A virtual private network, or VPN, is an excellent tool for securing your online activities. But for a VPN to be worth spending money on, it needs to be a good value and be trustworthy. That’s a low bar, but one that Turbo VPN doesn’t pass. This mobile-only VPN is not only expensive and feature-poor but also short on critical information that would establish its trustworthiness. We don’t recommend trusting it, for now.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch it on, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer (or mobile device) and a remote server controlled by the VPN company. Your data travels through the tunnel, preventing it from being spied upon along the way, and then exits back onto the public internet. This, in short, is why you need a VPN.
That means no one, not even someone on the same network as you, will be able to peek at your online activities. Even if you’re connected to a bogus public Wi-Fi network designed by a data thief to trick unsuspecting victims into connecting, a VPN should keep you safe. Your ISP, which can now sell anonymized information about you and your browsing habits, also can’t see what you’re up to.
If a thief, spy, or advertiser tries to get your IP address when you’re using a VPN, they’ll only see the address of the VPN server. This helps hide your location, since IP addresses are assigned based on geographic location. Furthermore, because other users also have traffic going through the same VPN server, it’s harder for an observer to tell whose traffic is whose.
VPNs can also be used to spoof your location. Just select a VPN server located somewhere other than where you are, press connect, and your traffic appears to be coming from somewhere else. Journalists and political activists have used VPNs to tunnel past internet restrictions used by oppressive governments, in order to access the internet freely.
Spoofing your location can also be used to access online streaming services that are not available in your area. Sports fans have long used VPNs to access free or alternative coverage of their favorite events. In fact, reports indicate that about half of all VPN use is for video streaming.
Turbo VPN Pricing and Features
Like all Android VPN apps, Turbo VPN is free to download but requires a subscription to use. When you first launch Turbo VPN, you’re encouraged to partake in a seven-day free trial of its VIP service. Accessing the free trial requires you to enter your payment information via Google Pay, and you will be billed automatically after the trial expires unless you explicitly cancel the service.
If you decide to pay for it, Turbo VPN costs $11.99 per month or $35.99 per year. All payments must be made through Google Pay, which is a bit of a bonus. Google Pay is secure and makes it easy to cancel your subscription with a tap. You won’t have to worry about dealing with a VPN service’s customer support if you decide to quit Turbo VPN.
While I like the method of payment, the price is still on the high side. The average monthly cost among the top ten Android VPN apps currently stands at $10.38. Competitors such as NordVPN and CyberGhost charge just as much but offer far more. At other end of the spectrum, Private Internet Access costs only $6.95 and is still a better value than Turbo VPN, despite its spartan interface.
Once you pay, Turbo VPN declares you a VIP, placing the acronym in gold in the app’s hidden left tray. Ponying up gets you access to all 26 of Turbo VPN’s server locations, and lets you use up to five devices simultaneously. That’s the standard number of simultaneous connections, although CyberGhost and NordVPN have slightly more generous offerings.
You can also opt to use Turbo VPN for free. Doing so will limit you to just eight server locations (Canada, Germany, India, Netherlands, Singapore, and two US locations: New York, NY and San Francisco, CA.), as opposed to the full 26. Turbo VPN also implies that you’ll have better speeds with the paid version than the free version, but I was unable to verify that in testing. The free version is also ad-supported, so you may see ads periodically within the Turbo VPN app.
Turbo VPN isn’t the only free VPN on the block. TunnelBear offers a free VPN service on any platform without ads, but does restrict the number of servers and limits you to just 500MB of data per month. ProtonVPN’s free option is PCMag’s top free choice: it eschews ads on all platforms and doesn’t limit your data, but it does restrict you to just one device and only three servers.
Beyond the basics, Turbo VPN doesn’t offer anything in the way of additional features. NordVPN and ProtonVPN, for example, let you connect to the Tor anonymization network through their respective VPN services. TunnelBear and others use specialized protocols to disguise VPN traffic as HTTPS traffic, to prevent your connection from being blocked. Considering Turbo VPN’s top-shelf price, its spare feature set is disappointing.
VPN technology has been around for quite a long time, so it’s not surprising that there are several different ways to create an encrypted tunnel. I prefer companies that use OpenVPN, because it is open-source and has been picked over for potential vulnerabilities. IKEv2 is also good to see, as it is a newer technology. WireGuard is an emerging protocol which a few companies have begun to support but hasn’t yet reached mass appeal.
Turbo VPN uses OpenVPN by default, which I appreciate. Interestingly, Turbo VPN also lets you use the OpenConnect protocol. I haven’t seen many VPN companies that even offer OpenConnect as an option, which is an open-source version of Sisco’s AnyConnect VPN protocol.
