Parent company: AnchorFree
Country of incorporation: United States
Founded date: 2005
Simultaneous connections: 5
Refund policy: 45 days
Hotspot Shield first came about in 2008, and it was free at the time of its release. Since then, changes were made, and now we even have a paid version called Hotspot Shield Elite.
It currently registers more than 600 million users worldwide. Although most of them use the free version, we will focus on talking about the paid version, since it offers that much more protection and security.
If you don’t know much about Hotspot Shield, read the following:
In terms of speed, Hotspot Shield Elite is by far the Usain Bolt of VPNs. The differences between using the network with or without a VPN are almost indistinguishable, which is really mind-boggling.
With the speedtest.net service, the measured download speed was around 119 Mbps, and that was the average speed. The uploading speed came at 29 Mbps, a bit slower than the baseline.
The US and the UK servers reach even more insane speeds and even locations that most other VPN providers have problems with registered more-than-average speeds.
The company says their Hydra Protocol is based on TLS and OpenSSL. This increases the ping times and amplifies the download speed of large files well over the average limit.
Just to put things into perspective, I tested a few other VPNs at the same time, for a systematic comparison with Hotspot Shield Elite. They were:
- Avira Phantom VPN
- Proton VPN
These are VPNs well-known for their incredible network speeds.
What happened was enlightening and absolutely insane, to say the least.
Other than Speedify and Winsdcribe, all others were left in the dust in the first few seconds. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Speedify uses two independent internet connections simultaneously, and that’s how it can achieve such speeds.
Hotspot Shield Review uses only one.
No matter how impressive this is, I can’t help but be a bit suspicious. Are the Hotspot Shield Elite networks that good? Or are they intentionally putting emphasis solely on speed while lacking in other places?
I’m referring to the encryption, of course.
It would be too good to be true, that’s what I’m saying. To have both lightning-fast speeds and top-notch encryption is not impossible, true, but it’s also not that easy to achieve.
Even though there is no substantial evidence to support the idea of untenable encryption, Hotspot Shield Elite delivers unmatched speeds that are downright monstrous compared to anything else on the market.
It’s impossible not to take it with a grain of salt.
One of the best things about Hotspot Shield Review is its expansive network spread across many locations. It has more than 2500 servers in 25 countries.
I agree, there are VPNs out there that easily outnumber it, but Hotspot does one thing better than most other VPNs as well. It has a wider range of spread throughout:
- North America
- South Korea
- New Zealand
Why is this important? Because it allows anyone to access geo-banned content anywhere on the globe without encountering any interdictions. That’s the main advantage you get from having many servers to choose from.
And the cake gets even sweeter than that.
Let’s say your IP gets banned by Netflix. This renowned streaming website is known for being at odds with VPN users accessing their content. Therefore, they will generally put those IPs on a blacklist, restricting their access. They’re masters at chill-blocking you.
Big deal! With just one click, you’ll virtually relocate yourself to the other side of the world, get a fresh new IP, and, thus, unrestricted access to Netflix.
All in a matter of seconds.
The over 2500 servers worldwide offer so many IPs that you have virtually zero chances of being banned on all of them. It’s not like you’re spotted that fast either. It takes some time before the algorithms track you down.
Also, all of the servers are P2P friendly, and there are no bandwidth limits. So, you are basically free to roam the internet, stream, and download as much as you like without worrying about anything.
What’s more, you can use Hotspot Shield Elite on up to 5 devices simultaneously. That’s 2 more than what ExpressVPN offers.
It’s the line that separates the average VPNs from the truly outstanding ones that excel in protecting their users’ identities and traffic.
Regarding Hotspot Shield Elite, there are a few problems in this sense:
- Its proprietary encryption protocol, the Catapult Hydra, is not open-source, and thus impossible to check for any invasive underlying sub-protocols
- Invasive data practices, especially on the mobile version
The company said that their Hydra Protocol was officially audited to be safe and secure by professionals and that many security software apply the same principles.
We did your best to find this audit, searched every nook and cranny, all to no avail. Therefore, we can’t deny Hydra’s presumable top-notch encryption, but neither can we verify it.
Hotspot Shield has had a few run-ins with official attacks regarding its invasive tracking of user information using ads.
AnchorFree, Hotspot Shield’s parent company is known to run a business whose main revenue comes from selling data and information using advertisements. However, this only happens on the free version.
The paid version doesn’t have these problems, and the company itself officially stated that they are not collecting user information and they never redirect traffic to any third-party websites. They also don’t share any personal information with other advertisers.
There are some policy problems to talk about as well:
- As far as the no-logging policy, even though AnchorFree says their VPN collects technical information about your device, it does not gather any personal data. Nothing leads back to you. It’s all done in the spirit of making the services better.
Think about it for a second! Information about your wireless network capabilities, the approximate location or the mobile network id that Hotspot Shield gathers – are these not sensitive and personal?
