The online world is filled with hazards that can endanger users’ privacy and security. That is why VPN users need a strong, efficient service that can protect them. There are several characteristics that define a good VPN provider. They include things like decent speed, strong security and privacy measures, and a vast network of servers that can bypass restrictions.
Hotspot Shield VPN checks all these boxes, with great speeds, strong protection methods, and over 2,500 server-large networks. The company was developed and operated by AnchorFree, which is based in Silicon Valley. While this puts Hotspot Shield under the US jurisdiction, the service is still one of the oldest and most respected in the industry, with over 650 million users across the world, according to their website. Additionally, the company claims not to track, log, or store any of their users’ personally identifiable information.
- Catapult Hydra technology: Hotspot Shield does not provide regular security protocols such as OpenVPN and IPSec. While they did use it in the past, they currently employ Catapult Hydra, which uses different algorithms that bring numerous significant performance advantages.
- AES-128 encryption: This strong encryption protocol protects users’ online traffic in case of a leak. Even if someone were to obtain the users’ data, the military-grade encryption would prevent them from deciphering information they obtained.
- Excellent speeds: Hotspot Shield offers a free client, as well as a premium package. The latter offers much greater speeds for both download and upload.
- Over 2,500 servers in 25 different countries: The company covers every continent apart from Africa and, of course, Antarctica.
- Connect five devices: Hotspot Shield is compatible with the majority of devices and operating systems. The brand also allows five simultaneous connections under one account, meaning you can use it on multiple devices at the same time.
- Kill Switch: The kill switch prevents any data leak in case of a VPN malfunction. Hotspot Shield will disable your connection as soon as it detects any problems.
- Well-equipped browser extensions: Most VPNs offer basic browser extensions that only contain a connect button and a list of servers. Hotspot Shield, however, offers a number of additional features that make its browser extension as strong as some apps, if not stronger.
- P2P support: Hotspot Shield supports P2P traffic on all of its servers.
A lot of VPNs opt to use a simple interface, both for the convenience of new users, and the overall simplicity of their apps and services. However, when it comes to Hotspot Shield’s Windows and Mac clients, the simplicity is on a whole other level. The interface is dark, and it comes across almost like an empty panel.
There is one large On/Off button located in the center of the app. Pressing the button allows you to connect to a server automatically within seconds. The button then shrinks and moves to the top of the panel, and a map of server locations and IP addresses soon replaces it. Additionally, it also shows the amount of uploaded and downloaded data.
Clearly, it is as simple as it can get — perfect for first-time VPN users. The map displays a list of countries where Hotspot Shield operates its servers. You can connect to any one of them by simply clicking on the country’s name. You should note, however, that the service will automatically connect you to your last server during your previous session. Some may enjoy this feature, while others may find it irritating.
Hotspot Shield apps
As mentioned before, Hotspot Shield works on a variety of devices. It covers Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and also has browser extensions.
Now, when it comes to the Android app, it is pretty much the same as desktop apps, with a smooth and straightforward interface. Simply open the app, hit Connect, and you will see your location on a small map. On Android, you can even set up the app to connect you to the fastest server available.
You can also protect your apps’ traffic automatically. Doing so will activate Hotspot Shield VPN whenever the app you listed establishes a connection. The app also features additional bonus tools that can scan for malware, run a deep clean on the device, and extend the battery’s life.
The interface for the iOS app isn’t much different. It features a connect button and a world map, with a list of different locations. There aren’t a lot of options in the settings section, but the app offers a bit more when it comes to visual style and aesthetics.
These are minor details, such as your location pulsing on the map, instead of just lighting up. Of course, this makes it easier to spot, which is convenient. However, there is not much to be found in terms of functionality. There is no optimal server identification like the one Android offers, so you have to select the server yourself.
The app also wants you to rate it, which is not unusual, but is annoying to many. It would be expected from free and trial apps, but many do not appreciate it when they have already purchased the app. Other than that, there is not much more to tell. The app is functional, slightly better looking, although there are a few features missing.
Privacy and Security
In other words, this indicates that there is no session logging and that all of your actions will be safe.
This is important since the company operates under US jurisdiction, which might seem alarming at first, but is probably why the company does not store any data. Everything that they store about your online activities is deleted as soon as you disconnect.
To further your protection, the service also uses an automatic kill switch, and tests have shown that there are no DNS leaks. Additionally, it uses its own security technology, called Catapult Hydra, instead of traditional security protocols like OpenVPN.
