Last update: 01.07.2018
A lot of bold claims but not a lot to back it up with. The low amount of servers means you get below-average security and speed, not to mention no Netflix or live chat support. But at least it has a low price (sort of). Read our Betternet review to learn more.
The first thing we were eager to investigate in our Betternet review was the VPN service’s bold claims that it’s the “fastest, most secure VPN experience on the web.” That’s a pretty bold claim to make for a company only started in 2015, but unfortunately, based on our analysis, we can say with great certainty that this is not the case.
Not at all.
In fact, we found that Betternet fails in most areas where other VPN services succeed. These include:
- Security: Betternet has a measly 17 server locations in 10 countries, and unfortunately all of those countries are members of the Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes global surveillance alliances.
- Speed: if you do the math (17 server locations for 38 million users), you’ll soon see that Betternet’s speed leaves a lot to be desired.
- Pricing: with both a free and premium plan (starting at $2.99), the price is pretty good, if that’s the only thing you’re focusing on.
- Apps: the good news is that Betternet has browser extensions and mobile apps, but the bad news is that those are absolute disasters.
Betternet fails on the basics, but what about the stricter requirements for VPN-seekers?Unfortunately, we don’t have any good news for you here either:
- There’s no Netflix support.
- There’s no live chat support.
- Betternet’s limited number of servers leads to a rather bad torrenting experience.
As you can see, there’s a lot of room here for improvement here.
For an in-depth look at how Betternet fares in all the important areas, continue to read our full Betternet review below.
Security & privacy: is Betternet safe to use?
A VPN should be mostly about online security and privacy, right? Okay, you could argue that some users only install a VPN service for unblocking geo-restricted material, i.e., to access websites that are otherwise unavailable for them at their current location.
Still, unless you’re a total newbie in the VPN and cybersecurity arena, you would definitely want to know that your online privacy and anonymity are protected with the utmost care by the VPN service provider.
So, let’s see how well it’s doing as a VPN for security and privacy based on our Betternet review.
Betternet’s problematic server locations
This service provider has a very underwhelming VPN server coverage of 10 countries (17 server locations), including the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and Japan. From an online security point of view, you may want to know that all of these countries are members of or connected to the Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes global surveillance alliances.
Why is this important? Well, for one thing, because these governments tend to have data retention laws and can ask Betternet any time to share information or collect data about a certain user.
Well, if Betternet doesn’t want to leave a bitter taste in more privacy-conscious users’ mouth, they will have to work on the legal documents to be clear on the most important parts.
But, there are other security-related issues as well.
Lack of necessary security features
Using Betternet for privacy could be like walking on a minefield. The most worrisome missing features we’ve found are the following:
- No kill switch
- Zero DNS leak protection
- No cloaking
The lack of these major true IP address protection features can result in disasters.
Specifically, your physical location can be traced by retrieving your real IP address due to leaks. Sounds like fun? We don’t think so either, not when you want to use Betternet VPN for utmost security.
But that’s not all. Third party advertisers can install cookies onto your devices to track your clicks and preferences. This, again, can provide a base for major privacy and security breaches.
We also don’t like the fact that Betternet is not too clear on its VPN protocols and how and when it uses them. There’s only a blog post on their site where we found information about this (which is from 2015), and it claims that OpenVPN with AES-256 encryption and L2TP/IPsec are applied.
Other big security problems
The further in-depth we go in our Betternet review, the worse it gets.
In an academic study in 2017, Betternet finished #4 on the list of the 10 worst VPNs regarding security, with a shocking VirusTotal rank of 13.
To top it all off, we discovered that Betternet uses Gmail in their user communications, which can result in possible leaks. The popular Google email service has been found sharing your private emails with third-party app developers, which is an obvious breach of your privacy; there’s no other way to put it.
This Gmail privacy issue may have a big impact on Betternet’s ability to keep your information safe. To get more details on this topic, read our full report.
So, let’s recap quickly: is Betternet safe to use for security and privacy? Hell, no! That pretty much sums up what we think.
Speed: another wannabe bites the dust?
Most major VPN players claim the same things nowadays: “the fastest VPN” and “the most secure VPN.”
But in reality, they all pretty much mean “one of the” instead of “THE only one at the top.” At least, when we look at VPN speed test results, we’re not convinced what these labels mean anymore.
This is true for the premium version of Betternet as well, not to mention the limited free Betternet VPN.
With 10 countries (17 server locations) altogether you can’t really expect mind-blowing speeds; not when there are over 38 million users to stream the hell out of these few servers.
