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CloudFlare releases an Android app to change your phone's DNS

Image via CloudFlare (Google Play Store)
Image via CloudFlare (Google Play Store)
CloudFlare has released a new app that will route your Android device's internet traffic through its local services, effectively changing your phone's DNS. While this may be a boon for privacy advocates that bemoan the lack of DNS server choice in Android 8.1 (and below), there are a few caveats. The biggest is that the app acts as a VPN, preventing users from accessing any other VPN at the same time.

Ever wonder how your web browser knows which page to load when you type in a website name into the address bar? You can thank the DNS, or Domain Name System. You can think of the DNS as a road map for the internet; a web browser sends a DNS server a domain name (like www.notebookcheck.net), and the DNS server will send “directions” to that site in the form of an IP address. Most people use their ISPs default DNS server and don’t think twice about altering this setting. CloudFlare is hoping to make this easier, at least for mobile users, by deploying a new Android app that will essentially change your phone’s DNS server at the tap of a button.

There are plenty of reasons for someone to change their DNS server. Some ISPs will log and record DNS server requests, and some will even send this information to third parties like corporations and advertisers (you can thank the repeal of Net Neutrality earlier this year for that). In an effort to circumvent this snooping, some users will change their DNS Server to one of many publicly available options.

CloudFlare is one of these options. Their DNS server (1.1.1.1) is focused on privacy. Getting a bit technical, CloudFlare’s DNS server uses DNS-over-TLS/DNS-over-HTTPS for better security and privacy options. This also makes it a hair faster than other DNS servers in some use cases. While it would be great to change your DNS server to CloudFlare’s for improved privacy, most Android phones do not have an option to change the device’s default DNS server, leaving most smartphone users in a lurch.

CloudFlare’s new Android app is a simple solution to this. At the tap of a button, the app will route all of your phone’s traffic through CloudFlare’s servers, which use the 1.1.1.1 DNS server. This isn’t exactly changing your phone’s DNS server itself. Rather, CloudFlare’s app works like a VPN to reroute internet traffic.

This has a few drawbacks. First of all, while a VPN can typically go around an ISP’s services and DNS servers, it may not always work. This depends heavily on the type of connection you have, the type of service offered by your ISP, and even your physical equipment (e.g., your WiFi router). Secondly, since CloudFlare’s app operates like a VPN, you will not be able to use other VPNs at the same time. If you already use a VPN app to tunnel your internet traffic, it’s likely for a greater need than switching your DNS server would fulfill. Also, if you're on Android 9 Pie, you can change your phone's DNS through the settings without the need for an app or VPN.

Still, for those interested, the app is free. It can be found in the Google Play Store and is available for download now.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 11 > CloudFlare releases an Android app to change your phone's DNS
Sam Medley, 2018-11-12 (Update: 2018-11-12)
Sam Medley
Sam Medley - Review Editor - @samuel_medley
I've been a "tech-head" my entire life. After graduating college with a degree in Mathematics, I worked in finance and banking a few years before taking a job as a Systems Analyst for my local school district. I started working with Notebookcheck in October of 2016 and have enjoyed writing news articles and notebook reviews. My areas of interest include the business side of technology, retro gaming, Linux, and innovative gadgets. When I'm not hunched over an electronic device or writing code for a new database, I'm either outside with my family, playing a decade-old video game, or sitting behind a drum set.