We all know that government agencies and private hackers are out to get their hands on our private information. Therefore, we need to take some serious measures to protect our online privacy.
Best VPN services provide us an easy way of securing our sensitive data.
You might be wondering:
Can a VPN protect me online without costing me any money?
Well, you’re in luck. Today, I am discussing a VPN that is mostly renowned for its freemium service.
Owned by AnchorFree, Hotspot Shield is an American base VPN service that promises ultimate privacy to the Netizens.
So, is Hotspot Shield any good?
You will get the answer to this question and more in this Hotspot Shield review.
Strong Points of Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield may not be stacked with circumvention tools but it’s worth considering. Following are the main benefits of this VPN.
- Free Service
- Free Trial
- User Friendly Software
- 45 Days Money Back Guarantee
- 5 Simultaneous Connections
- Split Tunneling
- Kill Switch
- P2P and Torrenting Support
- Netflix Compatibility
- No IP or WebRTC Leak
Many people reading this Hotspot Shield review will already be familiar with this version.
Activists in countries such as Turkey and Iran use this service to unblock YouTube and get their message through. Other less serious use of this VPN is by students in high school who use it to play video games such as Fortnite and Pokémon Go.
However, many have accused the free plan of actively injecting java codes for tracking and advertisement purposes. It is still a handy plan for Netizens who live in countries with prevalent online censorship.
But the question remains: Is Hotspot Shield completely free to use?
Yes! But with a catch. The freemium service has a 500 MB daily limit. Still, not a lot of VPNs are this generous with free data. Users should take what they get.
You can also make a free Hotspot Shield Elite account to test out the paid service of this VPN. For this, you have to sign up for a 7 days trial after launching the app. However, you will need to enter the credentials your credit card to access the trial. Even you can also get Hotspot Shield with the help of Aptoide Kodi store.
Remember, if you do not cancel the trial before 7 days, you will be charged for a month of service. Once you sign up for the trial, you lose your 45 days refund privilege.
Anyways, our Hotspot Shield review finds the free trial option to be extremely impressive. This is because Hotspot Shield already provides a free version to its users.
There are plenty of free ways to access this VPN service. This means there is no need for you to look up the web for Hotspot Shield crack.
User Friendly Software
Usually, I do not like apps popping up as soon as soon I log into my computer. However, the attractive interface of this VPN makes for it.
It gets even better.
The sleek blue design of this software and one click connectivity makes it one of a kind.
There is nothing more to the client. It is a solid software that provides a top-notch user experience.
45 Days Money Back Guarantee
Usually, the VPNs with freemium service do not offer an extensive refund window. Some do not offer a refund at all… *cough* TunnelBear.
This makes Hotspot’s 45 days refund policy all the more impressive. With this policy in place, users should be well assured that the provider is not duping them for money.
5 Simultaneous Connections
With five simultaneous connections, subscribers can connect multiple devices with just a single account.
This means you do not have to pay extra for securing your entire household through this VPN.
The chrome extension of Hotspot Shield VPN allows users to select websites they would always like to access via the proxy.
Likewise, you can also whitelist the websites that you’d want to access directly.
This unusual form of split tunneling stops you from accidentally opening up a website with your IP address exposed. Even with the Hotspot Shield free VPN proxy turned off, this feature works like a charm.
Kill Switch works as a sort of failsafe. It kills your internet whenever your VPN connection drops.
Although this is not rare feature by any stretch of imagination, it is still something you look out for in a VPN.
P2P and Torrenting Support
Hotspot Shield is one of the few VPNs that openly support torrenting and other P2P activities. It even provides a guide to anonymous torrenting on its website.
Not just that, Hotspot Shield has the tools to empower your connection for anonymous torrenting. I recommend this service for torrenting thanks largely due to its military grade encryption.
We consider Hotspot Shield’s L2TP protocol to be a perfect safeguard from forces who would otherwise restrict your torrenting operations.
Hotspot Shield is somewhat unpredictable when it comes to Netflix. As of now, the VPN service is unblocking Netflix through its US connection. This Hotspot Shield review also found the Canada server to be compatible with Netflix.
