Hotspot Shield

Our rating:

 7.2/10

No. of servers: 2,500+

Price from: $3.49

#25 out of 60 VPN providers

Read our Full Opinion

Free trial version (limited)

45-day money-back guarantee

Very easy to use

Impressive speeds

What others say about Hotspot Shield:

As a service, Hotspot Shield is superb. They offer lighting fast speeds, an incredible user experience, and plenty of great features to keep any VPN enthusiast happy.

BestVPN.com
March 3, 2018

Hotspot Shield says it doesn't 'log or store' your IP address, but the company doesn't rule out others doing that when you launch the app. In addition, both Hotspot Shield and its service providers may log enough detail to tie these records to a specific device. None of this can directly tie you to a specific online action, but it's still a little more logging than you might expect.

techradar.com
September 25, 2018

The service comes with malware protection on its proxy browser, so you can rest assured that your computer will not be exposed to viruses when using Hotspot Shield Elite.

VPNmentor.com
October 21, 2018

In the past, Hotspot Shield's free version injected ads directly into web pages displayed in a desktop browser. The company's head told Tom's Guide that that practice has been ended, and that ads now appear only when opening and closing VPN connections in the Hotspot Shield Android app.

Tomsguide.com
June 20, 2018

What is Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield VPN and its “birth-giver,” AnchorFree Inc, have been around the cybersecurity market for 13 years. In fact, this was one of the first companies to introduce a free VPN solution to the world. During its relatively long life, it’s managed to convince over 650 million users to download its VPN clients. This makes Hotspot the most popular service on the web today. No other VPN provider has beaten that continually-growing number of users to date.

The secret? Well, let’s just say Hotspot Shield has a limited free version as well as a 7-day Premium free trial. Of course, there are lots of other competitors with such “weapons,” and their user numbers only reach a few hundred thousand users. So, what’s the magic here? Most likely, it’s about good marketing.

The basic Hotspot Shield free VPN software comes with a number of limitations. You can only use the US servers and you only have 500MB daily traffic. The accessible content is also limited. What’s more, you have to put up with the occasional third-party ads. The completely free VPN app only works with one device and doesn’t give you the 24/7 live chat support option.

The Premium free trial, on the other hand, has no limits and no ads. For 7 days, it’s possible to use the Premium version to see if this is what you need. However, don’t forget to cancel your subscription in time. Signing up for the trial requires your payment details. Read the small print carefully – if you fail to opt out over 7 days, you will get a monthly charge of $12.99.

While most VPN solutions support the OpenVPN protocol, Hotspot Shield didn’t find it fast enough or good enough. Therefore, they have developed their own VPN protocol named Catapult Hydra. It’s supposed to be 2.4x faster than OpenVPN for long-distance connections. But there seem to be other advantages too.

Hotspot Shield has 2,500+ servers in 25 countries. This number includes quite a number of virtual servers as well. So, it’s possible to connect to a server that’s not physically in your desired country. However, only the free VPN version is supposed to use virtual servers. Therefore, Premium users should have access to servers located at their stated locations.

The Hotspot Shield VPN software supports 10 languages, including English, Portuguese, French, Russian, and Japanese. The Premium account allows you to use 5 devices simultaneously.

This VPN offers impressively fast speeds irrespective of the distance from your physical location. The interface is straightforward and easy to use. There aren’t many settings to tweak; this is more like a novice tool for online security. Hotspot Shield offers leak protection as well as a kill switch, both of which provide an extra layer of privacy.

However, the no logs policy may not actually mean zero logs. Your IP address and other metadata could be kept for the duration of your VPN session. As per the Privacy Policy, Hotspot and its affiliates can also collect personal data automatically. This makes your full anonymity somewhat questionable, even if such data is not supposed to link you to your online activities.

Finally, the Premium VPN pricing plans are somewhere in the middle range – just like its overall quality and versatility.

