Of all the apps that you can get on your Android device, a VPN is one that many fail to give much thought to. The reason for that is not far-fetched.
For some, it is the stigma behind using such apps – especially in this part of the world. It is either you run the risk of being labelled a yahoo boy, or a hacker of some sort.
However, that is just what the media and other consensus might want you to believe. Getting and setting up a VPN for your Android device is way more important than subscribing to those schools of thought above.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Here are some of the top reasons why you should get yourself one of these pieces of software today.
Before that, though…
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN for short) is a piece of software developed with multiple servers and nodes within its networks.
It works by sending user data through a tunnel of servers (in a technique known as tunnelling) which makes it possible to obscure such user’s data from the watchful eyes of anyone without access to it.
It should be noted that the best VPNs come with multiple servers located in different parts of the world, allowing such a user connect from a preferred location.
Why use a VPN on your Android Device?
For quite a number of reasons. Some of such are:
1. Downloading Restricted Apps
You might not know this, but your Google Play Store is not the full version that you can get. In fact, a lot of apps that you could have found useful have been removed from the Play Store.
By removed, we don’t mean that they do not exist on the app store anymore. They have, rather, been restricted away from your region. Thus, if you searched for those apps from now till eternity, they would not pop up in any results.
If you don’t believe us, try searching for ‘Zelle’ on the Google Play Store right now.
This is achieved via a technology known as geo-blocking which prevents people from a certain location from accessing certain content and services on the internet. The good news is that you can get around this with a VPN.
Fix: Once you find out that you don’t have access to an app due to location factors, you should:
- Download a VPN of your choice from the Play Store
- Log out of all your Google accounts, especially the one connected to your Play Store
- Activate the VPN and connect to a server location where the app you are interested in is supported
- Log in to your Google accounts and set up your Play Store anew (with the new location you have connected to)
- Search for the app again. It should now be visible in searches
- Download the app and start enjoying it.
PS You might need to keep your VPN to use the app too. We will talk about such below.
2. Accessing Restricted Content
The Google Play Store is just one arm of the internet. When it comes to content restrictions and limitations, it is a very small cog in a very large wheel. Due to the current international status of Nigeria, and the fact that the country is not located in the Americas/ Europe, we are usually restricted from seeing a lot of content on the internet.
This ranges from Netflix content to some websites that will plainly block Nigeran IPs from accessing their content.
While websites blocking our access is still straightforward, you might not even know you are at the end of these limitations with other content providers. This is why you could have trouble getting some movies on Netflix, accessing some songs on Spotify, streaming some channels on YouTube TV and so much more.
Trust us when we say that doesn’t have to be the end of your entertainment experience.
Fix: We assume you have a VPN already. Follow the following steps to complete the magic:
- Connect to a VPN server location where the content you want is being distributed
- Open the platform (website, streaming service, etc) and enjoy the content like you were physically in that location.
PS For web-based platforms and services, we recommend clearing your browser history (cache and cookies will do) so that you can start browsing from your new virtual location without hassles.
3. Improving your Security
People are so concerned about how they can change their locations with VPNs that they rarely stop to consider how amazing these pieces of software can be for security. In fact, besides antivirus software and malware checkers, VPNs are the next best thing for your Android security.
An everyday Android user exposes themselves to a lot of threats which can come in the form of:
- Browser fingerprinting
- Free Wi-Fi hacks – Being an unencrypted network, hackers can employ a series of tactics to steal the information you transmit over the networks. This can range from something as simple as your login to Nairaland to sensitive information like your bank account details.
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Information monitoring and gathering, to mention but a few.
How does a VPN work in this regard?
The software runs your internet data through a series of nodes and servers before arriving at the final destination. That makes it hard for anyone trying to follow your data trail to keep up as they will eventually get lost in all that web of servers.
Besides that, a VPN makes it difficult, if not impossible, to identify your internet traffic with you.
Say, for example, you are browsing from Nigeria while connected to a server in the S, anyone snooping on your data will believe they are tracking someone else from the US. That sure puts you out of their demographic.
How To: Simply download a VPN and connect to it before using the internet. You can even choose any other location of your choice for effect.
4. Maintaining Privacy
One would think only unscrupulous individuals were guilty of tracking people all over the internet, but companies do the same thing too. By companies, we don’t mean the small ones that do not value user privacy – as even Google is in on this.
That is why you can visit a website today and when surfing the net tomorrow, see an ad from them. It also explains why you seem to be seeing ads based on the things you have searched in the past.
As if that is not enough, these popups will follow you almost everywhere and can become annoying.
The good news is, a VPN can help you get rid of that too.
Fix: To take back your privacy:
- Get a VPN of your choice
- Before accessing the web, choose a different server location
- Surf the web as you like
When you do this everytime, the web trackers can only record information based on the IP address you have chosen to surf from that day. By the time you log onto the internet the next day, you will be starting out on a fresh slate.
5. Shopping Online
Did you know that there was something called dynamic pricing? Have you ever heard the of price discrimination? You might not have, but there is a high chance you’ve been a victim of both – whether you are shopping online or offline.
For today, though, we will focus on the online aspect.
Simply put, price discrimination and dynamic pricing occur when you try buying something online and you get hit with a price much higher than what such an item was listed for. This is even more evident when you are trying to buy from a foreign country where the currency would have to be exchanged. It needs no telling that the prices you see are usually exchanged at the highest rates.
If you have been wondering, price discrimination and dynamic pricing is present on Amazon too, and it’s probably in use on any other e-commerce platform you like to buy from. Fortunately, you don’t have to fall victim ever again.
Fix: Before entering your card details to validate that next purchase:
- Connect to a different server location with your VPN
- Browse the same e-commerce platform and check the price of the said product
- Repeat this with multiple locations
If any of these two tactics are in use, you will find differences in the pricing you were first offered.
PS You can also use a VPN to take advantage of location-based deals (e.g. enjoy Chinese New Year discount by connecting to a Chinese location, benefitting from Independence Day sales cuts by shopping from a US location, and so much more).
Choosing the right VPN
While using a VPN is very important, choosing the right one is even more important. There are a handful of great options out there, so we won’t even try to choose for you.
However, we will do one better – tell you the things to look out for.
- Speed – One of the reasons why many people do not use VPNs are the speed issues they bring. Basically, VPNs have the tendency to reduce your connection speed, and some reduce it to almost zero. Well, that is if you are choosing a VPN which has not been optimised for speed.
Make sure to look around for those options which have been built with speed in mind if you are to enjoy the experience at all
- Servers – Before committing to any VPN, ensure it has multiple servers in different countries of the world. This will come in handy when you need to browse from any location in the world at all.
- Security – You should trust your VPN to give you the kind of security you want. Otherwise, it is just a useless piece of software taking up space on your phone
- Unlimited bandwidth – The bandwidth determines how much data volume can be transferred on the network. When it is unlimited, you get to transfer data (via the web) on your VPN without the fear of slow speeds creeping in when your bandwidth gets used up (if you were on a limited bandwidth network, that is).
There we have it.
Now that you know a VPN is more important than for just scammers and hackers, wouldn’t you rather get your Android device a befitting one?