For internet users looking for some extra security and privacy when using the internet, especially in a public Wi-Fi scenario, virtual private networks (VPNs) make a lot of sense. The following will be a thorough review of one such VPN service, AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield and their premium version, Hotspot Shield Elite.
AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield can make users’ internet browsing safer, more secure and more private. Read on for a thorough explanation of the features, overall quality of both the free and pay version, and some issues with AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield service that the reader should know about.
General Info about AnchorFree’s VPN service
AnchorFree’s Hotspot Sheild service is available as both an app for desktop and mobile platforms as well as a browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox. The app is compatible with all the major operating systems, including Windows, iOS, MacOS and Android.
While big corporations, activists, and journalists have been using VPNs for a long time for encryption purposes, regular internet users are turning to these services in larger numbers as of late. A service such as AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield is virtually mandatory at this point for those who use public Wi-Fi hotspots. This service is also useful for those who want to add an extra layer of security for banking activity, or who simply place in high regard the added web privacy that Hotspot Shield and similar services can provide.
Due to the way all VPNs work, they cannot completely cover users’ internet tracks. But for general uses and purposes, AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield is quite effective in securing and encrypting your web activity from third-parties like advertisers or other types of trackers and snoopers.
AnchorFree has received numerous awards and honors for their popular Hotspot Shield service.
- In 2013, Hotspot Shield received the Appy Award for Best Online Security/Privacy Application.
- An award for Best Apps of Mobile World Congress was bestowed by Softronic in 2013.
How do VPNs work? Those like AnchorFree’s service work by routing all of your internet data through remote servers in disparate locations across the globe. The free version, Hotspot Shield, offers only one such location, in the U.S. Users of the Elite version can choose from many more. Elite users can manually toggle any one of 20 locations in 14 countries for their web data to be routed through.
AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield service offers free Chrome and Firefox browser plugins. These extensions are convenient and are also available free of charge. Whether users opt for the “freemium” version or the paid model, it is highly recommended that they use both the app and the browser plugin, as this approach offers more in the way of security and privacy configurations.
AnchorFree’s VPN Specifications
Features of the free Hotspot Shield
The free version includes basic VPN functionality. However, it includes advertisements and blocks access to Netflix, BBC, Hulu and numerous other highly popular, region-locked content providers.
Hotspot Shield Elite
Hotspot Shield Elite expands in several meaningful ways upon the free version. It is ad-free, doesn’t block any region-locked sites and most importantly offers 20 server locations spread throughout the world.
There are a number of payment options for Hotspot Shield Elite. One such option is to spend $12.99 a month for however long you use AnchorFree’s service. Rare among VPN service providers is the option of a one-time $139.99 charge for a lifetime subscription.
PROS and CONS of AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield Elite
- Virtual server locations in up to 20 locations spread around the world (for Elite subscribers.) The countries that Elite users can access through their VPN include the US, the UK, Canada, Singpaore, France, Czech Republic, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Turkey, India, Germany and Chile.
- Advertisement, cookie and tracker prevention. An Elite subscription makes available anti-malware and anti-phishing features. AnchorFree has amassed a database of over 3 million risky sites that it protects users from.
- A number of language options. Users can toggle between a large number of languages for both the app and the browser extension. This is a handy feature for non-English speakers. Almost all other VPN providers are exclusively in English.
- 45-day refund policy for subscribers
- Clean, sleek and easy-to-use app and browser plugins.
- Relatively high price.
- The Elite version is priced above the average for VPNs with similar features.
- Customer support is lacking
Though AnchorFree promises more timely help to paying customers who experience issues with their service, many have found this to be untrue. While offering a potentially highly useful knowledge center for common problems, the amount of content here is underwhelming. For direct help from a representative, one must fill out a lengthy form and then settle down and wait as it can be a number of days before they respond.
Common Issues in User Reviews
Hotspot Shield has taken some heat in the recent past for its obscure and confusing user data collection policies. Reportedly, Hotspot Shield does not prohibit advertisers from independently collecting information on your browsing habits while using their VPN service. Further, AnchorFree has made a distinction between users’ personal identifying information and their IP address.
This could be a deal breaker for some users who highly value their online privacy. However, users of the free version of AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield can download and use the software completely anonymously, making this issue less of a concern for them.
AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield allows users to download and use their free VPN service any number of times on any device, all anonymously. The options it includes in the free version make this a great value, considering that all it requires is your time and your device’s storage space.
The price for the Elite package is above average for similar services. Additionally, some people who place substantial value on their online privacy will be better served downloading the free version or opting for another service altogether. However, the Elite package includes a variety of good features. Of particular note is the multilingual accessibility options and anti-malware and anti-phishing features. Further, both versions are easy-to-use and provide fast internet speeds.
Overall, AnchorFree is offering users a sturdy and robust method to enhance their browsing security and safety in the risky, free-for-all environment that is the internet today. Intrigued by this subject or have any opinions or thoughts on AnchorFree or their VPN service? Readers are encouraged to share these in the comments section or on social media. Don’t forget to review our full guide to VPNs for a complete overview of the market.