Hotspot Shield Facts

Company name AnchorFree Inc. and AnchorFree GmbH
Company name AnchorFree Inc. and AnchorFree GmbH
Global presence 25 countries
Global presence 25 countries
Money back policy 45-day money-back guarantee
Money back policy 45-day money-back guarantee
Business Location Redwood City, CA (US HQ); Stans, Switzerland; Kiev, Ukraine
Business Location Redwood City, CA (US HQ); Stans, Switzerland; Kiev, Ukraine
Privacy Third-party trackers (free version), no logs policy with some session logs
Privacy Third-party trackers (free version), no logs policy with some session logs
Domain https://www.hotspotshield.com
Domain https://www.hotspotshield.com
Number of servers 2,500+
Number of servers 2,500+
Free / Trial version Limited free version and 7-day free trial (Premium)
Free / Trial version Limited free version and 7-day free trial (Premium)
Other Names Hotspot, Hotspot Shield, Hotspot Shield VPN
Other Names Hotspot, Hotspot Shield, Hotspot Shield VPN

Where Hotspot Shield is based and why it is important

This provider has 3 locations. First, AnchorFree Inc has its headquarters in Redwood City, CA. Second, there’s another location in Stans, Switzerland. And, finally, an office in Kiev, Ukraine.

Where the company is located may provide clues as to its obligation to log and retain user data. While most VPN solution providers claim that their servers keep no logs, reality may reveal a different story.

Hotspot Shield Location: Redwood City, CA (HQ)

AnchorFree Inc is based in the US, which means that the company is under the jurisdiction of the US. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst places on Earth for a VPN service. The United States is one of the world leaders in terms of online surveillance. In fact, the US is the founder of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

This means that even if Hotspot Shield seemingly collects no logs about you and your online communications, they could be compelled by authorities to share data. And even if this VPN service couldn’t provide the authorities with identifiable logs, the data centers—where the servers are—can also be asked to monitor servers and log traffic.

All in all, it’s usually considered a risk to your online privacy and anonymity if the provider is based in the US. Of course, a privacy-friendly VPN location doesn’t automatically imply safety either.

Location, in this sense, is a grey area. Depending on the level of privacy you need, it could mean nothing or everything. Still, better safe than sorry.

What does a Hotspot Shield location say?

1

US jurisdiction

2

ISPs are allowed to log users and sell data

3

Five Eyes alliance member

4

Tough anti-piracy and copyright infringement laws

Available plans and pricing

First of all, Hotspot Shield free VPN is, without a doubt, the cheapest possible option. Yet, it comes with too many limitations to be considered a useful tool. There’s also a Premium VPN version, which has a 7-day free trial. Remember that for this trial you have to enter your payment details. Also, keep in mind that unless you opt out, you will be charged for the monthly plan, which has the highest relative price of all the plans.

The Premium pricing plans are not for the budget user – they’re somewhere in the middle.

3 years

$ 3.49

per month

SAVE 73%

Billed $125.64 every 36 months

1 year

$ 5.99

per month

SAVE 53%

Billed $71.88 every 12 months

6 months

$ 8.99

per month

SAVE 31%

Billed $53.94 every 6 months

1 month

$ 12.99

per month

NO SAVINGS

Billed monthly

As you can see, Hotspot Shield offers four pricing plans. Like most of its competitors, this service also substantially drops prices with increasing subscription lengths. For example, you can save up to 74% if you choose the 3-year plan for $3.49 per month.

Nonetheless, before you make yourself believe that this is the deal of the decade, we suggest that you consider what you’re getting. It also makes sense to compare these prices and features with other competitors and get a bigger picture.

Platforms Hotspot Shield supports

Like most common VPN services, Hotspot Shield supports the most popular platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Chrome, and Firefox. The only “extra” is probably Windows Phone, which hadn’t previously been available.

Hotspot Shield Windows
Windows
Hotspot Shield Mac
Mac
Hotspot Shield iOS
iOS
Hotspot Shield Android
Android
Hotspot Shield Chrome
Chrome
Hotspot Shield Firefox
Firefox

The leaders of the VPN industry normally provide apps or detailed instructions for configuring additional platforms. Hotspot chooses to inform its potential users about the list of unsupported devices instead:

    • Smart TV
    • Apple TV
    • Android TV box
    • Roku
    • Chromecast
    • XMBC or Kodi
    • Amazon Fire TV Stick
    • Kindle devices
    • Blackberry phones
    • Rooted or jailbroken devices
    • Linux OS
    • Game Consoles
    • Custom router configurations

Well, this is an extensive list of potential future platforms to cover. And, when you’re considering its versatility, you’ll find Hotspot Shield a bit lacking in this department.