Still, I recommend that you keep yourself updated regarding Hotspot Shield’s Netflix compatibility. You can do this by being a frequent visitor on the provider’s website.
No IP or WebRTC Leak
IP and DNS leaks are detrimental for your online privacy. They can expose your location to unwelcomed guests, leaving you unprotected on the web.
Thankfully, these leaks are not an issue with Hotspot VPN.
While connecting to the US server, my IP remained hidden by the VPN.
Drawbacks of Hotspot Shield
Reading this Hotspot Shield VPN review until now, one would be inclined to think that everything is rosy with this service. But in contrast, this VPN provider has its demons.
The CDT Controversy
The consumer advocacy group has accused the VPN of interfering with web traffic and directing it to third party advertisers.
Considering that millions of people use this VPN to mask their IP and circumvent geo-restrictions, these allegations are pretty damning.
There are even calls for an FTC investigation into the VPN. Hence, users of Hotspot Shield VPN should follow this matter closely.
You never know what will come out of this entire controversy.
To perform an exhaustive speed test of this VPN, I first checked my normal connection speed with OOKLA.
The result was something like this.
I then connected to Hotspot VPN and the speed dropped considerably.
As you see, speed is perhaps not the forte of this VPN.
Only OpenVPN Protocol
Don’t get me wrong. I am the unofficial President of the OpenVPN fan club. But sometimes, you need a VPN with a bit of diversity.
Although OpenVPN has proven itself to be an efficient cyber security tool, it is sometimes incompatible with the user’s device. Case in point: the Chromebook.
Therefore, I would recommend people in charge of Hotspot Shield VPN to open their doors to new tunneling protocols.
Slow Customer Support
From outside, the customer support section does not seem that bad. You have your usual email ticketing system, troubleshooting articles and installation guides.
But once you delve in deeper, the faults start to show.
Perhaps, the biggest flaw here is tardiness of the ticketing system. Users who send their queries through this system have to wait for days to get a reply.
It gets worse.
Sometimes you do not receive a reply at all. Long story short, the provider really needs to have a second look at the entire customer support mechanism.
Incompatible with TOR
The Onion Router or TOR is a circumvention technology that has enabled Netizens to access internet freely in the hostile environments.
Users in North Korea and China use it to access Facebook and similar websites.
Moreover, the combination of TOR and VPN takes online privacy and internet freedom to an unassailable level. Unfortunately, Hotspot VPN does not work with TOR.
Dodgy Logging Policy
Hotspot Shield’s privacy and logging policy is a mixed bag. The company states that it does not keeps logs. Nevertheless, there also lots of areas where they mention using customer data for a variety of purposes.
The service also teams up with few third parties as their free version is supported by advertisement. According to the provider, they only provide anonymized IP address to the advertisers not the actual one.
In addition, they also state that they do not sell the browsing history of the users to the advertisers.
But the question remains: does Hotspot Shield keep logs?
Hotspot Shield Pricing & Plans
As this Hotspot Shield review discussed earlier, this VPN service has two versions: free and paid. There is no cost associated with the free Hotspot Shield version. Although the features associated with free version are limited. Furthermore, the free version is often used as a platform for different promotional campaigns, which means you are bombarded with advertisements.
Now, as for the paid version, the Hotspot Shield Elite presents 4 basic package plans:
There are different prices on offer here. Some customer may be inclined to ask: how much is Hotspot Shield for a month?
The answer depends on which plan you pick of the four.
Hotspot’s price goes as low as $3.49 per month, if you are willing to make a three years commitment with Hotspot VPN.
But, still, you may still think: why pay for it when you can have it for free.
Difference between Hotspot Shield Elite and Freemium Service
Although the purpose of the VPN remains the same, there is a considerable difference between the paid service (Hotspot Shield Elite) and the freemium VPN.
Limitations of Free Hotspot Shield
The moment you connect Hotspot Shield (Free), your browser will be attacked by assorted advert parasites. This will automatically open multiple tabs containing different promotions. This is an annoying experience for the user.
