Pricing and features
A 30 day subscription is a very reasonable $3.99, going up to $24.99 ($2/pm) if you buy a year at once. You can also buy a one trial week subscription, and the Android app comes with a free one day trial.
Other than being available on a variety of platforms (iOS, Android, Windows 8, and OSX), Hotspot Shield does not offer much in the way of fancy features. You can however choose between Cisco DLTS and OpenVPN encryption (although why any tech-savvy person would want to choose anything other than OpenVPN is beyond us), and can select to connect to servers in a number of countries.
Payment is made through in-app purchases, or through the Windows 8 app store (we don’t know how OSX purchases are mad).
The VPN Shield website is a simple one page affair containing very little information, although a Russian language version is available. A bit more detail is provided on the Apple Store and Google Play pages, but this still leaves many questions unanswered.
Privacy and security
On the technical side of things, we also have very little information. Cisco encryption is a proprietary standard, and is usually used to protect passwords for Cisco account. We wouldn’t trust it. OpenVPN should be fine, although no details about the level of encryption or cipher used are known, so we will assume it is the default 128-bit CBC Blowfish.
The Android app
We usually concentrate on the desktop VPN client, but VPN Shield is focused very much on its mobile apps, so we will review the Android app first.
It is certainly easy enough to use – just select the server you want, and hit ‘Connect’.
In the settings screen you can decide how you want the app to behave. We strongly suggest changing the VPN type to ‘OpenVPN only’.
All in all, the app connects up fine and does its job in an efficient if unassuming manner.
The Windows 8 App
Although VPN Shield seems to be focused mainly on the mobile market, there are desktop clients for Windows 8 and OSX.
Options are pretty basic.
We have no idea what the Advanced options is on about, but it doesn’t work anyway…
Why the client is Windows 8 only is beyond us, but access to the Windows 8 app store is necessary to buy a subscription.
VPN Shield is available for Android, Windows, iOS, and Mac OSX. Judging from the screenshots, the OSX version is identical to the Windows app, and we have no idea about the iOS version.
We tested connection speeds using the Android app on a Google Nexus 7 2013 tablet using our 20 MB/s UK broadband connection (seeing as the app is primarily aimed at the mobile market).
Tests were performed using TestMy.net, using their Netherlands server.
Connected to a UK server
Connected to a Netherlands server
As you can see, speeds were rather inconsistent, something that was confirmed throughout our tests on different servers.
We also tested VPN Shield for DNS leaks using DNSLeakTest.com, and found no problems.
- Works fine
- OpenVPN option
- Good Android (and presumably iOS) client
We weren’t so sure about
- We would love to know more about the OpenVPN encryption used
- Very inconstant performance results
- Desktop client was so-so
VPN Shield is very cheap, and other than very wildly varying performance results, works well. For simple geo-spoofing, evading local censorship, and protecting your data while using public WiFi hotspots, its fine. However, since we know nothing about the company or what they do with your data, anyone who even vaguely cares about privacy should look elsewhere.