One of The Free VPNs
- Jurisdiction: USA, Canada, Switzerland
- Advanced Privacy Features: None
- Number of Servers and Countries: 10 Countries
- Streaming and P2P: No
Pros / Cons
- 500MB Free
- No Kill Switch
- Small number of locations
- High prices for Premium plans
- Controversial logging policy
- Past privacy concerns
- Ads in a free version
When it comes to VPNs, there are plenty of options to choose from. One of the choices that stands in the shadows of more popular options is VPN Betternet, known mainly for being a convenient free option. According to their website, millions of users trust Betternet for their VPN needs—but does that mean you should too?
Despite its popularity, one of the primary concerns about the service is a troubling history. Given its past, anyone considering using Betternet is probably wondering if this VPN is safe and private. And while most people opt for the free version, you may also be curious whether the premium version is worth signing up for.
We plan to answer these questions and more in this comprehensive Betternet VPN review. But if you’re short and time and want to cut right to the chase, we’ll say that neither the premium nor the free version would be on the list of our top choices. We’d go with one of the tried and tested best VPNs instead.
What Is Betternet?
Unlike many other better-known VPN options available, Betternet has been around for a relatively short period. It was established in 2015 by what seemed to be an independent company founded in Canada.
Nowadays, it forms part of the Pango group, which you may have known by its former name, AnchorFree. Pango owns several other VPN services, like Hexatech VPN, Hotspot Shield, and TouchVPN, so they’re no strangers to the VPN world.
Betternet has been plagued by severe allegations throughout its short lifetime, both when it was owned by the Canadian company and now in the Pango group.
How Transparent Is Betternet?
Just what are these allegations?
Anyone who decides to use Betternet’s plans, whether free or paid, should know that the company was revealed for embedding malware and tracking libraries in their VPN apps. An academic report brought these troubling findings to light, and to make matters worse, the Betternet extension for Chrome was also hacked in 2017 and used to spread malware.
But despite all the controversy, Betternet has never publicly commented on any of these issues. We find this lack of commentary troubling, and we feel that it doesn’t speak highly of their transparency as a company.
Is Betternet Safe?
Before we talk about any other features of this VPN, we want to address the elephant in the room: given the allegations we’ve mentioned against them, is Betternet safe? You want your VPN to protect your privacy and keep from leaking your data. If it doesn’t do this properly, why use it?
The academic researchers that published accusations against them compared Betternet to other VPN apps in the Google Play Store. They noted that Betternet was the most malware-infested of all. Additionally, they mentioned that thirteen separate antivirus programs detected malware, in addition to the third-party tracking libraries. All of these issues are concerning on their own, but there are other problems concerning safety with this VPN.
The company claims to keep your internet connection safe via a secure AES 256-bit encryption. It also uses the Catapult Hydra protocol, one that’s gained popularity thanks to its speed and performance. Then there’s the perfect forward secrecy, which regularly changes your encryption keys to keep most of your data safe in the event your encryption was compromised.
In theory, all of these safety measures sound okay, but Betternet has one primary issue: it lacks an automatic kill switch. If the VPN connection dropped without warning, your data would be in danger of a leak. The missing automatic kill switch is quite concerning, especially given that the server network is less than steady, and it would lead us to conclude that Betternet is not safe.
Betternet Free VPN Plan
Okay, now that you’re up to date on all the controversy surrounding this VPN, it’s time to talk more about its services, starting with the free plan.
The free plan is by far Betternet’s most popular plan, though they will try their hardest to get you to upgrade to the premium plan. Be prepared to be continuously bombarded by popups asking you to register for paid plans. Another thing to be aware of is that ads power the free version, so you will see lots of different advertising content while using the VPN.
Let’s take a quick look at how the free version differs from the premium one. The free plan ….
- 23 US servers, 1 UK server, 1 FR server
- Shows ads
- Does not provide 24/7 email support team access
- Implements a one device per account limit
- Has a 500 MB daily bandwidth limit
- Does not allow access to streaming content while connected to the free VPN
As you can see, the free plan would only be suitable for someone with very basic VPN needs.
Betternet VPN Premium
Now let’s take a look at what users get when they subscribe to Betternet premium APK:
- Seventeen virtual locations available (which we’ll talk about below)
- No ads
- No premium payment wall displayed when trying to access sites
- The ability for users to link up to six devices to their Premium account
- Faster speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and a dedicated support team
Betternet offers free plan users the option to see if the Betternet full premium package is right for them with a seven-day trial. One thing to be aware of is that you have to enter your credit card information to access the trial. Once the seven days have passed, the company bills you for the premium plan automatically.