- The free version of Hotspot Shield does not require you to login.
- You cannot switch your VPN to another country/server.
- You can bypass most geo-restrictions, but not all of them.
- Annoying promotions and advertisements keep popping up all the time.
- You can only link up one device to the Hotspot server
- The bandwidth limitation is 500 MB per day
Hotspot Shield Elite VPN
With Hotspot Shield Elite, you can unlock the full potential of the VPN. There are many functions and features in this version not present in the free version. This Hotspot Shield VPN review has laid them out below.
- The most significant benefit associated with the Elite version is server swapping.
- You can mask your real IP with random IPs from US, UK, Japan and Australia.
- You can bypass all the geo-restrictions implemented by aforementioned countries.
- This version has unlimited bandwidth.
- Hotspot Shield Elite is compatible with different devices.
- Hotspot Shield Elite is an ad-free service.
- You can link up to 5 devices on this account.
You can buy Hotspot Shield Elite by transacting through:
- Master Card
- American Express
As always, the lack of Bitcoin is disappointing and there are no other anonymous paying methods as well.
Hotspot Shield Server List
The premium version of Hotspot Shield provides over 2000 servers from 25 countries. These numbers are impressive for anyone who is familiar with VPN services.
In contrast, Hotspot free version choses a server for you. This means this software doesn’t allow you to switch between the servers of your liking.
Hotspot Shield Compatibility
Compatibility is one of the core characteristics to look for while purchasing a VPN. Hence, I will analyze the compatibility of this VPN service in this section of the Hotspot Shield review.
Hotspot Shield Elite is compatible with devices like PC and Mac. This means that you can enjoy using its different versions of Windows. Moreover, it is also one of the best VPN for Mac OS X.
Hotspot Shield Elite is also has custom apps for iOS devices and Android powered Smartphones.
Hotspot Shield for Windows
To access the Windows client of this VPN service, you have to visit the provider’s official website. The good news is that the VPN is free to download for Windows 10 and other operating system.
The Windows client is exceptionally well-designed and user-friendly. Most importantly, it doesn’t overwhelm you with options immediately after you open it. This may be one of the reasons why casual users prefer this VPN service to its alternatives.
Once you get past the Hotspot Shield login window. The client allows you to connect with the VPN server with just one click. You can access the setting page to configure it as per your liking.
On the setting menu, there are options to turn on features such as Kill Switch, Auto-connect and IP leak protection.
Once you are connected, the client shows you the data usage during a particular session. Overall, in this Hotspot Shield review, using the Windows client of the service was a pleasing experience.
Hotspot Shield for Mac
The Mac client is different from other apps on the provider. It comes with 128-bit SSL encryption to secure your data.
With the typical Hotspot Shield login window and the similar blue design, this app protects Mac lovers from malicious entities.
But here is the kicker: it has malware protection to safeguard your system against online threats.
Nevertheless, I advise Mac user to keep themselves updated as the VPN is regularly adding new features to this app.
Hotspot Shield for Android
Hotspot Shield APK apps can be downloaded from its official website and Google Play Store. They are identical to the Windows client of the VPN and offer similar features.
However, it is important to know that just like the Windows’s client, you do get ads with these apps.
Regardless, Hotspot Shield APK is a nifty app.
Hotspot Shield for iOS
Once again, the iOS app of Hotspot Shield is barely distinguishable from its Windows client. You can download the app from iTunes, the provider’s website and some other sources.
Despite all the merits of the VPN, many of you would have the same question: Is Hotspot Shield safe for iPhone?
Well, this Hotspot Shield review discovered that the app uses L2TP/IPSec protocol. This makes it one of more secure VPNs for iOS.
Hotspot Shield for Browser Extensions
The browser extension of Hotspot Shield works as a proxy service rather than a complete VPN. These extensions provide secure surfing through a particular browser. You can add Hotspot to your Firefox and Google Chrome.
Hotspot Shield for Chrome
Advertised as Hotspot Shield free VPN proxy, the Chrome extension is light weight online privacy solution.
