If you don’t want to use the app from your VPN service provider, you can use a third-party VPN app instead, such OpenVPN for Android or OpenVPN Connect.
You use these third-party apps to connect to your provider’s server network using account credentials they provide you for a similar overall experience to using your provider’s own app.
There are a few reasons for using this method. Importantly, some of these apps are open source, meaning that their code can been independently scrutinized to make sure that there’s nothing suspicious lurking within it. They also tend to be highly configurable and even permit you to use multiple providers within a single app. There’s also the fact that they only use the OpenVPN, our preferred VPN protocol that is itself open source.
The username and password you’ll need for this process are probably different to the ones you used on the web. But you don’t need to write them down. You can retrieve the details you need from your VPN provider’s website as you work through this guide.
For this demonstration, we’ll use the official OpenVPN for Android app. It looks daunting, but it’s actually one of the easiest to set up, and it has protection from IPv6, IPv4, and WebRTC leaks.
If you do choose another app, stick to trusted and verified apps on the Google Play Store.
Creating an OpenVPN Connection
During this process, you’ll need to download a configuration file from your VPN provider’s website. You’ll usually find configuration files in your account area after you’ve logged in.
It makes sense to download the configuration files directly to your phone so that you can easily locate them as you run through these instructions.
Note: OpenVPN for Android has many configuration options; we’re just showing the basics here, but you can come back and customise your VPN profile later.
To create your OpenVPN connection:
- Log in to to your VPN account on the web using your phone browser.
- Tap the green Set up ExpressVPN button.
- Tap Show other devices, then scroll down and tap Manual Config.
- Tap the blue OpenVPN button to show the settings you’ll need.
- Download at least one OpenVPN configuration profile to your phone.
- We’re going to download UK – Berkshire, but you can download as many as you want here. If you’re new to this, just pick out one in your own country for now.
- Leave your phone browser on this page so that you can come back to it in a second.
- On your device, open the OpenVPN for Android app.
- Tap the open file icon (the + symbol) at the top-right of the screen.
- Locate the file you downloaded in step 4 and tap to select it. OpenVPN for Android will read the file’s contents. Tap the orange disk button to save the profile.
- Repeat steps 7 and 8 for any additional profiles that you want to add to the app. You can add as many as you wish.
- You’ll see your new profile(s) in the Profiles tab. Tap the one you want to use, then tap OK to confirm the connection request.
- Some providers include login credentials in the configuration file, while others require you to add them separately. If necessary, switch back to your browser and copy the username, then paste it into the Username field in the app. Repeat this process to paste the password.
- To save the password, check the Save Password checkbox. This is optional, and less secure, but more convenient than copying it into the app every time you use it.
- Tap OK.
- Tap Add.
You will now see your new VPN connection listed in the app. Just tap it to connect. Once connected, you’ll see the words Connected: SUCCESS under the list item, and you’ll also see the key icon appear in your phone’s status bar.