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Hotspot Shield Review

article by Maria Perinic author January 05, 2020
our score
Hotspot Shield is AnchorFree’s VPN service. While it’s lacking in some areas, it does have unique features not often found on other services, and consistently performs at high speeds.
  • Malware and ad blocking protection
  • Consistently high speeds
  • A unique, affordable lifetime plan
  • Mobile apps for iOS and Android
  • Comprehensive online support database
  • Some tracking and logging
  • Free version is extremely restricted
  • Limited server locations compared to other services
“Hotspot shield is very fast, and its Lifetime plan is something I haven’t seen in a lot of other VPN options.”
Maria Perinic, author
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Personal Use Benefits Usability

This is one of the most well-designed VPNs around, with an easy-to-navigate interface and software that wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond movie. Installation takes just a few minutes of your time and you can adjust any of the advanced settings without any problems.

As soon as you connect you will see the window showing you the length of time that your VPN has been connected, the bandwidth, your virtual IP address as well as your current location that you’re connected to which you can always change. In the top left corner of your screen, you will see a collapsible menu where you can find just a few selectable items. This will allow you to tweak your options including selecting whether you want the app to launch as soon as your device starts up, whether you want a kill switch to be enabled or whether you wish to turn off or on IP leak.

The software is simple and intuitive allowing users to have a smooth experience.

Hotspot Shield has over 2,500 servers in 27 countries which is a pretty decent number, and although it cannot compete with other VPN companies that offer more than 6,000 servers around the globe, the main thing is that you will never struggle to find a decent connection.

It should be noted that the exact location of the servers and the number of IP addresses is not revealed by Hotspot Shield.

Speed Speed

Speed is one of the most important elements of a great VPN. In fact, because you’re connecting to a server halfway across the world, that usually means your internet speed will slow down somewhat. Now, you might expect your speed to decrease anywhere between 10% and 30%, but some will even drop as much as 40% to 60%. Hotspot Shield actually has one of the fastest connection speeds around, with a loss of download speed running as low as 7%.

When it comes to torrenting you will find that Hotspot Shield is about 20% faster than other VPN companies. This might just be the fastest VPN around at the moment. This means that Hotspot Shield is the perfect answer to those who want a reliable and fast connection for streaming, torrenting and gaming.

When it comes to streaming, Hotspot Shield has had some issues connecting to Netflix in the past as they were able to detect the VPN from Hotspot Shield and prevented customers from accessing their media platform. At the moment it seems to be working. In addition to Netflix, you can also enjoy fast streaming with Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Now TV, Sky Go, Hulu, and Sling TV.

You might be tempted to watch your favorite shows due to the fast speeds whilst overseas, but as it states on their own website, Hotspot Shield probably isn’t the best option when it comes to staying secure in highly censored countries such as China, UAE or Pakistan.

“Connection is intermittent in countries where Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Governments’ block VPN services.

Current countries known to block VPN services:

  • Qatar
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia (Most issues are on mobile Android and iOS platforms)
  • UAE (Most issues are on mobile Android and iOS platforms)
  • Iran
  • China
  • Turkey
  • Pakistan
  • Bahrain

Connection issues can vary by platform because they use different servers to establish a connection.”


Privacy is a little bit of a rocky road when it comes to Hotspot Shield. It uses considerably robust protection with TLS 1.2 encryption with perfect forward secrecy (ECDHE) and 128/256-bit AES data encryption. On top of that, a number of people are assigned the same IP address and claims to protect you against as many as over three million malware, phishing, and spam sites.

On the other hand, when you sign up, Hotspot Shield asks for you to enter an email address as well as a password, which is pretty normal for any VPN. It will allow customers to use weak passwords and will not require you to use a more secure password. It should also be noted that Hotspot Shield has jurisdiction in the United States which is part of the Five Eyes Alliance.

Although Hotspot Shield claims it will not store your IP address for long, it does collect data about the apps you use and the websites you visit. Here is a snippet from their privacy policy,

“Our VPN product will never store or log your IP address beyond the duration of your VPN session, and we always delete your IP address after you disconnect from the VPN.

We do not keep logs of your online activities and never associate any domains, or applications that you access while the Hotspot Shield VPN is connected with you, your device, or your email.

Creating an account is always optional – we never require you to register or otherwise provide us with any contact information to download or use our products. 

