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Hotspot Shield Review

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Hotspot Shield VPN provides solid encryption for mobile and desktop clients, with 2,500 servers around the world. Here’s a complete review.

Hotspot Shield is a VPN company founded back in 2005. It operates under the umbrella of AnchorFree, which is located in Redwood City, California. The service is divided into two separate products—a free proxy and a premium plan.

Hotspot Shield provides top-notch encryption and access to many geo-restricted sites, including streaming services, wherever you are in the world. Moreover, the app will keep you safe from malware and protect your device while connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Many users like Hotspot Shield because of the fact that they can use it for free. If you want to find out more about Hotspot Shield’s privacy policy and hear if the premium subscription is really worth your money, read this comprehensive review.

Features

Servers

Hotspot Shield has more than 2,500 servers in 25 countries worldwide. Some of the locations include:

  • Denmark
  • Canada
  • China
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel

Also, the app allows you to navigate between servers as many times as you want.

Moreover, you can use the service to access streaming sites and download torrents. This is essential for movie enthusiasts who do not want to get in trouble with the law, and for people who want to access Netflix content reserved only for U.S. users.

Encryption

The encryption protocol is one of the most important security features of every VPN app. The ultimate goal is to encrypt the client’s traffic and messages, and protect all sensitive and private data.

Hotspot Shield does not use standard encryption protocols such as OpenVPN. The company explains in a FAQ that they used OpenVPN in the past, but it has since been replaced with Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Catapult Hydra.

Kill Switch

If your connection with a VPN server somehow gets terminated, a kill switch is a feature that will protect you from IP address leaks. It is designed to disconnect you from the internet in case the connection with the server gets compromised.

Luckily, Hotspot Shield has included a kill switch in their apps for Windows and macOS. Unfortunately though, according to the website, this feature is not available for mobile devices.

P2P Sharing

If you are a torrenting enthusiast, the best VPN service provider for you is one that allows P2P sharing. Lucky for you, Hotspot Shield allows torrenting on all available servers. This is a major plus because some companies have a limited number of designated locations for file sharing.

Performance

Another good thing with Hotspot Shield is its speed. The service is faster than most of the competition, even if you are connected to a distant server. The company claims it is because the app utilizes its own Catapult Hydra protocol, which is reportedly based on TLS and OpenSSL, ideal for downloading large files.

However, if you connect to one location (a U.S. server, for example), Google will think you are in the United Kingdom. That means that the company uses virtual servers that are not located in the countries they claim to be.

Compatibility

Hotspot Shield will provide you protection on your every device. The company developed apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Chrome.

Windows and macOS apps provide unlimited bandwidth, a kill switch, live technical support, Catapult Hydra protocol and top-notch encryption. On the company’s site, a kill switch is not listed as one of the features of mobile apps.

Given the fact that Hotspot Shield offers up to five simultaneous connections with one account, and apps for both mobile devices and computers, we can easily say that it can provide online security and anonymity for your entire family.

Customer Support

In the Support section of the website, clients can find frequently asked questions about every app, information about payment and subscription, accounts and devices, common issues, and release notes.

If you want to contact a support team, you can do that on this page as well. First, you will have to select a proper inquiry type (How-to Question, Technical Issue, Purchasing Inquiry, Feedback) and a topic. You will also have to enter a valid email address, a subject and a short description of an issue. Once the ticket is submitted, a support team should get back to you as soon as possible.

Hotspot Shield also offers 24/7 live chat via Zendesk.

Installation

The process for installing the Hotspot Shield app is simple and straight-forward. All you need to do is to go to the company’s website and click on the Get Hotspot Shield button.

Get Hotspot Shield

Select a plan you would like to purchase and fill in payment information.

Select a plan

If you want to start a 7-day free trial, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Free VPN button.

Free VPN button.

All you need to do now is to download and install the software.

Free VPN button.

Once the download process is completed, run the installation wizard and follow the instructions. Hit Install, and within a couple of seconds, the app will be ready to use.

hit Finish.

You will be notified when the process is completed, and all you need to do is to hit Finish.

Finish.

Before you start using the service, you will have to fill in your payment information if you haven’t already.

Finish.

Finish.

User Interface

The user interface of Hotspot Shield’s iOS app is elegant and easy to use.

On the app’s homepage, you can see an On and Off button, Help section, list of servers, and menu.

The service allows you to connect to the recommended location or choose a server according to your needs.

If you click the Help button, you can manage your subscription, account or find a solution to some of the potential issues.

In the Menu section, you can access Settings, the About page, your profile, contact the support team and restore your purchase.

The interface is predominantly white and blue, without unnecessary and confusing details, which makes the app a good choice for beginners.

Security and Privacy

Hotspot Shield is located in the United States, which means it is under the jurisdiction of 14 and 5 Eyes alliance. The countries who have signed this agreement are obliged to collect—and if needed, share—information about their citizens’ online activity. That is why a zero logs policy is essential for every VPN service.

According to Hotspot Shield’s Transparency Report [PDF], the company receives dozens of requests for customer data every year, but it doesn’t hand over any information.

Hotspot Shield also claims they do not permanently store users’ IP addresses or keep logs of online activities. They do, however, collect device-specific information before a user connects to the app. This information cannot be connected to the specific user.

The free version of the app has faced scrutiny in the past for “unfair and deceptive” practices involving collecting users’ data for advertising purposes. Hotspot Shield says in their privacy policy that third party advertisers may be able to collect information independently from users of the free service.

The paid version, on the other hand, has no advertising.

Price

As already mentioned, clients can subscribe to a free version of Hotspot Shield, as well as a premium plan.

The latter one includes:

  • Three years plan ($3.49 a month)
  • One year plan ($5.99 a month)
  • Six months plan ($8.99 a month)
  • One month plan ($12.99)

With every option, you get unlimited data, connection to over 2,500 servers, five simultaneous connections, top-notch encryption, and 24/7 support. If you are not satisfied with the service, the company offers a 45-day money back guarantee.

The company also offers a business plan, which besides standard features offers connection to 20 devices.

When it comes to the payment options, you can use credit cards or PayPal.

Users’ Reviews

Most Hotspot Shield clients are satisfied with how the app works. One of the best traits according to them is the simplicity of use and high speed.

However, some users had issues with downloading a free version of the app. According to them, the software failed to launch. Also, from time-to-time the app crashes, and fixing the issue is pretty much time-consuming.

Alternatives

If you want a larger list of protocols or need an app which is compatible with your router, you may want to consider some of the other VPN services available:

Some of the listed services are cheaper, while others are more expensive. Some offer more servers, while others offer less. Regardless, the right VPN service for you completely depends on your personal needs, priorities and preferences.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

High speed Sketchy zero logs policy
Kill switch included Located in the United States, therefore subject to data retention laws
Large servers park Servers use virtual locations
256-bit encryption Not compatible with all operating systems and routers
Up to five simultaneous connections

Conclusion

Under its parent company AnchorFree, Hotspot Shield is a California-based VPN company that offers a free and paid services to its clients. The app allows torrenting, streaming and unlimited bandwidth. The service utilizes Catapult Hydra, which is custom-made for Hotspot Shield, and 256-bit encryption as well.

One of the best traits of the app is its speed. However, the fact that the company is based in the United States and is subjected to data retention laws raises suspicion regarding its zero logs policy. It has also faced scrutiny over collecting users’ data for its free version of the app, which is ad-supported.

However, before you make a final purchase, you can test it out with a free trial and then make an informed decision.

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