Servers and Server Locations
One of the things I pay special attention to with a VPN service is how many servers it provides and how many server locations it offers. The total number of servers matters because the more there are, the more likely you are to find an uncrowded server where you can enjoy a bigger slice of the bandwidth pie. If the server is very crowded, you may experience even more performance degradation.
The number of server locations matters because you will likely have better performance the closer you are to the VPN server. If you’re in the middle of Nebraska, and the VPN company only has servers on the east and west coasts, you’re going to have a crummier connection than someone who lives in LA or New York. More server locations also means that you’re more likely to find a server nearby when you travel, or to spoof your location when you stay home.
I could not find a firm number of servers used by Turbo VPN in the app or on the service’s website, and the company declined to provide one. That’s too bad. NordVPN currently leads the pack with well over 5,000 servers, followed by Private Internet Access, which has over 3,200 servers. TorGuard recently joined the 3,000-plus servers club.
Looking over the app, I found that Turbo VPN appears to offer 26 server locations. That’s on par with ProtonVPN and TunnelBear, both of which cost less than Turbo VPN. CyberGhost offers 90 locations, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited has 70 server locations, and NordVPN covers 61 countries.
Some VPNs use virtual servers, which are software-defined servers that exist within a physical server. A single hardware server can host many virtual servers, and these virtual servers can be configured to appear as if they are in countries other than the hardware server. This lets a VPN cover more ground. Hide My Ass, for example, has 286 server locations across 190+ countries (just about all the countries there are), but only 61 of those locations have actual, physical servers. TunnelBear uses a 50-50 mix of hardware and virtual servers to respond to fluctuating demand.
Some readers dislike virtual servers because their data might end up in a country they did not intend, whose laws might have unpleasant implications for their traffic. If that’s a concern for you, consider IPVanish, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ProtonVPN, and TorGuard, all of which only use dedicated, physical servers.
Turbo VPN declined to indicate how many virtual servers the company uses.
Your Privacy With Turbo VPN
Each review I conduct begins when I reach out to VPN companies. Part of that outreach is an initial questionnaire that’s identical for each vendor and guides my reviews and follow-up questions. I had quite a bit of trouble getting in touch with Turbo VPN, and once I did manage to get someone to reply they declined to answer my questions. Plenty of companies are evasive in their answers, and maybe some lie to me, but no one has refused to answer.
Right away I found some worrying sections. For one thing, the app collects a hell of a lot of information about you and your device. Some of these are par for the course for an ad-supported mobile app, but not all of them.
The data we collect can include SDK/API/JS code version, browser, internet service provider, IP address, platform, timestamp, application identifier, application version, application distribution channel, independent device identifier, iOS ad identifier (IDFA) Android ad master identifier, International Mobile Subscriber Identification Number (IMSI), iOS network card (MAC) address, the terminal manufacturer, the terminal device operating system version, the session start/stop time, the location of the language, the time zone and the network state (WiFi and so on), the hard disk, the CPU, and the battery use, etc.
It’s disconcerting for any company to have this kind of information, but particularly a VPN company since it is supposed to be protecting your identity.
To its credit, Turbo VPN says it does not log which IP address you are assigned when you connect to its VPN server. Nor does it monitor what websites you visit or data you transmit via the network. Turbo VPN also says that it does not target the ads in its free version at specific customers. However, it also says that the third-party advertisers it uses in its free version may be able to collect information from your device.
Hands On With Turbo VPN
Turbo VPN has an exceptionally strange presence online. The company’s website has very little information about the product and what it does. There are no pricing plans, no server lists, and nothing about the company itself. Instead, visitors are directed to download either the Android or iOS apps—the only way to access Turbo VPN. It might not be fair to judge a company based on its website, but the way Turbo VPN presents itself does not engender trust.
I installed the Turbo VPN app on my Pixel XL. Overall, I was pleased to find that the Turbo VPN app worked smoothly and easily. The app is boldly colored with a resting rabbit at the center. Tap the carrot button beneath the rabbit to connect. It’s cute, but I think TunnelBear has a better handle on using cute animals in a VPN product. NordVPN’s app is less cute, but it has many more options than Turbo VPN.
If you’re using the app without a subscription, you can tap the other carrot in the upper right corner to watch some ads—although why you would do this is not clear to me. An ad also appears when you disconnect the VPN. AnchorFree Hotspot Shield also offers an ad-supported free Android VPN.
By default, Turbo VPN will connect you to what it thinks is the fastest server. You can choose your own server by tapping the globe icon in the upper right corner. There aren’t many other settings options in the app, although you can choose between connecting via OpenVPN or OpenConnect.