It’s quite possible that you can’t even connect to certain servers because they’re just overloaded.
Tests indicate that there are major drops when accessing servers further away from your physical locations.
However, uploading speeds seem to do a lot better. In other words, it’s possible that you can actually stream HD videos with both the Betternet free VPN and the paid version, but we wouldn’t get our hopes too high when using the free app.
Betternet is still good for browsing content relatively safely or unblocking websites that are not available in your location.
How to download and install it
There are basically two ways for you to get started with Betternet.
First, you can use the Platforms menu, select your desired platform, and click the “Get the App” button on the respective page.
You may get redirected to the Mac App Store or the Google Play Store depending on your choice. It’s also possible to download Betternet from Cnet.com.
Second, you can also click the “Download App” button in the top right corner of the official website.
The installation is pretty straightforward unless you want the mobile versions, which are only available as a 7-day trial version for a start.
This also means that you have to sign up first, i.e., give all your banking details and accept the fact that you are signing up for an automated monthly charge until you cancel it or change plans.
When you install the Windows or Mac version, however, you can cancel the premium and free trial options, and just use it for free without any registration. You can always go premium from within the application if you so decide.
How to use Betternet
Similarly to our Avast SecureLine VPN review, we can state that Betternet is one of the easiest-to-use VPN clients. If you are using the free Betternet VPN client, you simply click the “Connect” button and you will be connected to a US VPN server automatically.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to customize in the free version. You either connect to or disconnect an automatically assigned VPN server. It can’t get any simpler; well, until mind-reading apps rule the virtual world.
If you’re using the premium version, you can click the Select Virtual Location button and choose from the 10 available countries. There are also 7 server locations in the US to select from. With the Betternet VPN client you don’t even need to disconnect before choosing another server; simply change the location and the replacement takes place automatically.
From a certain angle, this is a real plus for Betternet. This VPN app is really easy to use.
On the other hand, though, let’s not forget about the more tech-savvy users who would definitely like more control over their privacy. For them, we advise finding a more serious premium VPN service provider.
Betternet for Netflix
There’s no long story to cut short here:
You can’t use Betternet for Netflix.
In fact, you can’t really use a lot of VPN services as their IP addresses and servers keep getting detected and banned by Netflix.
Obviously, this major media streaming service has its own agenda to keep copyright laws and uphold their end of the deal. This is why they are so tough on geo-restricted content and try to shut out all possible VPN users from their networks.
There are, of course, a number of real premium VPN services that can avert detection by Netflix. You can comfortably and reliably use, for example, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VyprVPN for Netflix with a great level of online security as well.
Betternet for torrenting
In our Betternet review, we conclude that Betternet is not the best for P2P file sharing and torrenting.
Actually, this is an understatement. We can’t really recommend either the free or the “premium” version for torrenting. Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it; VPN speeds are not an exact science and may be different for different users.
You can go ahead and sign up for the free trial version and see whether it works smoothly for you.
We believe that the low number of servers (which can also be overloaded with traffic from the free users) and their speeds are just not enough to use Betternet VPN for torrenting or any other large P2P file sharing.
Another major issue to consider here is your security and privacy when downloading or uploading files using BitTorrent. Without the use of a proper and secure VPN service activated on your device, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) as well as third parties, including government agencies, may also peep into your internet traffic and even trace it all back to you.
This is just a practical limitation of this VPN service, and one that keeps popping up in our Betternet review.
We’ll assume this is not what you want. In fact, you most likely want the opposite. No wonder then that we advise you to look for a decent premium VPN service provider to use for torrenting.
Live chat support
None whatsoever. Can you believe it?
At this point, we’re starting to feel a bit bad about writing this Betternet review. It’s never our initial goal to burn any VPN provider, but it seems like this one is really asking for it.
No matter how objective we try to be, we also can’t be blind and pretend that everything is hunky-dory. When it comes to VPN services, your privacy is on the line. Nothing less.
To be blunt, there’s no live chat support, no 24/7 friendly and knowledgeable customer service, nada.
Not even a toll-free phone number to call day or night. As if there aren’t any technical and other issues with Betternet, right? The “better not ask us directly” approach is quite clear anyway. First, there is no help or support center menu at the top of the official site.
Actually, you need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to find two tiny links there: Help Center and FAQ. Unless, of course, you have the paid version client and then, can access Contact Us by clicking the hamburger icon in the top left corner.
The Help Center itself is quite poor:
It’s more than likely that you won’t find any solution to your issues there.
