Free VPN services always come with a dose of suspicion. These providers have to make a profit somehow so we immediately start wondering if we're really safe with them. Are there any hidden costs, privacy issues or performance bugs?
Even so, free VPNs are very popular for obvious reasons even despite these potential concerns.
When it comes to Betternet, it's supposedly one of the best free VPN services out there. The app has a decent performance, a solid number of servers and the owners are pretty transparent about how they are managing to keep the service free.
Plus, Betternet claims to have 38 million satisfied users around the world which means they must be doing something right.
But, you must be wondering if there's a catch. We were wondering too, which is why we had to try and review this service to settle our doubts once and for all. Here's what we found.
Searching for information, we used Betternet's website like we always do when reviewing VPN services. We were quite disappointed by what we found. Although the website is clean and simple, maybe it's a little too simple. The information is very scarce and we found some crucial details only after some digging.
Still, you can expect solid protection form Betternet. It uses TLS 1.2 with perfect forward secrecy, 128-bit AES data encryption and HMAC message authentication; not as showy as some other leading VPN providers, but still implementing strong OpenVPN encryption.
Betternet isn't exactly feature-packed but you can use it on almost every platform, P2P traffic and torrenting are supported, and the service has servers in 10 countries. Not extremely impressive but decent for a free service. However, you won't be able to switch between encryption protocols or choose your own server.
When talking about privacy, we first wanted to know how Betternet manages to offer a free service and make a profit. Luckily, they are pretty transparent about this. They have several sponsored apps and they offer videos inside the app that you can watch and help them make money.
While we liked their transparency about making a profit, there were some details that we weren't impressed by.
First of all, they are located in Canada, a Five Eyes country which isn't a stranger to data monitoring. Of course, their location doesn't have to mean anything, but some users tend to avoid services located in these countries.
We covered a lot of privacy concerns in the previous section when we discussed the encryption protocols, and we concluded that the service uses solid methods of security but could use some improvement.
One of the positive things is that you don't have to give the service any personal information if you're downloading the free version of the app. No registering, just download and use.
When testing Betternet's speed we realized that this VPN has a pretty good performance at 59.6Mbps download speed. This means you'll be able to use the service for file sharing, downloading and streaming quite successfully.
Remember that the speed always depends on the location of the server. Betternet will connect you to the optimal server but since their number of locations is scarce, that still may not be enough speed for your needs.
Betternet free service is easy to download and easy to use. However, the app is not so user-friendly considering you can't even choose your preferred encryption protocol or your server. If you decide to get a premium version, you will be able to choose your server.
The app also lacks some of the basic features that facilitate the use and improve security, like the kill switch.
Their website could also use some polishing since it offers very little information about the basics you need to know to decide whether this VPN is for you. We knew about the premium version beforehand but only managed to find it on the website after some digging.
Customer support is not Betternet's forte either. They only offer a ticket system and you'll have to wait for hours to get a response. Premium users are promised 24/7 support but it's hardly different from the one in the free version. There is no live chat option and the agents are not really tech savvy.
The best part about Betternet is its price – because it's free. We liked that the app is really free without a catch. There are no annoying ads or hidden costs and they are transparent about the way they make money.
If you opt for the premium version, however, get ready for sneaky loopholes.
Betternet Premium comes in three plans: a monthly plan at $11.99, 6-month plan at $3.99 per month and an annual plan at $2.99 per month.
The service has a 7-day trial that requires your credit card information, so make sure to cancel your subscription if you're not happy with it within those 7 days. Otherwise, the service will charge you for the month. They also offer a tricky 30-day money-back guarantee that's only an option if you've spent less than 50Mb of data.
- Free service
- Clean and simple interface
- Solid streaming performance
- 7-day free trial for the premium
- Lacking customer support
- Tricky 30-day money-back guarantee
- Only slight differences between free and paid service
If you've carefully read our Betternet review, you've noticed we're not the biggest fans of this service. However, Betternet has one huge advantage over the competition – it's completely free. And for a free service, this VPN gives satisfying results – solid protection, privacy and Internet freedom.
For a free service, Betternet will cover your basic VPN needs but it's not worth spending money on the premium version that's only slightly better than the free app.