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Hotspot-Shield-Review

The Verdict

AnchorFree brings us Hotspot Shield, a VPN that’s able to provide stable speeds through their servers that are scattered around the globe. They also offer competitive prices for their subscriptions.

There is also a client software for computers and mobile devices. However, we’ve noticed that it lacks other advanced features which other VPN software has. But the good thing is that you can actually use the software in two different ways.

First, you can take advantage of the 7-day free trial which actually has all the features of the full version or you may opt to get the free version which has restrictions but still works decently for individual use.

However, if you’re already sure with Hotspot Shield then there are three billing periods to choose from or you may even settle for the lifetime subscription to save yourself of the hassle.

Pros:

  • A visually attractive interface that’s very easy to use
  • Browser extensions available
  • Competitive and attractive prices
  • Free version available for unlimited time
  • Consistency and speed is good in most servers
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot tools
  • IP Leak Protection

Cons:

  • Software’s privacy policy is not reliable
  • Servers available only in 20 countries
  • Doesn’t have the extra features that other VPN services have

The Features

We’ve tested and reviewed different VPN service providers already and we’ve seen that each of them have unique ways of doing things. And we like seeing how it helps our readers find the best software that perfectly matches their preferences.

Having said this, Hotspot Shield is able to rise above the others in terms of usability and aesthetic aspects. The process of using the software is as simple as pressing a single button to establish a connection.

But at the same time, it’s simplicity can be feature that others don’t appreciate.

A software client that just has a “Connect and Go” button actually deprives it of having options and settings which other users actually want access to.

You can use torrent from the VPN but you’ll need to choose the right servers in order to use torrent service.

Hotspot Shield does not indicate which of their relatively few servers can actually be used for torrenting purposes.

Automatic Wi-Fi and IP Leak Prevention

In a similar manner, it is only possible to view the countries where servers are available when you’re already done connecting to one of them which is strange behavior that we did not observe with other VPNs.

Again, even in this aspect, the software is really very simple and that simplicity is extended even towards the other settings that it has. We actually wanted to see more and this interface design makes us think that the company is hiding more pearls that we love to explore even more. We’re sad to see that there’s not much room to move around the software but it can be a good point to those who are not that techie.

The good thing is that there are at least a few other options that can be changed including the settings that will let Hotspot Shield run as one of the startup applications and as well as prevention of IP leaks.

There is also an option for choosing a different language and a couple of other features that will allow the turning on of the VPN automatically when your device connects to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

This is very important especially if you’re constantly on travel and you can’t avoid connecting to networks that are questionable.

The good thing is that this option of turning on the VPN connection automatically can also be done even for networks that are safe ensuring that you’re safe no matter where the adventure takes you.

But we still feel that it lags behind other VPN services due to the lack of very useful features such as a kill switch button that is already common in other software and VPN services and definitely something that every VPN user wants to see.

VPN Network Size

Hotspot Shield’s VPN network of only 20 server locations in different countries is nowhere to be compared to the vast networks that other VPN providers out there have.

It doesn’t even come close to the servers that ExpressVPN has. But it still has enough servers to provide a decent connection to its users from around the world.

But in this aspect, many providers would provide multiple servers in every country for the purpose of backup and reliability which Hotspot Shield also does but on a smaller scale.

Europe, for example, has servers in countries like Spain and Russia. It also has other servers available in other strategic areas elsewhere in the world.  That includes countries like Turkey, India, Australia, Japan, and as well as in Hong Kong and China.

Other users may consider it a bad thing to have just a limited choice of servers/countries to connect to especially if they’ve been used to having plenty of precise locations to connect to.

This feature also offers more services that can be unblocked especially those that are specific to certain countries along with features that are exclusive to certain cities such as YouTube TV for instance.

But the good news that you’ll get with Hotspot Shield is actually the quality that you’ll get from its network of servers.

It is a fact that there are external factors which affect VPN connections speeds and most of these are out of the provider’s control.

That includes the internet connection quality and speed of the user and as well as his/her distance from the server.

Higher pings would actually mean slower connections but Hotspot Shield claims to have a solution to this common problem saying that they can provide consistent connection speeds no matter to which server you connect to.

You can expect to get pings that are high like the 300ms that we got when we tested the server in Australia but both the download and the upload speeds stayed the same for almost all the countries where their servers are located. And we were impressed to find out about this!

We conducted the tests from servers in Europe so we were able to get the best results for Russia and Sweden.

Connecting to servers in the U.S. and India yielded wearer connections while servers in other countries behaved in a decent and consistent manner.

How It Protects Your Privacy

This is probably the shadiest and confusing aspect about Hotspot Shield. The VPN service itself uses a strong TLS 1.2 256-bit encryption technology along with HMAC message authentication.

This means that your passwords, emails, messages, online transactions, and other forms of data are secure all the time. Moreover, this VPN service also provides anti-malware features which are active all the time and is available in both the versions (free and paid) of the software.

However, the log policy which is very important to most users is something that is tricky.

Those who are into VPN services would remember that Hotspot Shield has been accused of spying over their users back in August 2017. The allegation was made by a group who also reported it to the FTC.

If you dig a bit deeper into the company’s privacy policy, you’ll be able to understand why.

First of all, they actually say that they’re not into collecting any sensitive/personal information including your name, mailing address, email address, and others but if you read even further, you’ll see under the “Automatically Collected” section that they may collect information such as your IP address and device identifiers that are unique and are collected by a proprietary software/technology and as well as through cookies.