It only takes a minute or two to install the Hotspot Shield for Chrome. After that, a small Hotspot logo appears on top right corner of your browser. You can click that logo to access the Hotspot software and configure it as per your requirements.
Through this extension, you can connect to the servers of Germany, India, Russia, Canada, France, Netherland and Singapore. The elite users can also access the servers of the US and the UK.
Hotspot Shield for Firefox
Compare to the Chrome extension, the Firefox extension of Hotspot Shield is extremely basic. This extension does not let you connect to the server on our own. Instead, it picks an optimized location for you. Overall, the Hotspot Shield add-on for Firefox has offer little to offer.
This Hotspot Shield review discovered that the app uses L2TP/IPSec protocol. This makes it one of more secure VPNs for iOS.
Hotspot Shield Tracker, Ad and Malware Blocker
The chrome extension comes with features to block trackers, ad, malware and cookies. In our Hotspot Shield review, these added features proved to extremely efficient.
While we turned on the ad blocker, I experienced absolutely no advertisement from any website we visited. However, the blockers were sometimes irritating as they automatically logged us out from some of our online accounts.
Hotspot Shield is not compatible with Linux, DD-WRT, Tomato Router and many other operating systems and gaming devices. Hence, Hotspot Shield Elite might not be able to serve the needs of diverse market segments with divergent preferences.
Users on the popular reviewing site term Hotspot Shield VPN as expensive.
Other users find the VPN’s cancellation procedure to be inefficient.
On at twitter, Netizens are curious about the VPN. Some are asking ‘What is Hotspot Shield’ while others are skeptical about the VPN.
However, some users on twitter are protecting their children from malicious content with Hotspot VPN.
I think these topics need to be talked about more often! Gotta protect the kiddos! #HotspotShield
— Mom Of Wild Things 🦖🦕🐊🐾 (@Ajewell03) October 26, 2018
Below in an example of Netizens using Hotspot to get past internet censorship.
— Umairism (@umsaleemi) April 22, 2018
Meanwhile, some users on reddit hold the VPN in high esteem.
Some former subscribers even praise the refund process of the VPN.
Hotspot Shield – FAQs
The logs policy of this service might not be able to satisfy users who demand utmost privacy.
Still, in a way Hotspot Shield is safe. It is safe for those who want to unblock geo-restricted content without constraining their financial limitations. Hotspot Shield also has lot to offer to users who need securing their connection.
Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield is not compatible with Ubuntu as of now. The only way you can utilize the VPN on the OS is through the browser extensions.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Download Hotspot Shield’s Chrome and Firefox extension
- Add it on your browser
Now you are set to use the VPN on Ubuntu.
Automatic software updates can be annoying. Following are some steps you can follow to stop this from happening.
Step 1: Open Task Scheduler by searching for it through the Windows start menu.
Step 2: Click on small triangle next to the Task Scheduler library to expand it.
Step 3: Select program author.
Step 4: Select Hotspot Shield from the middle pane.
Step 5: Disable the automatic updates through the options in the right pane.
To cancel the premium subscription on Android, you need to take the following steps:
Step 1: Go to Settings
Step 2: Tap on iTunes
Step 3: Select your Apple ID
Step 4: Tap on ‘View Apple’
Step 5: Enter your ID, fingerprint and password
Step 6: Tap on Subscription
Step 7: Choose ‘Hotspot Shield Premium’
Step 8: Turn of Auto-renewal and tap on Confirm
Your subscription is now cancelled.
Final Verdict & Recommendations
Hotspot Shield has a staggering 600 million users worldwide. It is one of the most commonly known VPN service thanks mostly to its free client.
On the other hand, the paid version of this software does not have the features to turn many heads. Similarly, it’s a bit on the expensive side when compared to some of the other players in the market.
This Hotspot Shield review has highlighted the good and bad of this service. And as you may guessed, the bad outweighs the good.
Hence, I would only recommend this VPN for your run of the mill geo-dodging. For anything more serious, there are other options available.