Welcome to our review of Betternet. This VPN is free, but they do offer a premium service. Finding information on who or where the company is located is not an easy task, but the domain is registered in Canada. At the time of this review, the premium version is only available for Android. We will look at the specifics of this service and put it through the paces, but we are only reviewing the free version.
Pricing and Discounts
As we mentioned, this product is free. The way they support it is through app suggestions and videos. They also put an “anonymous” third party network cookie on your computer to track how well the videos are received. The pricing is not listed anywhere on their website, but is shown through a button on their Android app. When the page finally loaded, it showed a price of $4.99/mo, and $29.99 for a year. The only way to pay so far is by using an in-app purchase linked to your Google Play account.
A big driving factor behind selecting the right VPN provider is the features list. Betternet claims to be extremely simple to use. There is no stand alone client, so changing the settings or connecting may only be done from the tray. We were unable to locate any settings that we could change. Perhaps those are only available on the premium version.
When selecting the settings option from the tray, this is the screen that you see. There is no way to access anything that we are used to seeing. There is no way to see what sort of encryption is being used, and the service automatically connects to the “optimal server”. Based on the evidence, that is the closest server to you. With their premium version they do allow up to 5 simultaneous connections on the same account. They say they don’t have a logs policy, but they also say they will comply with DMCA take down notices.
If you want to connect to a specific server, you will need to have the premium version. Even with that, there are only 8 countries that are offered. Those countries are US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. If you only need access to servers in those countries, you will be fine. Those are some of the most popular locations to have servers located in.
Connection speeds are usually important when you are looking in to VPN providers. With anything encrypted, you can expect up to a 25% speed loss, and still have it be in the acceptable range. The speed of the free service, for lack of a better word, is abysmal. In the image below, you can see our results.
A whopping 90% reduction in speed is unacceptable to us, even for a free service. Betternet does state that their premium version is faster, but you would certainly hope so. We typically like to use the top tier encryption to run our test, but they did not give us that option. We had no way of knowing what levels of encryption they used while running our test.
Security and Privacy
The way that VPN services provide privacy is through encryption. However, we were not able to find any information on their website that indicates the level of encryption used or the protocols. In doing additional research, we discovered that they use OpenVPN. That is good, but it would be nice of them to tell us that information directly.
As far as support goes, Betternet’s support network is very limited. At this time, they only have a knowledgebase/forums section. We were not able to find another way to contact them directly.
In compatibility, we are glad to see that Betternet has at least the options we would expect to see. Here is a list of clients they offer.
- Mac OS X
- Google ChromeOS
If you are looking for additional support, we were not able to find any.
Sign Up Process
There really is no sign up process for their service, other than what we showed earlier through their Android client, so we will move on to usage.
How to Use Betternet for Desktop
Using a VPN should be easy, and it is with Betternet. If your goal is to get protected quickly, they have you covered. For our usage demonstration, we will show their Windows client. Start by downloading and installing their client. Once you see the Betternet icon on your screen, right click on the program tray and look for a shield in a grey circle. Clicking it will bring up a window that looks like this one. As we mentioned, the program will choose the optimal server for you. The bottom part of the screen tells what server it will connect you to. Simply click the connect button as indicated by the red arrow, and you will see the shield smile and say you are secured. Now you may enjoy the benefits of using a VPN. Of course, if you want to choose the server or possibly the encryption, you will need to buy the pay version. We could imagine that the Mac version would be similar in operation to the Windows version. There is nothing more you are allowed to do for free.
How to Use Betternet for Mobile
In this demonstration, we will use the Android version. That is the version that seems to be the most complete, at least from the upgrade perspective. Setup and usage is easy for mobile, which is a good thing. Betternet does not offer any setup guides for their services.
Much like the Windows version, the Android version has the same type of screen. The difference is, you can change locations under the locations tab as shown by the blue arrow. That is if you have the premium version. Our red arrow again points to the connect button here. Once connected, the circle turns to blue and the button is marked disconnect. From this screen, clicking on the locations box will also direct you to the premium screen. There, you will find the pricing we mentioned earlier.
Favorite features of Betternet:
- Very easy to use
- No logs kept
- 5 simultaneous connections (premium version)
Thoughts to improve Betternet:
- Add more countries
- Make webpage information more transparent
- Add more support
- List prices on website
- Make it easier to upgrade
- Offer more payment options
In conclusion, this service, at least the free version, feels largely unfinished. Only offering an in-app payment method for their service should you decide to pay is very limiting. They are p2p friendly, but also respond to DMCA requests. We would not advise torrenting on the free version anyway, because of the speed. It will be interesting to see if this free model is sustainable. They state that they do not keep logs, but they attach 3rd party cookies. If you are looking for a free VPN service, this one may be ok, but we are suspicious of anything that claims to protect your security for free. If you are serious about your privacy, remember you get what you pay for.