As mentioned, Hotspot Shield offers 2,500 servers located in 25 countries around the world. The locations are as follows:
- Americas: The US, Brasil, Canada, Mexico
- Asia: China, Hong Kong, India, Japan
- Europe: The UK, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine
- Middle East: Iran, Turkey, UAE
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
Hotspot Shield works on pretty much any version of Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. This makes it useful on a wide variety of devices and operating systems.
However, since it uses the Catapult Hydra protocol, you will not be able to manually set it up to work on other platforms and routers.
That means that you can only use it for devices and systems which have their own dedicated app within the service. With most other VPNs, you would likely be able to expand its reach manually and cover additional devices, but that is not an option with Hotspot Shield VPN.
Installation and Setup
Installing and setting up Hotspot Shield apps is a rather easy and simple process, and all you need to do before you begin is sign up for the service. You will then be redirected to your web console, where you will get different download links for any device you need, including Chrome extension.
Once you install it on your device, you can subscribe to a free version, or upgrade to a commercial one. Keep in mind, however, that Hotspot Shield reportedly requests the use of symbols when creating a password, but does not recognize all of them. This may cause problems with the login process.
Once you have downloaded the app you need, the installation is simple and quick, and you will be ready to start using it in no time.
While most other VPNs offer multiple protocols, that is not the case with Hotspot Shield. This service is limited to the use of Catapult Hydra only, which is its own security protocol. While it works rather well, and there were no reported leaks during tests, it is limiting because no other platforms or routers support it.
That means that there can be no manual connecting, which, in turn, indicates that you can only use dedicated apps on selected devices and systems. However, Hotspot Shield claims that this comes with additional benefits such as faster server connections, less data transferred within the tunnel, and 2.4x faster connection speed for long-distance connections.
Pricing and payment options
HotspotShield offers a free version of its app, which is good for new users who don’t want to commit to any service yet. They can test Hotspot Shield and see whether or not it satisfies their needs. While the free version lacks benefits, it might serve as a learning curve for beginners who wish to know more about the VPN industry.
As for the premium versions, Hotspot Shield offers multiple price plans, all of which are relatively typical in the VPN industry.
- A 1-month subscription for $12,99 per month
- A 6-month plan for $8.99 per month (31% off)
- A 1-year plan package $5.99 per month (53% off)
- And a 3-year offer for $3.49 per month (73% off)
You can purchase any package via credit card or PayPal, but not Bitcoin. The service offers a 7-day free trial of the Premium version, and a 45-day cash back guarantee. Most VPNs only offer a 30-day money return guarantee, while PIA only has a 7-day guarantee.
Help and Support
Help and Support are great when it comes to Hotspot Shield, with Windows app offering its own help system that can give you advice. It is fast and convenient, and should solve most common problems. If the issue turns out to be more complicated, you can search the website support pages and get more details.
Then, there is a 24/7 chat support available for premium users. However, while they claim to be available at all times, some reports suggested that isn’t the case.
You can also use the ‘Contact Support’ form to send any questions or problems you might be facing. The reply should arrive swiftly, typically within a few hours, but the quality of the answer may be questionable, depending on the situation.
Hotspot Shield Pros:
- Uses its own security protocol, which is more effective
- Offers a kill switch
- Strict no-logging policy
- Strong encryption
- Large server network
- Simple interface
- Support for P2P
- Free version and affordable premium plans
- 7-day trial period
- 45-day money-back guarantee
Hotspot Shield Cons:
- Not compatible with all platforms
- US jurisdiction
- Does not accept Bitcoin
- Live chat only available for Premium users (sometimes unavailable)
Other VPN Providers
Hotspot Shield is one of the best VPN providers in the industry. However, there are several other alternatives for you to consider in the table below.
Hotspot Shield is a popular veteran VPN service with hundreds of millions of users around the world. It offers great security features and more than a decent server network. It covers Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and it provides browser extensions, but it cannot be manually set up on other platforms or routers due to the fact that it uses its own protocol called Catapult Hydra.
Other than that, it is a great service that provides both free and premium versions. You might miss out on a couple of features if you opt for the free category, while the premium version promises more speed and better attributes.
Hotspot Shield is a US-based VPN service with hundreds of millions of users around the world. It offers great speeds, as well as a number of excellent features, but it also has a couple weaknesses. All in all, it is a quality VPN service that should not be overlooked.