So if you know for sure during your free trial that you don’t want to subscribe to Betternet premium, make sure to cancel before it’s over. Otherwise, you will be charged for a service that you don’t plan to use.
Betternet Jurisdiction and Privacy Laws of This Jurisdiction
Given Betternet’s past, we wanted to look extra critically at their log policy. They claim that they never “collect, log, store, or share any data log belonging to users.” But because so many VPNs say they are no logs when in reality they do collect them, it’s best to take these words with a grain of salt.
- Betternet may use your IP address to find your approximate location and for marketing purposes
- The VPN collects your real IP address while you’re connected (though this information is supposedly deleted after you disconnect)
- The service can collect info about your device, such as the ID, hardware model, network information, and more
Then there’s the fact that Betternet’s free version uses ads. The ads displayed are, in theory, generic, but if you’re suspicious like us, still a cause for concern.
When it comes to the usage logs themselves, even though Betternet says that they don’t keep them, they do keep records of the websites users visit when using the VPN. Sure, they claim that these records don’t include specific user information about who accessed the sites, but we still do not love the fact that they exist at all.
Betternet APK Speeds
Another area to look at when considering a VPN is its speeds, and Betternet is all over the map here. Download speeds are often relatively slow, while upload speed remained reasonably constant with or without the VPN. And for activities like watching videos, quality can be difficult to predict, ranging from low to practically HD quality.
Betternet VPN Protocols
The Betternet website includes some interesting information about the protocols they use. Instead of opting for other secure VPN protocols, like Open VPN, Betternet has decided to use a proprietary VPN protocol called “Catapult Hydra.” We’d never heard of this one and were curious to know why Betternet doesn’t use more common protocols.
Their FAQ page attempts to explain things, noting that the company found “major performance and latency issues” with standard IPSec and OpenVPN protocols. They claim this was the reason they decided to create their own version, which “uses different algorithms to establish the VPN tunnel, perform authentication, establish client connections and exchange the payload data inside the tunnel.”
It’s hard to find any further information about Catapult Hydra, except that it is used by HotSpot Shield too. Because it’s closed source, there’s no way to know what Betternet is doing behind closed doors or whether the protocol is even secure. The fact that Catapult Hydra is not widely used is also concerning.
In our opinion, the protocol issue is just another reason to avoid Betternet. There are plenty of other options that utilize fully audited, open-source, or custom but more transparent VPN protocols.
Betternet Servers Network
Now let’s discuss some of the differences in Betternet’s servers network.
Free plan members cannot choose different servers; you must become a premium member to use this feature. Without paying, your service is limited to mostly US servers only, even though the app tries to trick you into believing otherwise. The website says that you can access ten server countries, but you are prompted to upgrade to premium when you try to do so with the free version.
However, even premium plan subscribers are somewhat limited when choosing servers, as you can’t change the VPN protocol to Open VPN, as we mentioned above. The only thing you can do is choose from server locations in ten countries, with seven cities in the United States, when you click on ‘Select Virtual Location.’
Sure, ten countries are an acceptable amount, but it’s a bit lackluster if you compare it to other VPNs. Many of Betternet’s premium competitors allow users to choose between servers in over fifty countries, and we think this feature is one you should look for in a VPN.
Pretty much the only thing we like about Betternet’s servers network is that switching to another server location is very straightforward. You don’t even have to disconnect from the current one, as the VPN does this for you.
Betternet VPN for Streaming and Torrenting
In case you were wondering, Betternet supports P2P activity on all of its servers, and everyone who uses the service (both free and premium) can torrent. However, free users have to be aware of certain limitations, namely that they cap out at 500 MB max bandwidth per day.
Premium users, on the other hand, can torrent to their heart’s content. Although there are some issues that may make doing so challenging—namely the limited server network and inconsistent speeds.
Betternet for Netflix and Other Streaming Services
The free app does not work exceptionally well with streaming services. Netflix is all but impossible to access through Betternet, and it’s more likely than not that you’ll be blocked with the all-too-familiar proxy error message if you try.
However, it’s worth mentioning that this issue accessing streaming services is not one that’s unique to Betternet. Free VPNs simply don’t employ the necessary resources to get around these blocks. No surprise there.
All this to say, even if you could access Netflix, it would still be difficult to get the speeds you need to enjoy streaming shows and movies.
Betternet VPN Pricing
To be brutally honest, the cost for Betternet’s premium plan is a little pricey for our liking, for the simple fact that there are better options at lower price points. A monthly subscription will set you back $11.99 per month. However, if you pay for a long-term subscription, the cost comes down considerably, and a year ends up coming out at $7.99 per month. Still, it is a high price for a VPN service.
