Android and VPNs

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve gotten to the point with my Android phone that I have started to use it for a lot of things I used to do only on my laptop. I typically run through about 3 gb of bandwidth a month, with 2/3rds of that being on public and semi-public wifi networks.

Since I’d prefer not to be spied on, I decided to go ahead and start VPN-ing whenever I’m connected to a wifi network I don’t own (which I’ve been doing for a couple years now on my laptop).

After doing a bit of research online, I signed up for a trial account at StrongVPN. And immediately ran into problems. From my experience, the PPTP feature in Android simply doesn’t work. It didn’t work on my Nexus One and doesn’t work on my TMobile G2, and it doesn’t work with either StrongVPN or another VPN service I use for my laptop.

I was able to get L2TP to work, however, using IPSec pre-shared key and keeping the L2TP secret disabled.

After sorting through that, the system has worked flawlessly. Android is smart enough to display a nice key symbol in the status bar so I can quickly verify that I am connected to the VPN as I am web surfing.

I set StrongVPN to use one it New York servers, and while I haven’t done any bandwidth testing to see what the speed hit is, that’s because whatever it is is so low that I don’t notice it in my day to day use of the network. I signed up for a 3-month subscription for $36.

Android really needs to add the ability to create a widget of a particular VPN network, but in the meantime VPN Show is a free app that will get you¬†VPN settings screen in one click where you can select from the networks you’ve configured.