With that said, the supported VPN clients are very simple yet nice. They are all easy to use; maybe too much so. Apart from a few basic settings (the kill switch and leak protection), you have no control over the app or your security features. This may be good news for novice users; however, more advanced users won’t be satisfied.

Hotspot Shield and entertainment

First of all, when it comes to entertainment via VPN, you’ll need decent speeds and low latency. Fortunately, Hotspot excels in this area. Our speed tests show that this VPN has one of the highest speeds right now on the market. Even long-distance servers perform impressively.

Nevertheless, it’s not always just about speed. Here’s what Hotspot Shield VPN can actually do.

Streaming

Statistics indicate that almost one-third of global VPN users use it to access Netflix. Many of them use a VPN service solely for Netflix. But this media streaming platform is a hard nut to crack. Therefore, more and more providers give up the fight. Hotspot Shield is still among those that can bypass Netflix proxy detection in certain regions. If you experience issues with that, the live chat support and the FAQ section are always there to help.

Anyhow, streaming videos isn’t only about Netflix. With this VPN, you can also stream BBC iPlayer, Comedy Central, NBC, YouTube, and much more. No buffering, no lag. HD quality or even 4K, this service can bring it all.

It’s important to add that this only applies to the paid version.

Streaming content

Torrenting and P2P

the pirate bay torrenting

While some websites may warn against using Hotspot Shield for torrenting, the truth is far from their claims. At the moment, this VPN supports P2P and torrenting for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. When asked, live chat support recommended we use the Vuze BitTorrent client with Hotspot Shield VPN for greater privacy and anonymity. Contrary to what some articles say, this provider does not block P2P traffic or ban accounts due to torrenting.

Due to the 500MB monthly limit, we wouldn’t advise using the free VPN for large-scale file-sharing.

Let us just remind you about Hotspot Shield’s privacy issues. Decide for yourself whether it’s anonymous enough for your P2P activities.

Gaming

With a good geo-unblocker, decent speeds, and low latency, you can probably enjoy online gaming seamlessly. Our tests show that Hotspot Shield has it all. This makes it a good choice for online gaming. Of course, there’s the question of pricing. You may find this service a bit expensive for what it’s worth. Yet, it wouldn’t hurt to go for the 7-day Premium free trial to find out how it performs for you.

gaming

China? Try again.

using vpn in china

Bypassing the Great Firewall of China has never been tougher. While the Hotspot Shield live chat support can confirm that this VPN software is programmed to work in China, you may have temporary issues. In fact, there seems to be a bug right now that doesn’t allow you to connect to specific servers, including China and South Korea.

If you attempt to use the China server, you’ll be connected to a server in Japan. Without waving the flag of political incorrectness claiming that Japan is not a city in China, this provider already knows about this annoying issue. We got reassured that the Engineering Team has already been working on it.

This problem hasn’t been resolved while writing this brand page. But we’ll update it as soon as we receive the email about the fix. Until then, you may want to use another VPN service for China.

Want more insights about Hotspot Shield?

Check out our Hotspot Shield review to see if you are making the right choice.

Read our Hotspot Shield Review

Hotspot Shield history

vpn history
brand history
2005

The beginnings

AnchorFree Inc is founded.

2012

Major growth

Hotspot strengthens its VPN service with an anti-malware wall.

The app hits 60 million downloads.

The Android client is finally introduced to the market.

2013

Promising future

Forbes names AnchorFree as America’s sixth most promising company.

2014

Thanks to Turkey

Thanks to the Turkish Twitter ban, Hotspot Shield VPN becomes the most-downloaded app in Turkey.

2015

Let there be extensions

The Chrome and Firefox VPN plugins are launched.

2017

Ups and downs

The Hotspot Shield VPN app reaches 500 million installations. This year alone sees more than 100 million downloads. The US becomes Hotspot’s largest market.

The Center for Democracy & Technology files a report accusing AnchorFree of logging connections and using third-party tracking. The company clarifies these claims, and they also revise the Privacy Policy to be more privacy-friendly.

2018

The sky's the limit

The number of downloads passes the 650 million mark.

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