Hotspot Shield VPN Review – Pros, Cons and Verdict

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Looking for a virtual private network (VPN) with a longstanding history of stable, reliable, powerful performance? You may want to think about trying Hotspot Shield.  This VPN includes both free and paid versions. While the free version is one of the better ones out there, we highly suggest that you download the Elite (paid) version, as the performance is unrivaled and it gets you away from ads. In this article, I will review Hotspot Shield so you can figure out if this is the right service for you.

What is Hotspot Shield?

Before jumping into an in-depth discussion of pricing and features, let’s go over the basics. Hotspot Shield is a VPN which was developed by a company called AnchorFree, Inc. It has been around since 2005, and gained some prominence during the Arab Spring, when protestors used it in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt to get around internet censorship from the governments of those countries.

Since then, Hotspot Shield has made headlines a number of other times around the world. In 2012 when the Flashback trojan was going around, many users in the US and Europe downloaded Hotspot Shield to protect themselves. Hotspot Shield also was used extensively in Turkey in 2013 and Hong Kong in 2014 to outmaneuver government censorship. As of 2017, Hotspot Shield had been downloaded and installed 500 million times.

So Hotspot Shield has quite a strong reputation. This is not some flash in the pan from a fly-by-night company. Hotspot Shield has helped keep a lot of users safe, and has even won some awards from important publications, like recognition in Softonic’s 2013 Best Apps of Mobile World Congress.

What is Hotspot Shield Best For?

There are a lot of ways you can use Hotspot Shield, but some of the key recommended applications include:

  • Unblock content around the world. Hotspot Shield offers servers on most continents.
  • Protect your online privacy. As you now are aware, numerous users in countries under totalitarian regimes have trusted Hotspot Shield to keep them safe. The company has a policy against keeping logs.
  • Greatly increase your security. With Hotspot Shield, you are browsing, streaming, and downloading using an encrypted connection. You also are able to enjoy enhanced protection against malware.

Pricing for Hotspot Shield

Now that you know why Hotspot Shield is such a reputable company and what the service is best for, let’s explore both pricing options: Free and Elite.

Hotspot Shield Free Review

The matter of “free Hotspot Shield” may be a bit confusing at first glance. This is because there are technically two free version of the VPN. Here is what the company has to say about it:

With Hotspot Shield, you can download our free VPN software. If you’re happy with the free, ad-supported version of our software, keep it! But we also offer a free, seven-day trial of our Elite-level subscription.”

So you have two free options:

  • Free, ad-supported VPN you can use for life.
  • 7-day free trial of Elite Hotspot Shield, which is ad-free.

My recommendation? Skip the permanently free version and just go straight to the free trial. Ads are a major disruption, and exactly the kind of thing you want to avoid.  Indeed, the company itself points out that “advertisers may be able to collect certain information independently from you or your device while serving ads from the Hotspot Shield application.”

It is great that Hotspot Shield offers a free-forever version, but serious VPN users are going to want an ad-free experience.

With the free trial, you can experience all the great features that Hotspot Shield VPN has to offer with none of the ads. For your convenience, you will be charged automatically at the end of the trial. If for whatever reason you change your mind (I don’t think you will), you can cancel at any time with no obligation.

Hotspot Shield Elite Review

So now let’s talk about Hotspot Shield Elite, the paid version of the service.

Here are the Elite Subscription Plans you can choose from:

  • 1 month: $12.99/month
  • 6 months: $8.99/month
  • 1 year: $5.99/month
  • Unlimited: $119.99

The more time you purchase at once, the more money you save. The most popular plan is the 1-year plan, which is 53% off compared to the price you pay when you buy 1 month at a time.

No matter which plan you choose, you will enjoy the same outstanding benefits.

How Do You Get Started with Hotspot Shield?

If you want to start protecting your connection with Hotspot Shield, there are only a few short steps to do it.

