Hotspot Shield is a VPN that has become very popular. It was released by the American company AnchorFree, Inc. located in Silicon Valley. When the Windows version came out in 2008, it became famous during the Arab Spring of 2010 as a way of encrypting Internet traffic. For this review, we’ll discuss the different parts of the service and test the product out.
Prices and Discounts
There are two different versions of Hotspot Shield. While it is widely known for the ad-supported free version, there is also an elite version. If you want to upgrade to elite, there are five different lengths of service. One month is $11.95. For six months, the cost is $19.99. That works out to $3.33 a month. If you choose the yearly option, you pay $29.95, and your price is $2.50 a month. Two years drops your total price to $49.95 and it is $2.08 a month. Finally, their forever package is $99.95. That is only a one time payment for as long as you like. Pricing is one of the strong draws for Hotspot Shield.
Payment wise, there are several options you have. They offer Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, PayPal, Mopay, and Bitcoin. If you want help managing your subscription, PayPal is a good option. However using Bitcoin will give you a bit more privacy.
30 Day Risk-Free Money Back Guarantee
As with any VPN company, you should be happy with your service. Hotspot Shield offers a very generous 30 day money back guarantee. That is one of the longest in the industry. Thirty days is more than enough time to test the service to see if you like it.
If you are searching for a VPN provider, features can set one service apart from another. Hotspot Shield (HS) has a no nonsense, streamlined client and they have a few features. We’ll talk about them now.
AnchorFree Hotspot Shield is designed to be easy to operate. That is an important feature for those that are not very tech savvy. It was also helpful to encrypt traffic during the Arab Spring. Hotspot Shield has IP leak protection, and offers simultaneous coverage for up to five devices at one time. Just perfect to protect the devices you own, plus the option to add more if you need them. They also currently support p2p traffic on all servers, but strongly warn against any copyright infringement through their network.
That is really all that Hotspot Shield has to offer in their VPN service. We realize their whole goal is to keep the service easy to use, but we would like to see some added features like VPN kill switch and Smart DNS.
Another item that is looked at is the server network. That is because you may want different server options when traveling abroad. Currently, Hotspot Shield offers servers in 20 countries. They don’t seem to mention any specific city locations, nor do they tell the number of servers located in each country. We will take a look at where their servers are located. In North America, there are servers in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Servers for Europe are located in the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Ireland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Turkey, and the Netherlands. For Asia/Africa/Oceanic servers, they are located in India, China, Hong Kong, and Australia. Depending on where you connect from, you may not need that many countries. However, you may want to have the option.
Of course, one thing you have to look at when looking for a provider is the server speed. No matter what activities you plan on doing with a VPN, speed can be important. Keep in mind that any time you use an encrypted connection, you can expect a small speed loss. Normal levels can be from 10% – 25%. As you can see in the image below Hotspot Shield did well, showing only about a 12% loss. Those numbers are within the levels we usually expect. we got these results by using the OpenVPN UDP protocol. Though this is not an option you can change, but that is the one we would suggest if you could.
Security and Privacy
Normally, we prefer that providers offer different protocols with their VPN service. Though there is only one option in the Windows client. Hotspot Shield uses OpenVPN, the gold standard of AES-256 bit encryption. It provides the best mix of speed and security and is considered to be the best protocol you can choose. We would like to see more choice in the types and numbers of protocols offered, but you can feel secure with what they offer.
At this time, Hotspot Shield offers a ticket system, FAQ, and a knowledge base for avenues of support. The turn around time for responses is unknown, nor could we find it listed on their website. We would appreciate more specifics and more choices. Perhaps a live chat, or even a posting of the time you could expect.
For compatibility, Hotspot Shield offers several choices. The native clients include Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. Additionally, the browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox. We are not sure if they are planning on adding a native app for Linux because we did not see any information.
Sign Up Process
Signing up for Hotspot Shield is easy to do. You want to start by going to the Hotspot Shield website and clicking the Elite version. Next, click on the payment method of either credit card or Paypal and choose the length of service you want.
How to Use Hotspot Shield for Windows
Most of native apps are identical, no matter which one you use. They do that to make it easy, so you will have the same experience across the board. Start by downloading the software, and click the install button. You will now see the console below. You can now scroll through the various servers that you would like to connect to, located under the connection toggle. If you are looking for servers for torrenting, they are available to use but HS warns against copyright violations.
As you can see, the client is straight forward and has very few things you can change. Essentially, it is the list of servers and the slider. Their Mac version it is almost identical to the one we just showed you.
How to Use Hotspot Shield for Android
To use the Android version, go to the Google Play Store and search for Hotspot Shield. Once you find it, tap on install. As soon as it gets finished, tap on open.
Now, Hotspot Shield is ready for use. Simply tap next twice, and then tap the connect button.
You can expect that other versions are very similar to this app. Keep in mind that the service likes to auto-connect as soon as it opens. If you don’t want that to happen, you have to turn that feature off. And that is all there is to using the Android app. Just like the Windows version, the client is very straight forward and has almost no changeable features. That takes care of the mobile version of Hotspot Shield.
Favorite Features for Hotspot Shield:
- No activity logs kept
- Good pricing
- Up to 5 devices on an account
- Straight forward interface
Thoughts to make Hotspot better:
- Add more countries
- Give more protocol options
- Add more features
- Add more support options
Hotspot Shield provides basic VPN coverage for a good price. There is no way to change or select a different protocol. The big points of the Elite service are its’ price, network coverage, and its’ minimalist console. If you want basic protection of your privacy along with the other benefits of a VPN service, you should consider this very reasonably priced alternative. We like the speeds we received, and it is nice to see that everyone can use this simple interface. We found Hotspot Shield to be a very stable product, but the auto-connect feature can be annoying at times.