Looking through the FAQ included with the app, I found a warning from Turbo VPN that using BitTorrent would get my account blocked. That’s an unusual stance, as every single one of our top-rated VPNs allows P2P and BitTorrent.
Turbo VPN and Netflix
Many streaming services don’t like VPNs because they disguise the customer’s true location. That matters, because some content is only supposed to be available in certain parts of the world. Take, for example, Star Trek: Discovery. In the US, you can only watch this show on CBS’s proprietary streaming platform. Outside the US, it’s freely available on Netflix.
Netflix, in particular, is quite aggressive about blocking VPNs and spells out the issue in section 4.3 of its terms of service.
You may view Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such content. The content that may be available to watch will vary by geographic location and will change from time to time.
During my testing, I connected to a US server on Turbo VPN and attempted to stream the Netflix cartoon Hilda. Moments later, I was greeted with an error message asking me to disable my proxy—a sure sign that Netflix is blocking the VPN service. When it comes to the best VPNs for Netflix, we recommend NordVPN, CyberGhost VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, and TorGuard VPN. These services played nice when we tested them, but that may no longer be the case by the time you read this.
Some VPN companies provide other services or features beyond VPN protection. NordVPN, for example, lets you connect to Tor via the company’s VPN servers. ProtonVPN reserves highly secure servers that you can connect to before connecting elsewhere, so you can be assured that your connection is secured against snooping. TunnelBear blocks and trackers with a separate browser plugin, and even offers a password manager called, appropriately, RememBear.
These are all nice enticements that help a VPN company stand out and provide value to customers. Turbo VPN has no such features, which makes its high monthly price all the harder to swallow.
Speed and Performance
No matter the VPN service you chose, you will almost certainly experience a drop in internet performance when the VPN is running. It won’t be like going back to the bad old days of 2G, but it can be quite annoying.
In order to get a sense of how much a particular VPN impedes your online experience, we run a series of tests using the Ookla Speedtest Tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.) This test looks at latency (ms), download speed (Mbps) and upload speed (Mbps). I run five tests using the VPN server the app thinks is the best, discard the highest and lowest results, average what remains, and then compare those figures to an average baseline performance without a VPN. The result is a percent change figure.
Our testing should not be considered the be-all and end-all for any given VPN service. You’re likely to get different speed test results depending on when and where you use a VPN. Our tests should be considered as a snapshot for comparison between services.
In my latency tests, Turbo VPN performed quite well. It increased latency by 26.7 percent, the best score we’ve yet seen on Android. Results were mixed, however, going into the all-important download test. Here, Turbo VPN reduced download speeds by 67.2 percent. That’s a far cry from NordVPN, which earned the best score by only reducing download speeds by 48.6 percent. Turbo VPN slunk further in the upload test, where it reduced speeds by 56.1 percent. Again, NordVPN took the best score, reducing upload speeds by 21.9 percent.
We’ve found that based on Android speed testing results alone, that NordVPN is the fastest VPN on this platform. Its latency score was almost as good as Turbo VPN’s, and bested the competition in the upload and download tests. But when we zoom out, NordVPN doesn’t hold on in terms of speed. Based off our testing using Windows VPN clients, TorGuard is the overall fastest VPN service.
No Turbo VPN for Browsers, iOS, macOS, and Windows
Turbo VPN is the only VPN we’ve yet reviewed that only offers Android and iOS apps. It does not offer a Linux VPN client, a macOS VPN client, or a client for Windows computers. It also doesn’t offer a browser plugin, which have become an increasingly common way to secure your browser’s (and only your browser’s) traffic.
Most other VPN companies offer a special web page with server information and login credentials so you can manually configure a third-party app or the built-in VPN client in your phone or computer. Turbo VPN does not do this.
I’ll grant that smartphones and tablets have gone from so-called “second screens” to critical devices that more and more people use more and more often. However, a VPN service that only protects some of your devices isn’t a very good one.
Look Elsewhere for VPN Protection
When a product under review does what it says it should, it generally deserves at least two stars. Turbo VPN does appear to secure your online activity on Android and iOS, but there is so much else wrong with it—or at least suspicious about it—that it doesn’t score even the minimum for quality.
Turbo VPN is too expensive for a VPN service that only works on mobile devices. It lacks additional features that would help justify its value. It appears to have a small VPN server offering, but it’s impossible to tell for certain. Its greatest sin is that it doesn’t appear trustworthy. A company that chooses to omit basic information about the service it charges for isn’t one you should spend money on.
Look elsewhere for a VPN service. There are many to choose from. Many are better values than Turbo VPN, and most meet our minimums for transparency. We highly recommend our Editors’ Choice winners, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TunnelBear, all of which offer more and strike us as far more trustworthy.