They can be used to identify you, and this is true both on mobile and the desktop version.
The desktop version doesn’t retain any IPs though, which is a step forward.
They also have some efficient add-ons for Chrome and Firefox that you can install alongside the VPN itself. This brings you an adblocker, a malware detector, cookie blocker, and a tracker blocker.
The adblocker especially is, hands-down, one of the best out there.
Moreover, it’s admirable and it gains them a little trust that they’re concise about what their VPN can and cannot deliver. For instance, while they themselves don’t gather or store any private information through ads or other third-party companies, they do say one thing.
Those other companies can still keep tabs on you even when using the VPN. Your traffic can be tracked, you will get infected with cookies, and your data might be collected as a result.
Hotspot Shield Elite delivers a detailed analysis of why exactly this happens, how it happens, and the efforts they’re putting in in order to eliminate these threats.
AnchorFree even submitted a transparency report in 2017, talking about the requests of some government agencies to obtain certain personal information on users. However, since no such information is originally detained through their services, they couldn’t oblige.
The real IP addresses are not stored anywhere when using the VPN.
This transparency report goes to show that their intents and motivations are honest and privacy-oriented at the very least.
Ease of use
Hotspot Shield Elite’s interface can be described with only one word – minimal.
It really is one of the most simplistic and, quite frankly, most enjoyable VPN interfaces that I’ve had the pleasure to use.
The starting panel consists of a dark screen with an “on” button in the middle. I assume it’s pretty evident what it does – the “Click the button to start connection” hint bellow is self-explanatory.
After clicking on the button, you get redirected to the actual client itself. The next interface is made up of:
- A map showing you the exact location of your provided IP address
- Information about the data you’ve downloaded and uploaded up to that moment
- A selection of the countries and the servers you have access to
Moreover, the application is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS, with extensions for Chrome and Firefox to be used at your leisure.
However, the problem appears when you want to make some changes. The “General Settings” section is also very simplistic.
This time, it’s not a praise, but a downside.
It means that you have too few options. All that you can do is select whether you want the client to start with the Windows, enable or disable the in-built kill-switch (which, for some reason, is turned off by default), prevent any IP leaks, and connect to any surrounding hotspots.
That’s it, literally.
In spite of these little issues, allow me to reiterate.
The Hotspot Shield Elite is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Even complete novices in the field will have absolutely no problem in figuring out how to use it.
Hands-down one of the worst aspects of Hotspot Shield is the customer support.
To start with, they have no live chat, and this pretty much sums it all.
The only way you can get into contact with the staff is by filing a ticket. And we all know how those work. Don’t expect an answer too soon. Even a few days might not a stretched estimation.
There is an interactive user experience page detailing the most common problems, but it’s lacking in many respects. The articles are too few and there are a lot of issues that you just have to deduce by yourself or submit a ticket and hope you get an answer before the Rapture.
And even when you want to submit a ticket, you’re given a choice of pre-made suggestions that you have to fill in. If your problem fits none of the options, all you have to do is add some more information, things like the operating system you’re using.
Invasive stuff, nothing too serious overall.
All in all, their customer team is all but nonexistent, and the horrific support ticket is, well, horrific. For a paid VPN with high expectations and demands, the quality customer support should be a given.
Hotspot Shield comes in one package, with the difference being the period of time you’re willing to use it for. If you want to commit for a longer time, then the discounts are considerable.
It goes like this:
- A one-month subscription will be a whopping $12.99 per month
- A six-months package goes to $8.99 per month
- The one-year subscription drops down to $5.99 per month
- The most advantageous of them all is the two-year subscription, with the cost of only $2.99 per month
- Lastly, there is an unlimited plan that costs $165
The payment methods are diverse, from Visa to Mastercard, PayPal, American Express, Discover, JCB, Diners Club, and Union Pay.
Bitcoin is not supported, unfortunately.
You have to provide your credit card and bank account details if you want to use their free trial.
Oh, yea, there’s a free trial you can use!
It’s a seven-day period where you can use the Hotspot Shield Elite version with no restrictions. After those seven days pass, unless you cancel the subscription, you will automatically be registered on the monthly plan, the most expensive one.
Last but not least, you have a 45-day money-back guarantee on all of the plans, no questions asked. So, if for some “impossible” reason, you’re not happy with any of their services, you can safely cancel, no questions asked.
Hotspot Shield Elite is a VPN best used for unblocking certain geo-protected content on the internet, and for its widespread of servers across the world.
Using Netflix, for example, can be achieved super-easy.
However, in terms of privacy, many users consider that it’s lacking in many respects and that the only good thing about it is its supernatural speed.
We’ve already seen that even the elite version has some invasive protocols going on, despite AnchorFree’s denials.
As always – The choice is yours.
Hotspot Shieldis extremely fast, simple and private: a truly standout VPNVisit Hotspot Shield website