While we always de-identify your IP address while connected to the VPN, remember that no VPN provider can control what other apps collect from your device or what cookies other websites or third parties place in your browser. For more information about how to exercise choices with respect to certain third-party cookies, please see the Third Party Advertising section below.”

At the moment the company is facing an FTC investigation. In fact, part of a formal complaint filed against Hotspot Shield by the Center for Democracy and Technology states:

“Hotspot Shield’s marketing claims that it does not track, log or sell customers’ information, but its privacy policy and a source code analysis reveal otherwise, The VPN promises to connect advertisers to users who frequent websites in particular categories and while most VPNs prevent internet service providers from seeing a user’s internet traffic, that traffic is often visible in unencrypted form to Hotspot Shield. VPNs typically log data about user connections to help with troubleshooting technical issues, but Hotspot Shield uses this information to identify user locations and serve advertisements.”

Ease of Use Features

Hotspot Shield offers pretty much what the competition is offering at the moment in terms of VPN features with a little something extra. There is your standard kill switch as well as protection whenever you hook up to an unsecured public WiFi hotspot.

Hotspot Shield is compatible with all the major platforms such as Windows, iOS, Mac, and Android, however, it doesn’t have router or Linux options available at the moment.

There is the possibility of connecting as many as five devices simultaneously with the one license, which should be enough to secure your computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

Hotspot Shield offers an ad blocker, cookie blocker as well as a tracker blocker as part of its service which isn’t something you will find every VPN service will provide, although all the best ones do.

There is split tunneling available and if you sign up with the Elite subscription you will have unlimited data as well as unlimited bandwidth. There are also multiple language capabilities available on their website.

Pricing Pricing

It’s safe to say this isn’t the cheapest option when it comes to VPN plans, with the monthly plan being one of the most expensive on the market. On the other hand, the one-year plan will set you back just $5.99 which is somewhere between what NordVPN and ExpressVPN offers. You should note that there are no hidden fees and clauses in the contract as well as there being no upsells and you will have instant access after payment.

You can pay for your Hotspot Shield subscription with credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express as well as PayPal. Unfortunately, you do not have the option of using Bitcoin as a payment method, but if you wish to remain completely anonymous you do have the option for paying for the service with gift cards from Target, Best Buy, and Starbucks.

When you sign up for a Premium account you will be asked for your payment details, however, you will not be billed for the first 7 days. There is also a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee if you’re unhappy with the service.

It should be noted that there is a free version of Hotspot Shield floating about on the internet, although all you get is the military-grade security and not much else. Additionally, you will get bombarded with ads within the free subscription, but it might be a nice way to find out if this is the right VPN fit for your needs.

Support Support

There is a web-based support center available on the Hotspot Shield website which organizes all its articles in categories including platforms, payments, managing your account information as well as common issues.

The website is also the place to find useful information that you may not discover elsewhere including release notes for apps, but that’s where the good news ends. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many articles on the Hotspot Shield website in the first place and the ones that are, are somewhat lackluster when it comes to details.

If you want further support from a customer service agent, a little while back the only way you could get that was solely through a ticketing service. This form of customer service is questionable at best due to efficiency, but Hotspot Shield was known to have had a pretty bad reputation in terms of getting back to queries.

Now when you visit the Hotspot Shield website a live chat window pops up on the bottom right-hand corner of the window. If you have any questions you can ask the customer service agents and usually, they will respond within minutes, giving you clear and simple advice.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Customers have claimed not to see the chat icon with Hotspot Shield claiming all the agents at the time were busy. In our opinion, whether the agents are busy or not, all customers should be able to join a queue and wait for support.

There were also reports of trouble with using the contact buttons on the iOS and Android apps as well as the browser extensions available for Firefox and Mozilla.

Bottom Line

Hotspot Shield is definitely one of the better-known VPN systems out there. For one thing, this might just be the fastest VPN on the market right now. With lightning-fast speeds, Hotspot Shield ensures that you can check your emails, do some online shopping as well as pay the bills online without your internet connection slowing down too much. On top of that, you can always enjoy watching films and TV shows of your choice on streaming platforms like Netflix without the frustration of your stream stopping and starting every few minutes.

The interface is also very simple to use and looks very professional. On the other hand, there is the questionably vague privacy policy. Hotspot Shield doesn’t go into details as other VPN companies do, and they also have some legal troubles in regards to privacy. If this is something that means a lot to you for your chosen VPN it may be a good idea to look further.