, so you'll know when it's best to connect. You can also connect to a VPN without installing a third-party app in just a few easy steps.

Using a VPN might sound like overkill, but you never know who could be taking advantage of the extensive usage of free Wi-Fi. You can even install multiple VPN apps.

Google Pixel users have a built-in VPN called Wi-Fi Assistant, which, when enabled, automatically protects you when you're using unsecured networks.

How to Set up an Android VPN

Once you've chosen an app and installed it, you'll have to enable it during set-up. Follow the instructions in the app to allow mobile VPN. A VPN symbol (a key) will show up at the top of your screen to indicate when you're connected.

You don't have to do anything else. If you want to confirm that the VPN is recognized by your phone or adjust settings, follow the instructions below. The steps for Samsung Galaxy devices are slightly different from stock Android; scroll down to the next section for those directions.

The directions below should apply in general, no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc. The instructions below use stock Android and Samsung's custom Android OS running Android 10.

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap Network & Internet

  3. Tap Advanced, then VPN.

    Android VPN settings.
  4. You should see any VPN apps you've connected; if you have a Pixel, Wi-Fi Assistant will be on the list.

  5. Tap the gear icon. On this screen, you can turn on Always-on VPN (if the app supports it) and Block connections without VPN (this prevents your phone from connecting to the internet until the VPN connects). Finally, you can tap Forget VPN to disable it.

    Android VPN settings.

How to Set up Samsung VPN

Samsung Galaxy phones use a similar process to stock Android to modify VPN settings, but the menus are different. Here's what you need to do.

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Tap Connections

  3. Tap More Connection Settings, then VPN.

    Connection settings on a Samsung Galaxy phone.
  4. Tap the gear icon. Here you can enable Always-on VPN (if the app supports it) and Block connections without VPN (this blocks your phone from connecting to the internet until the VPN is active). Finally, you can tap Delete VPN profile. (Doing this doesn't uninstall the app; it only disables it.)

    VPN settings on a Samsung Galaxy phone.

How to Enable Wi-Fi Assistant on Pixel Smartphones

If you have a Google Pixel phone, you can access a built-in VPN called Wi-Fi Assistant. Once you enable this feature, your PIxel phone will automatically connect to the VPN if it detects an insecure network. To turn it on, you need to set your phone to automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks.

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Tap Network & Internet > Advanced.

  3. Tap Wi-Fi

  4. Tap Wi-Fi preferences.

    Enabling Wi-Fi Assistant on a Google Pixel phone.
  5. Toggle Connect to open networks on.

  6. You'll get a pop-up message about Wi-Fi Assistant. Tap Got it.

    Enabling Wi-Fi Assistant on a Google Pixel phone.