Betternet’s refund policy states that customers can make refund requests up to 45 days after purchase, though there are absolutely no guarantees you will receive one, as you have to have consumed only a small amount of data to be eligible. We recommend only subscribing if you are one hundred percent sure about the service.
What Devices Does Betternet VPN Support?
Whether you plan to use Betternet for PC, Mac, iOS, or Android, Betternet has a dedicated app for each of these operating systems. You can also get browser extension for Chrome, which we’ll take a look at below (spoiler alert: for several different reasons, we don’t recommend using it).
However, Betternet is not compatible with Linux, routers, or game consoles or streaming boxes (sorry, Amazon Firestick). There is also no way to configure Betternet manually, so you’ve got to stick with the apps that it comes with. Additionally, you won’t find router support, but that’s hardly surprising given that this is a free VPN.
Depending on your device, how you download and pay for the service will look slightly different.
For Mac and iOS Users
In the case of Mac and iOS users, the Betternet download is straightforward. From your Mac or iOS device, you can obtain access directly through iTunes.
For Android Users
The Betternet download for Android users is available via the Google Play Store for Android.
For Windows Users
However, things look a little different for Windows users. If you have a Windows operating system, you have to download the Betternet software to access the subscription. Once you have the software downloaded, open the Betternet app, where you can purchase the subscription.
When it comes to extensions, there is a Betternet VPN for Chrome to encrypt browser traffic, but add-ons for Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Opera are not available.
Keep in mind that any apps in use aside from your web browser do not receive protection.
It’s interesting to note that the browser extension offers users more ability to connect to servers in other countries—unlike the main desktop and mobile VPN apps. These include:
However, this perk does not justify running off and downloading the Betternet Chrome extension. It suffers from two pretty serious security flaws: WEbRTC leaks and DNS leaks. The former exposes your real IP address, while the latter means that your ISP can see what sites you’re accessing. We’d avoid the Chrome extension for this reason.
Other Betternet VPN Alternatives with Free Plans
By now, you get the idea. Betternet is a pretty lackluster VPN, and you may be curious to learn about some alternatives with free plans. Some names that come to mind are Speedify, ProtonVPN, and Windscribe, which are all worth checking out instead of Betternet.
- Free Starter Plan
- Captive Portal Assistance
- Swiss based
- 3rd party audited
- Secure Core - Double VPN
- Free plan with 10 locations
- Firewall & Secure Hotspot
- Custom plan builder
Betternet VPN Customer Service
One final aspect we wanted to talk about in this Betternet review is how its customer service ranks.
Whether you’re a free or a premium user, you can access customer service via ticket requests on Betternet’s website. Premium users, however, can make use of the 24/7-email support team included in paid packages, which they can access through the Betternet app. There doesn’t appear to be any information regarding phone numbers or an option for live chat, which is rather surprising considering that live chat is a pretty standard feature for most premium VPNs.
To bridge the knowledge gap, they have included a few online resources for users, such as a Help Center that you can search, with each FAQ section dedicated to a particular operating system. Betternet also has a blog that discusses VPN basics. There are no installation guides to be found, which would be quite helpful for those who are new to the VPN world.
And regarding the quality of the customer service that users receive when submitting ticket requests, reviewers say that it’s decent, though admittedly not as thorough as you might hope. The response time could be a bit quicker, especially for premium users, who still typically have to wait around a day to have their queries answered.
Betternet Reddit Opinions
If you haven’t considered it already, you may want to try searching Reddit for opinions on VPNs. Reddit users can be a surprisingly valuable source of information in your quest to find the best VPN, mostly thanks to the brutal honesty of reviewers.
Betternet doesn’t seem to be a fan favorite in Reddit forums, but again, we recommend them for getting an unbiased look at all the options.
Despite a sharp rise to popularity, neither Betternet free nor Betternet premium APK perform how we’d like them to. Among the many issues with both options, we’d say the primary ones include:
- Slow speeds
- Connection issues
- Lack of a kill switch
- Its controversial history with putting malware and tracking libraries in VPN apps
- Being not transparent on the Hydra Protocol
For these reasons, as we indicated at the beginning of this Betternet review, we’d steer clear of it altogether. If, for some reason, your heart is set on using this VPN, we’d highly suggest that you pay for the paid version. It doesn’t have any problematic ads, and it also didn’t form part of the controversial study we referenced at the beginning of this review.
Otherwise, we can tell you about the best cheap VPN services to pick from that will offer you more security and better speeds.