Moreover, the policy also says that the company (AnchorFree) may put this information to use in order to improve its service.

They are able to do this by optimizing advertisements or even by identifying your location.

This means that the company gains the right for cookie data gathering and use the data that has been collected to show ads on the free version of the software which allows ads to be displayed.

Additionally, your information can also be shared to third-party companies in case you gave your consent for them to do this. Those things don’t benefit your privacy in any way.

The software will only show the consent form in a small notification screen which only a few actually catch.

There are even fewer people who are able to understand what the small print says and therefore just agree automatically to the practices of the company.

The Privacy Policy was last edited back in April 2015 which means that there have not been any changes to it since the company faced serious charges from users.

Having said all this, we can say that Hotspot Shield does not put much importance on the privacy of its users as much as we want them to do.

Device Support and Operating System

After talking about one of the messy areas of Hotspot Shield, we go to one of its good points which users would certainly like.

This VPN service supports different devices that run on a variety of operating systems.

For computers, it is able to run on Windows 7,8, and 10 editions while on Mac, it runs on most OS X versions.

There’s also an app for both iOS and Android which can be found in the App Store and Google Play Store respectively. All of the clients work flawlessly with an easy to use interface that is also designed to look good from every angle.

This makes it easy to find your way in using the VPN service on every one of your devices.

You’ll also find that the settings section is designed to be very simple so there’s no reason you won’t find your way within it and make the VPN service work to your preferences.

Connecting is as easy as 1-2-3 and it is important to remember that enabling the Wi-Fi protection feature for both the safe and unsafe Wi-Fi networks is always a good idea especially if you’re constantly connected to such types of network.

Browser extensions were not left out either because Hotspot Shield offers one for both Google Chrome and Firefox. Both look similar and works almost the same.

The client allows a maximum of five simultaneous connection only.

Plans and Pricing

Users can benefit in two different ways when they choose Hotspot Shield. First, they can opt for the free version or choose to get the paid version which comes in 4 different subscriptions.

Other companies would offer limited time on their trial period for the software’s full version while others would offer their software with no time restriction but it would have a handful of blocked features. Hotspot Shield offers the best of both these worlds.

You can visit their website then choose the device which you want to download VPN client for and the unlimited time free trial of the software will start right away.

However, you need to remember that this version has targeted ads and it will only have 500MB of bandwidth per day. You’ll also be allowed to connect to only one server out of the 20 which are available and that defaults to the one in the U.S.

What we like about it is that it actually asks if you want to activate the 7-day trial period of the software upon installation.

This trial actually lets the users experience the full version of Hotspot Shield. So for an entire week, you’ll be able to enjoy unrestricted access and unlimited bandwidth with connection to all 20 available servers of the VPN service. And there will be no ad that will disturb you.

Now, let’s go to the paid versions. For its elite version, you can expect three types of billing periods. Just like other VPN service providers, the longer you stay with Hotspot Shield, the bigger the savings would be for you. The single month subscription is priced at $12.99 while choosing the 6-months period will give you a 31% savings at only $8.99 per month. But if you’re after getting bigger savings then you can choose the annual subscription which costs only $5.99 and that’s 53% discount at only $71.88.

If you already think that this is good, you should find out about the better deal which comes in the form of their lifetime offer which costs only $119.99. That is much less than the value of two annual subscriptions.

They are truly a big step-up from the free version but all the paid versions only differ in price and not in the features offered. We actually like this because there are no restrictions whatsoever that have been imposed in the lower-priced plans.

Yes! There is nothing even in the bandwidth thing.

The company accepts payments via credit and debit cards or through Paypal. All purchases and transactions are entitled to a money-back guarantee of 45 days.

Customer Support

Now, we come to the aspect that’s very important to every customer and it is the company’s customer service.

There are a handful ways to contact the company’s customer support team in case you need some form of assistance. But the most direct one is probably not what everyone likes because it comes in the form of the old ticket submission system.

There’s also the FAQs section where users are able to find answers to the most common questions and a blog which holds some company posts, news articles, and updates about the software.

The social media pages of Hotspot shield are all updated on a regular basis with most contents that are coming from their blog.

Customers may also choose to posting comments on their questions or concerns about the software. The company has also been noted to respond to customer’s questions via Facebook Messenger in a couple of hours.

Final Say

If you’re looking for a VPN sofware that’s very easy to use then Hotspot Shield definitely deserves a chance.

If you haven’t given it a shot then we would recommend that you do and enjoy its simple interface along with 500,000,000 other users who did.

The company is fond of reminding you about this claim and we can’t agree more because of the fact that the software itself is really designed for every kind of user out there.

However, some advanced users say that it is designed only for those who don’t use VPN that much due to the fact that it has a very simple interface and a limited set of customizable features and settings.

But it can’t be denied that they are able to provide consistent speeds even with the overseas servers that they have. The prices are also fair, especially for their annual and lifetime subscriptions.

These aspects along with the option of getting a free 7-day trial of the full version or getting a trial version that doesn’t expire (but comes with a number of restrictions) made us list it among the best VPN providers out there.

But we would like to point out some points where the service can improve and one is their privacy policy which is really hard to trust.

One reason is that it hasn’t been updated since 2015 and another is their vague and confusing “no log” policy. We would also like to see even more options for customer support. It will also be a good thing to see a kill switch feature and the ability to choose which VPN protocol to use.