Does using a VPN on Android radically drain your battery?

In our increasingly interconnected world, more and more people are interested in protecting their privacy and security while surfing the internet, using social media or communicating with other people. This has led to a direct rise in people using virtual private networks – abbreviated as VPNs – on their computers and increasingly on their mobile devices. These VPNs build a secure data tunnel between your device and an encrypted server to prevent others from determining your exact location and browsing habits while also offering great protection against malware and viruses.

 Today, there are lots of VPN options for almost any device. In this article, we’re going to focus on Android devices. If you’re an Android user, you’ll have no trouble finding a wide selection of VPN options for your device – however, there are good affordable options which won’t sacrifice your privacy, and there are other VPNs which may sell your browsing history to third parties or force you to view ads in return for using their service. Once you find a safe VPN for Android, it’s usually very easy to set up and use.

However, some Android users have claimed that their VPN is using up their battery at a very high rate, causing their device to run out of battery charge must faster than usual. One user claimed that the battery use of his VPN app comprised 48% of all battery usage by apps. When he noticed that the next most-used app only used up around 9% in comparison, he was obviously concerned about his phone’s performance and battery life. 

So, does your Android VPN actually drain your battery like some people have claimed?

In order to understand this issue, we have to understand how a VPN uses your device’s resources. Under standard settings, a VPN first encrypts the data being uploaded. Next, it sends the encrypted data through the secure server tunnel, and then decrypts the returning data it receives. Many VPNs may also constantly send packets of data back and forth between your device and the secure server in order to keep the connection “live”. Some apps may prevent your device from going into sleep mode in order to maintain the VPN connection as well. 

If your VPN app is forcing your device to maintain a constant active connection, that’s going to drain the battery very quickly. Normally, your mobile’s radio transponder device is only active when data is actually being transferred back and forth. We all know that long sessions of video or music streaming can drain your battery, and that’s one of the reasons why that happens. 

The higher-quality VPN apps allow you to customize the level of encryption, data authentication, and the “handshake”, which is when two data sources – let’s say your device and a website – send a brief signal to each other to determine how best to communicate with one another. Setting any of these options to a more secure or data-intensive setting will increase the VPN’s CPU (central processing unit) usage, which in turn requires more battery power. 

Thankfully, it seems that most of the problems with high battery usage by VPNs on Android devices were taking place in 2017 with devices running Android 8.0 or 8.1 (the “Oreo” Android version). There don’t seem to be many recent stories of VPNs draining batter power on Android devices. 

Even so, is there any way to make sure your VPN isn’t sucking your battery dry? 

Thankfully, yes! Some VPN apps such as OpenVPN have a “Battery Saver” option which halts the VPN when your device’s screen is off. This means that you will only be using the VPN when you’re actively sending or receiving data with the screen on, whether you’re texting, streaming or browsing the web. However, it’s important to realize that some of your apps may maintain a constant internet connection whether you’re using the app or not. This Battery Saver option may turn off the VPN when you’re not using your phone, but if you have an app that continues to send and receive data even when your screen is off, this mean you’ll be sending data outside of the VPN. This means you won’t have the privacy and security of the VPN for that data being sent. 

Many VPN apps also have a setting which forces your Android device to maintain the VPN connection at all times, regardless of what other apps are using the internet. If you have both a Battery Saver option on and this constant-connection option on, the combined settings will prevent those apps which require a constant connection to work properly from accessing the internet. In short, those apps might not work properly anymore – but your data will be protected at all times. 

A third option is to simply disconnect your VPN when you’re not actively using your phone, or when you’re using your phone on a trusted network such as your home WiFi network. If maximum battery life is your primary goal, this may be your best option. However, if maximum privacy and security is your goal, you may have to sacrifice your device’s battery lifespan a bit – but the impact of the VPN itself should still be minimal. 

If you feel that your VPN app is using far more battery power than it should, it’s always advisable to contact your VPN’s technical support team. A VPN’s effects on your phone’s performance can vary greatly depending on what device you have, your local device settings, and what VPN you’re using, so it’s best to go right to the source to find some answers if something doesn’t seem quite right. 

Nick is a Cloud Architect by profession. He loves to spend a lot of time testing and reviewing the latest gadgets and software. He likes all things tech and his passion for smartphones is only matched by his passion for Sci-Fi TV Series.
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