  1. Start by going to the purchase page on the Hotspot Shield website.
  2. Select the Elite Subscription Plan of your choice.
  3. Scroll down to the payment area. The company accepts credit or debit card, PayPal, or gift cards.
  4. Click on “Submit.”
  5. Download the appropriate version of Hotspot Shield for your operating system and device. This is as simple as clicking the blue “Download VPN” button at the top of the homepage.
  6. Your download will begin automatically, but if you need to select a different platform, you can do so on the page you are transferred to.

What Devices and Operating Systems Are Supported by Hotspot Shield?

You can get Hotspot Shield for any of the following platforms:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Chrome
  • iOS
  • Android

That means that you can use it on just about any device.

Now you know how to download Hotspot Shield, but no review would be complete without going over the features. Let’s do that now.

Server Diversity for Hotspot Shield

You will find that Hotspot Shield has servers available in dozens of countries throughout:

  • Europe
  • Americas
  • Middle East
  • Asia
  • Oceania

So you can unblock pretty much any content you can think of and mask your IP address according to your needs.

Hotspot Shield Security and Privacy Features

Privacy and security are a big deal with Hotspot Shield. Remember, this company is catering to users in totalitarian nations, so these features are robust.

  • Hotspot Shield is well-named. Its malware shield is currently able to block over 3.5 million malicious sites.
  • With Hotspot Shield, your connection is encrypted, hiding your data from hackers, oppressive authorities, and others who may want to compromise your privacy.  TLS 1.2 with perfect forward secrecy (ECDHE), 128-bit AES data encryption is used to secure your connection.
  • Hotspot Shield does not maintain logs of personally identifiable information. This is true for both the free and Elite versions.

Is Hotspot Shield Easy to Use?

Once you have Hotspot Shield downloaded and installed, is it easy to use? Based on my experiences, yes. The client is extremely minimalist, easy to navigate, and almost effortless to get set up. You just click on the large button to connect, pick the server you want, and wait. You are then connected and ready to use the web.

In the upper left, you can find the settings menu, which allows you to control features like the kill switch and IP leak protection.

Once you are connected, you will be able to see in the main window what country you are browsing from, what virtual address you are displaying, and your upload and download rates.

Is There a Money-Back Guarantee on Hotspot Shield?

Yes! Hotpot Shield offers a 45-day money-back guarantee, which is awesome. A lot of other companies only offer a 7-day refund, or no refunds at all. So you get more than enough time to test drive this service.

How is Hotspot Shield Customer Service?

If you go to the “Contact” page on the Hotspot Shield website, you will find yourself in the knowledgebase.  You can search through it for answers, or you can click on the unnoticeable little “Contact Support” button on the right below the top banner. Using the page this takes you to, you can submit a ticket. Fill out the fields, and someone will get back to you.

Want to talk to someone live? There is a live chat on the site you can use as well. When I tried this, someone answered quickly and was polite, but was unable to answer my question thoroughly. While I did not find a phone number on the site, you can contact AnchorFree at 877-UNWIRE-1.

Is Hotspot Shield a Good VPN?

Definitely. While it does have a few imperfections, on the whole, the features and benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. Plus, Hotspot Shield’s stellar reputation goes a long way toward instilling confidence.

Hotspot Shield Pros

  • Excellent ease-of-use.
  • 7-day free trial.
  • 45-day money back guarantee.
  • Great server diversity.
  • Excellent privacy and security features.
  • This company has a great reputation and operates with transparency.

Hotspot Shield Cons

  • Customer service was unable to thoroughly answer question—though the agent was friendly and fast.
  • There are some better VPNs out there.

Conclusion: Hotspot Shield is a Powerful, Reputable VPN to Protect Your Anonymity Online

Let’s wrap up our Hotspot Shield review. This is a stable, secure VPN that users around the world have come to rely on, including in totalitarian countries were internet censorship is a major problem and there are serious consequences for violating the laws.

While nothing can guarantee that you will be able to browse safe and privately online, Hotspot Shield has a fantastic track record. For that reason, if privacy and anonymity are your prime concerns, this should be one of the first VPNs you think about. With a 7-day free trial and a 45-day money back guarantee, you have nothing to lose. Give Hotspot Shield a try, and enjoy advanced encryption and protection against malware, hackers, and other snooping parties.

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