If you give up reading FAQs and help pages, you can still try to Submit a request (Ticket Support) by clicking the related link in the top right corner of the Help Center page. However, you may not be better off.
The support team may take their time and whatever you will get as “help” may not really help you at all. In fact, lots of users complain about this.
Yet another option for you to try to get some help is to contact them through social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). But don’t set your expectations too high.
All in all, we must say that this is an area that needs some serious attention from Betternet. Or, sooner or later, it will be a bit hard to keep 38 million users happy.
Apps and extensions
All the basic platforms are available for download. So, you can use Betternet for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Chrome.
With that said, we must add right away that you shouldn’t rush downloading any of these just yet.
Why? Based on the testing we did for this Betternet review, we’ve noticed there are some major differences between these versions.
Let’s start with the worst possible – the Google Chrome browser extension. It’s a plain disaster. It really seems that this provider only included this extension to be able to boast having this section covered. Unfortunately, it may have DNS and WebRTC leaks as well.
The mobile apps can only be started with a 7-day free trial and you need to figure out how to cancel it to only use the free version without being charged for the $11.99 monthly payment.
You may also miss the router or Smart TV support. Well, you may not, actually, unless you’re either a total beginner to online privacy or a hardcore risk-taker to want to use Betternet VPN for anything other than unblocking geo-restricted websites.
Pricing: at least it’s cheap
In a way, this is one of cheapest VPN services since Betternet offers a 100% free version. This is one of the few bright spots we’ve seen here in this Betternet review.
Even though this free VPN is somewhat limited (to only one country and automatically assigned servers), you can’t change servers manually, and the speeds are rather slow, too. It could still be good for a lot of users who simply want to access geo-blocked web content (e.g., YouTube from China) with a spoofed IP.
How can Betternet be free? Well, it has quite a transparent model, in fact.
When an application or service is free, though, there is always a different kind of price you’ll have to pay. In this case, it’s either annoying third-party ads or you can choose to watch a short video before connecting.
There are two options within the Betternet client: “Install an App” and “Watch a video and connect.” Whenever you click these buttons and the related ads, Betternet gets a commission. But, this also comes at a very steep price because these third-party advertisers may use tracking techniques and record information connected to you.
This is obviously a security and privacy risk you may not want to take if you want anonymity in the virtual world.
If you would like to try the premium version without the annoying ads and with more servers, you still have an opportunity to not invest at all. Betternet has a 7-day free trial option. Actually, this is your only option when you want to install one of the mobile device clients (Android or iOS).
However, we must warn you about this 7-day free trial version.
There have been plenty of issues reported by customers that they couldn’t opt out in time, so they got automatically charged for the first month. This monthly charge ($11.99) is actually one of the most expensive ones on the VPN market. So, before you sign up for the premium version, make sure you know exactly how you can cancel your subscription.
Apart from the rather high monthly plan, Betternet offers one of the cheapest VPN services:
- 1-month plan: $11.99/month
- 6-month plan: $3.99/month
- 1-year plan: $2.99/month
And, all of this with a 30-day money-back guarantee. BUT, again, you need to be very careful if you want a full refund.
This is possibly the most ridiculous (in a sad way) money-back guarantee we’ve ever read or heard of. Why? Because there is a 50MB traffic limit. In other words, if you use more than 50MB for downloading or uploading, you won’t get your money back. Period.
Of course, the 6-month and 1-year price tags are very low and may seem tempting. But please consider what you’re getting for these prices. If your online privacy is of utmost importance to you, it would be best to reconsider your options.
Bottom line of our Betternet review: don’t waste your money on this VPN
The best way to describe how the conclusion of our Betternet review makes us feel is to quote Jackie Chan in Rush Hour when he was trying to sing Edwin Starr’s hit song, “War”:
“What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Well, we believe there’s not much to add here if you take your online security and privacy seriously. Our reviewers became more noticeably irritated as we analyzed this VPN service for our Betternet review, and we can only imagine how frustrating it would be if we actually had to depend on Betternet for all our VPN needs.
If you simply want to gain access to geo-blocked web content, the free version of Betternet might be good enough for you. Say, for example, you travel to or live in China and want to enjoy content that is not available in your location.
But, if you wouldn’t like the Chinese government or any other VPN-unfriendly organizations to pry on you and figure out who you really are based on your true IP and physical location, well, you’d be better off using an actually trustworthy VPN service provider.
What you can do for us all
Have you ever tried to use Betternet or any other VPN apps before? What are your impressions? Is there anything important we missed in our Betternet review? Remember, sharing is caring! Please feel free to leave your comment below.